Renter Nation Assemblies 2015

San Francisco housing, photograph by Justin Sullivan for Getty Images.

By Staff of Homes for All – Hundreds gathered and gave direct testimony about the citywide displacement crisis. Grassroots activists also planned strategies and tactics for passing Just Cause Eviction, breaking down by city council district, and they shared a variety of organizing approaches to the displacement crisis through interactive and cultural presentations. Topics included inclusionary development policy, community land trusts and community control of public land, creation of neighborhood stabilization zones, and struggles for local hiring and community benefit standards. The Right to Remain Assembly culminated in a massive citywide action cosponsored by Boston Tenant Coalition, Right to the City Boston, Alternatives for Community & Environment, Boston Workers Alliance, Chinatown Resident Association, Chinese Progressive Association, City Life/Vida Urbana, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, Dominican Development Center, Dorchester People for Peace, Fairmount Indigo Community Development Collaborative, Jamaica Plain Progressives, Neighbors United for a Better East Boston, New England United for Justice, SEIU 32BJ.

Talking About A Revolution

South Bend Voice

By Jim Naureckas for FAIR – It’s long been clear that if we want to avoid catastrophic climate disruption on a scale that threatens human civilization, we need to leave vast amounts of fossil fuels in the ground. Environmental writer Bill McKibben pointed out the math in a crucial 2012 article for Rolling Stone: To avoid disaster, 80 percent of the carbon already discovered by private and state-owned energy companies has to be left alone—to be treated as useless rock, not precious resources. The problem is, the energy companies are some of the richest, most powerful entities on Earth. Corporations are designed to act like organisms with a single goal, maximizing profits. And the fossil fuel industry’s future profits—roughly 80 percent of them—depend on extracting that carbon and burning it, climate and civilization be damned. They have been using and will continue to use their vast influence to thwart any effort to avert that disaster. Does humanity have the collective power to tell the current owners of carbon deposits that they no longer own them—that they don’t have the right to take them out of the ground and sell them as fuel? That’s the $640 trillion question. Doing so is essential to our future as a species—but a massive transfer of wealth of that kind isn’t like a revolution, it is a revolution, and a revolution on a scale history hasn’t seen before.

Tax The Rich To House The Poor

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By the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Washington, DC – The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) released the “Reforming the Mortgage Interest Deduction: How Tax Reform Can Help End Homelessness and Housing Poverty” report today calling for Congress and the Trump administration to use mortgage interest deduction (MID) reform to end homelessness and housing poverty in America. The report identifies solutions to the homelessness and affordable housing crisis in America that would incur no additional cost to the federal government, those proposed by the NLIHC-led United for Homes (UFH) campaign. The report and UFH campaign call for modest reforms to the mortgage interest deduction (MID)—a $70 billion tax write-off that primarily benefits higher income households—and for reinvesting the billions in savings in affordable housing for the lowest income families with the greatest needs.

California Statewide Coalition Housing Now Confronts Housing Crisis

Two men work on construction of a future housing and shopping complex near 8th and Market streets in June 2016. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

By Deepa Varma for The Examiner – California now has the highest poverty rate in the nation when the cost of housing is taken into account. Since 2005, more than 2.5 million Californians have been forced to leave the state in search of an affordable home. Unfortunately, the prevailing supply and demand — “just build” — mantra put forward by opinion leaders is diverting state government from the hard truth that the market has not responded to the demand of California families for affordable homes — not luxury and market-rate homes. We are told a big lie, that the solution to our housing crisis is to get government out of the way and leave it to the free market to let affordable housing magically “trickle down” to lower-income households. The truth, though, is developers build to make a profit, not to provide a social need. Luxury housing doesn’t trickle down, at least not at a scale to bring down rents in a meaningful way. Meanwhile, there are new players in the game, changing the parameters of the problem: the rise of Wall Street’s new rental empire. In recent years, real estate speculators have been taking rent-controlled homes in San Francisco off the market and harassing long-time tenants because Costa Hawkins lets them raise the rents when old tenants move out.

