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  • Gothamist

    NYCHA’s not just a landlord. It's going to train young adults to work in construction.

    By Karen Yi,

    The workforce training program comes as the city's need for affordable housing is reaching an apex.

    New York City’s public housing agency is launching a new program aimed at helping its young residents become the future builders of affordable housing.

    Starting this fall, NYCHA will help 60 residents between 16 and 24 years old finish their high school degrees and kick-start careers in construction. It's part of an effort to get teens and young adults into post-secondary education programs and the construction work pipeline to earn higher salaries.

    The housing authority received a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Labor Department this month to focus the workforce training program on young people in Brownsville who have dropped out of school, are aging out of foster care, have a disability or have had interactions with the criminal justice system.

    “You look at NYCHA as a landlord, but then there's this other side,” said Michelle Raymie, director of the agency's Office of Resident Economic Empowerment and Sustainability. “Being able to provide opportunities and to help people grow and to bring resources.”

    The program is kicking off as the city wrestles with a spiraling affordability crisis where rents are rising and housing options for low- and moderate-income people are dwindling across the five boroughs. It also comes after the Adams administration's promises to better prepare the city’s youth for jobs in a changing economy by reaching them earlier and connecting them with jobs in high-demand and higher-paying industries.

    Raymie said she hopes the 40-month federal grant will be the start of what NYCHA can do to directly serve its younger residents, not only in Brownsville but eventually across more public housing developments.

    In a statement, Mayor Eric Adams said that “as a proud son of Brownsville, I know firsthand the value of investing in our young people and the endless untapped potential that lives within the borders of the neighborhood I called home."

    “Our city’s future depends on our ability to help our young people grow, fulfill their potential, and thrive in an ever-changing economy," he added. "Helping each child succeed and achieve the career of their dreams has been a goal of our administration since day one.”

    The grant will allow NYCHA to start its own YouthBuild program, a federally funded anti-poverty organization that supports young people in becoming leaders in their community. YouthBuild started in East Harlem 45 years ago as a way to empower young people who wanted to develop vacant and abandoned housing in their neighborhood.

    Raymie, who used to work for YouthBuild in East Harlem, said NYCHA’s program will help young residents get certifications in construction and hands-on training by renovating three vacant NYCHA units. The effort is poised to tap into a key need for the housing agency as its number of vacant units reached 5,000 in May , a tenfold increase since 2021.

    “For them to be able to take a unit and make it livable again, and then see a family who is going to be their neighbors in the future move into that apartment, I think it's going to help people see this whole process and the work that the NYCHA teams do to really get people housed,” said Raymie.

    The first group of 30 young people will start the six-month program this fall. A second group of 30 will follow. All 60 individuals will also receive stipends during the program as well as 12 months of follow-up and assistance with job placement.

    Raymie said NYCHA has already reached out to its contractors, partners and union leaders who are willing to commit to employing some of the program's graduates. The annual median salary for construction jobs is $55,600, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics .

    Half of the program will be devoted to preparing the residents to take their GED test, in partnership with the Brooklyn Public Library. The Central Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation will provide the workforce training.

    About 1 in 6 New Yorkers between the ages of 16 to 26 were out of work and school in 2021, and were more likely to earn less, have lower household wealth and worse health outcomes, according to a city action plan.

    NYCHA said it will begin recruiting people for the first cohort later this summer. Residents living in the Brownsville, Glenmore Plaza, Howard, Langston Hughes, Marcus Garvey, Park Rock Rehab, Ocean Hill, Ralph Avenue Rehab, Saratoga Village, Seth Low, Tapscott Street, Tilden and Van Dyke developments are eligible for the program, in addition to those living in NYCHA Section 8 housing in the 11212 or 11233 ZIP codes.

    Those interested in learning more can call 718-289-8100.

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