The cash-strapped New York City Housing Authority is planning to lease millions of square feet of its holdings to private developers for mixed-use projects.

The proposal would turn current parking, walkways and parks into market-rate residences, retail space and at least 1,000 units of affordable housing, according to Crain’s. NYCHA chairman John Rhea said at a Monday breakfast forum that no public housing residents or Housing Authority buildings would be affected by the plan.

“This is a landmark in the evolution of NYCHA,” Rhea told Crain’s. “A decade ago, it wouldn’t have been possible, because developers would have considered out sites off limits… We’re not talking about selling NYCHA land, and this is not a plan to privatize public housing.”

The idea to lease Housing Authority land to private developers first came up in the agency’s December 2011 strategic plan. Developers would be able to bid on multiple locations, most likely starting in Manhattan, with millions in tax breaks open to the chosen companies. The ratio of affordable housing to commercial development has yet to be decided, but funds could start flowing to NYCHA by the end of 2013.

The Housing Authority, which provides shelter for as many people as the entire population of Boston, has struggled with aging infrastructure, budget cuts, a notorious backlog of repairs and recent reports by the New York Daily News showing that the organization has been keeping almost $1 billion in unspent federal funds.

The agency will finalize a list of new sites and release a Request for Proposals early next year.

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