National Housing Crisis Becomes Focus Of Protest

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By Owen Silverman Andrews for Medium – Turning out in force despite the sweltering July heat in East Baltimore, residents of Douglass Homes public housing gathered at the Orleans Branch Library to speak out against foul play and deteriorating conditions. “We are demanding an election,” said Baltimore City Resident Advisory Board (RAB) Delegate Rev. Annie Chambers. “This is the first action, where we’re deciding how we’re gonna push back.” Rev. Chambers, second from left, reads from restrictive new regulations approved by the RAB. Rev. Chambers of the Green Party, who was elected to the citywide advisory body for public housing on March 30, decried her opponent’s foul play in her own election, as well as the appointment by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City of the traditionally elected Douglass Homes Tenants Council President position, and the generally deteriorating conditions families are being subjected to. Douglass Homes residents “haven’t gotten any tenant participation funds, we don’t have any playgrounds, or programs. We’ve missed out on so much by not having a duly elected Tenant Council,” she added as she convened the group of approximately 40 public housing residents and supporters in the Library’s meeting room.

How A Federal Program Is Destroying Public Housing

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By Taya Graham for The Real News. Taya Graham: If there’s a single issue that illustrates Baltimore’s economic divide, it’s housing. While developers continue to reap generous tax breaks to build luxury apartments downtown, other neighborhoods suffer from neglect. In fact, when Under Armour billionaire Kevin Plank received $600 million in tax breaks to build Port Covington, he also won an exemption from the city’s affordable housing law. It’s this dichotomy between rich and poor, the haves and the have not, which the city has failed to address, a lack of balance even more profound in our public housing, which is literally falling apart, which is why we have assembled this panel of people to talk about how to solve this entrenched inequity. Jeff Singer is the former executive director of Health Care for the Homeless and a professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. Lucky Crosby is a former housing employee who was a key whistleblower about the deplorable conditions of public housing. Reverend Annie Chambers was the first Green Party candidate to win a city-wide election to the Citizen Advisory Board of Douglas Homes, a city-run housings facility.

With Less Crime, Closed Dutch Prisons Are Instead Being Used To House Refugees

Giles Clark

By Brianna Acuesta for True Activist – It might be hard to imagine a world where prisons actually close because of a reduction in prisoners if you live in the U.S., but in many countries abroad this is not such a rare occasion. In the United States, the existence of private prisons that churn out a profit means that the prison-industrial complex focuses less on helping inmates stay out of trouble and more on how the inmates can benefit prison owners. In the Netherlands, however, crime has been rapidly decreasing for the last decade and 19 of the nearly 60 prisons have since closed. Some prisons even took in inmates from Belgium and Norway just to keep up their locations. While this may have resulted in a loss of jobs, it means that less people are being incarcerated, which is always a positive in any country. On top of fewer prisoners and less crime, the government in the Netherlands found a way to repurpose the closed prisons: they now house refugees in there.

Are You Unable To Afford Decent Housing? Welcome To The Club

‘By the time I was seven, I had already moved four times.’ Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

By Ijeoma Oluo for The Guardian – The affordable housing crisis is becoming inescapable. We have now reached the point where a minimum-wage worker can only afford to live in about a dozen counties in the entire nation. Even those with college degrees and wages above minimum wage struggle. This problem doesn’t just impact countless poor Americans any more. Now it hits middle class families, too. For many, it’s outrageous that this crisis is no longer is confined to the bottom of the income ladder. ‘What do you mean that someone earning $20 an hour in LA wouldn’t be able to afford a one-bedroom apartment?’ gasp those in the middle class. When it was in the news that you’d have to earn $24 an hour in order to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Seattle, where I live, I finally saw community members talking more seriously about housing density and rent controls. But for those of us who have been locked into a housing crisis for generations because of race, gender, class or disability, we are left wondering why so many are just now paying attention to an issue that has already destroyed countless lives.

Cuomoville Three Day Camp-Out Begins At Cuomo NYC Office

Cuomoville camp out for housing justice

By Staff for Metropolitan Council on Housing. We are camping out in front of Governor Cuomo’s office to demand that he stop siding with real estate developers and start standing with New Yorkers! For too long Governor Cuomo has been selling out tenants. He’s given a $2.4 billion tax break to developers so they can pretend to build affordable housing while in reality they kick out low and middle-income New Yorkers, who are predominantly people of color. Governor Cuomo’s housing agenda isn’t helping tenants, it’s hurting us… and we’ve had ENOUGH. Its time to press the Governor to stand with us. If you can join us for any part of the three day camp-out and actions listed above, contact ava@metcouncilonhousing.org, or RSVP on Facebook

