Housing Justice Groups Align As National Movement Grows

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By Jess Clarke for Homes for All – Renters across the US are beginning to rise up against the housing affordability crises that is hitting cities, towns, suburbs and even rural regions of the country. Since the mass evictions brought on by the foreclosure crisis, the number of renters has grown. Six million were added when they were pushed out of home ownership by the banks and millions more began to rent as young workers entered the labor market to face a decade of recession. Renters are now more than 50% of the population in the top 100 US cities, and high rents coupled with stagnant wages mean that over 50% of these renter households now pay unaffordable rents.[1] These two tipping points mean renters are poised to emerge as a powerful block in local and national politics. In September of 2017, this rising tide of discontent was mobilized. Over one hundred organizations in two dozen cities and towns staged fifty coordinated demonstrations during a national Renter Week of Action and Assemblies (RWAA) organized by the Homes For All Campaign. They demanded universal rent control and eviction protections, full funding for the Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD), an end to subsidies for corporate landlords, the right of all tenants to organize and bargain collectively, and long-term community control of land and housing.

Housing Mobility Is Destabilizing Baltimore’s Black Communities

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By Lawrence Brown for Medium – In many ways, the Thompson vs. HUD housing mobility strategy should be celebrated. Indeed, for the Black families that move, research shows improved health, labor, and educational trajectories for many Black children. This certainly deserves great acclaim and applause. But the more I think about the spatial and economic impacts of housing mobility as a fair housing strategy, the more I am troubled by its effects in Baltimore City. Housing mobility via Thompson vs. HUD has given nearly 3,500 Black public housing families the opportunity to move from Baltimore City to surrounding counties. But in the process of doing so, many Black children are leaving the city. Because these children lived in segregated Black communities, many Black public schools were and continue to be disproportionately affected by the declining student population as these schools lose the per pupil funding dollars that go with each student. So Black public schools are negatively impacted. Then on top of that, Black public schools are targeted for permanent closure based on small and declining enrollment. This means Black neighborhoods lose a critical community institution and often a cultural legacy and memory associated with schools named after Black historical figures (i.e. W.E.B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes). In this way, desegregation policy furthers racism through divesting resources in Black schools and neighborhoods.

Drug Testing – But Still No Permanent Housing – For Tent City Protesters

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By Fern Shen for Baltimore Brew – When Mayor Catherine Pugh persuaded homeless protesters camped outside City Hall to relocate to a building in Sandtown, she promised they would “get permanent housing as quickly as possible.” But more than four weeks later, most of the original Tent City 55 are still sleeping on cots in the so-called Pinderhughes Shelter, a dilapidated former elementary school at 1200 Fremont Avenue. And although Pugh’s agreement with the protesters stated that Pinderhughes would be a “housing first” facility with no drug-testing, all the people living there have been tested for drugs, according to the facility’s director. “If they don’t do a urinalysis, how are they going to know if they are on pain medications or on methadone?” said Samantha Smith, a Tent City participant who was given a paid position by the mayor to run the shelter. Smith said the people at Pinderhughes agreed to get the testing voluntarily because they wanted mental health and other treatment, but that it was not a precondition of receiving housing assistance. “They wanted to change their lives,” Smith said. Housing advocates are skeptical. “I question whether or not they freely chose this or if they were, in effect, coerced,” said Lauren Siegel, a longtime Baltimore housing advocate who teaches at the University of Maryland School of Social Work.

Tenants Push Back Against Corporate Landlords During “Renter Week Of Action”

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By Candice Bernd for Truthout – “One year in January we didn’t have any heat. They would come and they would quote-unquote ‘fix it’ during the day and by nightfall it would be completely gone and out,” Hasbrook said, describing how she and her neighbors were left exposed to the biting cold of a Minnesota winter. “For that month, I still got a bill that was over $100 for utility costs,” she said. All this, coupled with Frenz’s steady rent hikes over the years, led Hasbrook and other tenant-organizers to hold a protest and vigil on the front lawn of the slumlord’s mansion this week: to remind him of the substandard conditions she and the tenants of his 1,200 other units endure. “He did not come out. However, the sprinklers were turned on,” Hasbrook said. “But we just covered the sprinklers with bandanas and kept right on going.” The vigil was just one of several actions popping off this week in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area — and across the nation. Renters in 45 cities are organizing protests from September 16 through September 24, during a nationwide “National Renter Week of Action and Assemblies” spearheaded by the Right to the City Alliance to fight back against the Trump administration’s threat to cut billions from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and to demand rent control and just-cause eviction policies.

Neighbours Form Human Chain Around A Mum’s House To Stop Eviction

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By Simon Robb for Metro.co.uk – A woman facing ‘revenge eviction’ has been given a lifeline after her neighbours gathered to form a human chain around her home. Nimo Abdullahi, 39, claimed her landlord tried to kick her and her five children out of their home after she complained about the rising damp. But neighbours and campaigners turned out in force to stop bailiffs from forcing the family out of their home in Easton, Bristol. A newlywed couple living opposite even cut up their wedding cake for all the protesters. When the bailiffs arrived on Tuesday morning, they were unable to get past the 30 protesters who stood strong. Nimo claimed the landlord tried to evict them numerous times before and even threatened to get the police to do the job. She said: ‘It has a big problem with damp. This is bad for us, because my children have asthma and it is not a good place. ‘Until recently, the carpets everywhere were very old and dirty and we would ask the landlord to improve things, but he was difficult.

Occupy Wall Street In The Age Of Trump

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By Levar Alonzo for Downtown Express. New York City – It has been six years since the movement calling itself Occupy Wall Street took over Downtown’s Zuccotti Park for a weeks-long demonstration that spawned similar actions across the country protesting corporate greed, social and economic inequality, and the domination of the “One Percent.” The encampments have long-since dispersed but dozens of die-hard Occupiers and activists gathered at the place where it all began on Sept. 17 in Zuccotti Park to declare that the movement still has work to do — now more than ever.

9to5 Colorado Fights For Renter’s Rights, Affordable Housing

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By 9to5 Colorado. Colorado – Community members from Denver, Aurora, Westminster, and Commerce City came together to participate in the National Renter’s Week of Action alongside other affiliates of the Right to the City Homes For All campaign. These impacted community and non-profit organizations behind the following local actions are all part of a statewide coalition called Colorado Homes For All, which was formed as a response to the national and local housing crisis. Colorado kicked off the National Renters’ Week of Action here locally with “Evicting THE EVICTOR,” an action that exposed the Tschetter, Hamrick and Sulzer Law firm that represents 80% of corporate landlords across Colorado.

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

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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

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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.