Co-Ops Lead By Putting Communities In Charge Of New Housing Projects

Mehrs als Wohnen won a World Habitat Award last year

By Anca Voinea for Coop News – Co-operatives, community land trusts and other housing models are coming together to help communities design their own homes and neighbourhoods. The new concept – known as a platform for social production of habitat (SPH) – means locals are involved in projects, so they meet their own specifications rather than those set by the private market. Based in Switzerland, the project began when a group of community-led housing practitioners met to discuss the formation of a global network to increase visibility of the model and support local efforts through peer exchange, workshops, solidarity finance and campaigns, and a regional awards program linked to the World Habitat Award. The partners are the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights, Building and Social Housing Foundation (BSHF), Co-operative Housing International, Grounded Solutions Network, Habitat International Coalition, Slum Dwellers International, and UrbaMonde. UrbanMonde co-ordinates activities bringing together the six housing groups from different regions around the world. They focus on helping them to share practices and experiences.

Trump’s Plan To Gut HUD Threatens Very Survival Of America’s Poor

Mike Dennis

By Sarah Lazare for AlterNet – Rosemary Holmes has lived in Newark’s Terrell Holmes for the better part of six decades. She, like many others in the building, has raised children in its courtyards and hallways, and forged a tight-knit community of friends and neighbors. At the age of 68, she has been forced to band with other tenants to fight local efforts to shutter the facility. Now, as the Trump administration weighs plans to gut the Department of Housing and Urban Development, she has a new battle on her hands. “Any time they move a person to someplace they don’t want to live, it’s imprisonment,” she told AlterNet over the phone. “I am a human being, and I deserve to live where I want to live. Us, the ones who really want to be here…

Chicago Renters Back ‘ROOTS’ As Solution To Affordable Housing

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By Chloe Riley for Equal Voice for Families. CHICAGO – In Roxanne Smith’s kitchen, a framed excerpt from Barack Obama’s 2008 Grant Park presidential victory speech hangs for all to see. “America, we have come so far,” it reads. “But there is so much more to do.” Smith, 60, has come a long way herself in recent years. In 2013, she faced potential homelessness after the Northwest Side apartment where she lives with her 35-year-old son was foreclosed upon. At the time, the downstairs neighbors in her two-flat apartment complex had accepted a payout and left the building. But Smith, whose son Roget lives with a developmental disability, couldn’t afford to leave. Sitting in the dining room of her two-bedroom apartment, Smith holds tight to a green plastic bag, which was left on her door over a year and a half ago.

Water Shut Off – A Story Of Control And Profit

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By Arno Agman for Popular Resistance. Baltimore, MD – No, it’s not a line from a B-series Italian mafia movie from the 80s. It’s straight from the entrails of the city of Baltimore. Most people living along the North East corridor don’t really ponder on the necessity of water…until it suddenly stops flowing. Then everything changes. Today started well with an early short trip to the gym. At home, we refilled all 8 five-gallon water bottles at the store in the morning, poured water in the four buckets spread around the house for periodic necessities and various cleaning tasks, installed a cut-out, slow dripped, refillable 3 gallon container above the kitchen sink for our dishes, and finally hung our 5 gallon portable camping shower bag in the bathroom. We were then ready to attack the daily events everyone takes for granted. Drinking, cleaning dishes, going to the bathroom… Showering had now entered the line of a luxury items.

How Banks Stole Homes From Most Vulnerable New Yorkers

A foreclosed home up for auction is seen in the Queens borough of New York. (Reuters / Shannon Stapleton)

By Michelle Chen for The Nation – The Great Recession has technically started to recede, but the banks that sparked it have mostly been allowed to walk. Some even prospered in the aftermath. But a jury just hit back against one predatory lender, restoring a little of the confidence in the system that Wall Street stripped away from Brooklyn during the financial crisis.

Public Housing Residents Told To Tear Up Their Gardens

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By Katherine Martinko for Treehugger. Residents of public housing units in South Pittsburg, TN are angry. The executive director of the South Pittsburg Housing Authority, Lisa Bradford, recently announced that residents can no longer have gardens in their yards, despite the fact that the residents pay for plants themselves and some have tended their beautiful gardens for many years. Last week the new Resolution 937 took effect: “The South Pittsburg Housing Authority, beginning on June 1, 2016 will impose a new Landscaping Policy for all residents of the South Pittsburg Housing Authority. The new landscaping policy states that ALL landscaping, including gardening, is to be removed from the housing authority property, unless it is planted by the South Pittsburg Housing Authority staff.