Massachusetts housing officials announced Friday that they are launching a “90-day push” to reduce the number of vacancies in state public housing by the end of the year. The initiative comes after an investigation by WBUR and ProPublica found nearly 2,300 of 41,500 state-funded apartments were vacant at the end of July — most for months or years — despite a housing shortage so severe that Gov. Maura Healey called it a state of emergency. Massachusetts is one of only four states with state-subsidized public housing, and about 184,000 people are on a waitlist for the units.
In a state with some of the country’s most expensive real estate, Libby is among the 184,000 people — including thousands who are homeless, at risk of losing their homes or living in unsafe conditions — on a waitlist for the state’s 41,500 subsidized apartments. As they wait, a WBUR and ProPublica investigation found that nobody is living in nearly 2,300 state-funded apartments, with most sitting empty for months or years. The state pays local housing authorities to maintain and operate the units whether they’re occupied or not. So the vacant apartments translate into millions of Massachusetts taxpayer dollars wasted due to delays and disorder fostered by state and local mismanagement.
New York City mayor Eric Adams declared in August that there is “no room” in the city for hundreds of migrants being forced to sleep on the street because shelters are already crowded and in disrepair. The mayor initially encouraged those seeking shelter to “consider another city” as they struggled to survive. Adams announced plans to house as many as 2,000 in a tent complex on Randalls Island and later designated space on an airfield to house asylum seekers. These spaces are identified, as the claim goes, that the city simply doesn’t have housing space for those seeking asylum, especially because it is already difficult enough for residents to find adequate, affordable housing.
Housing is one of our best tools for ending mass incarceration. It does more than put a roof over people’s heads; housing gives people the space and stability necessary to receive care, escape crises, and improve their quality of life. For this reason, giving people housing can help interrupt a major pathway to prison created by the criminalization of mental illness, substance use disorder, and homelessness. For this briefing, we examined over 50 studies and reports, covering decades of research on housing, health, and incarceration, to pull together the best evidence that ending housing insecurity is foundational to reducing jail and prison populations.
Over the past year, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has bused more than 13,000 migrants to Chicago. Many entered the city with next to nothing — and some didn’t even make it safely. Last month, the Texas Department of Emergency Management announced that a 3-year-old girl had died en route to Chicago from Texas — the first known fatality of Abbott’s Operation Lone Star. For years, Chicago has declared itself a sanctuary city, and substantial state and local resources have been allocated, helping many of the new arrivals tomove into more permanent housing. Still, about 6,500 of these migrants are spread out across 15 shelters, and about 1,500 are sleeping at airports and police stations.
A quick trip through any major American city and you can see it for yourself – “tent cities” underneath highways or alongside parks, people sleeping on the sidewalk, overcrowded and resource-stripped shelters. It is estimated that there are nearly 600,000 homeless people across the US, marking the highest yearly surge since the government began tracking the data in 2007, according to the Wall Street Journal. Major cities like Los Angeles are seeing homeless populations spike almost 10 percent from last year. This problem has been deeply exacerbated in the post-pandemic era. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, rent was already skyrocketing due to inflation levels as well as “development projects”, forcing long-time residents, mainly minorities, out of their own neighborhoods.
Jackie Lara describes coming to the Fulton Houses as “her best Christmas present.” She and her children moved out of a shelter into Fulton Houses, a public-housing development in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, just after New Years Eve in 2002. “My application [for public housing] came in after a year and a half of being in the shelter,” Lara says. “And I remember when they called me to come and see this apartment. I planted my seed here. This is my home.” Celines Mirandas is of the same mind. Her family has lived in the Chelsea-Elliott complex, about half a mile away, since 1975. “My mother is at an age where she gets disoriented a lot.
Student-youth groups in Ireland have condemned the housing crisis in the country as they are about to return to their colleges and universities this September for the new academic year. On Wednesday, August 16, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), along with housing support groups including Threshold, launched a ‘Scam Watch’ campaign against the exploitation of students by landlords and rent sharks. The USI also demanded legislation to control rents and provide affordable housing for students. Political parties like Sinn Fein accuse the coalition government under Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, and the Greens of totally failing the student renters and abandoning them in the grip of the housing crisis.
In the wake of an unabated housing crisis and soaring rents, working class sections in Austria have intensified their campaign demanding long-term rent freeze and reforms in the country’s rental law. In its petition, the Communist Party of Austria (KPO) demanded the Austrian People’s Party (OVP)-Greens-led federal government to freeze rents at the current levels until 2029. The Communist Youth of Austria (KJO) endorsed this demand. Groups including the Austrian Tenants’ Association and the Austrian Trade Union Confederation (ÖGB) have also called for a freeze on rents. According to reports, persistently high inflation and a rising Consumer Price Index (CPI) led to a continuous increase in rental prices across the country.
In the heart of New York City, below its iconic skyline, a paradox of epic proportions unfolds. As buses full of migrants arrive in the city each day, the struggle to find affordable housing intensifies dramatically. Yet, ironically, amidst the sprawling urban growth, there are countless buildings that stand vacant, their potential as living spaces lost, untapped. For years, these empty edifices could have served as a refuge for the existing city's homeless population, which has always been in crisis, but their emptiness has been a reminder of the disconnect between the city's available resources and the willingness to provide for the needs of its inhabitants.
Jessica Bellamy wants to stop paying almost a thousand dollars a year to help displace the community that shaped her as a child: Louisville’s historically-Black Smoketown neighborhood. That’s the current property tax bill for the camelback shotgun house her grandmother gifted her a few years ago. It’s the house where Bellamy spent part of her childhood, just steps from her grandmother’s soul food restaurant, Shirley Mae’s Cafe. The restaurant, where Bellamy often took orders and served drinks over the years, is still hanging on as a neighborhood landmark. But like so many other homes in the redlined neighborhood, the house had gradually fallen into an unlivable state of disrepair.
Spurred in part by COVID and by a growing housing affordability crisis, tenant organizing is picking up, not just in expected places like New York, but in mid-sized cities like Austin and Baltimore, and even smaller cities like Louisville, Kentucky, and Portland, Maine. Increasingly, tenant organizers are not just winning battles against landlords, but changing public policy. For instance, rent control was passed in Portland, Maine, last November. In this webinar cosponsored by NPQ and Shelterforce on July 12, moderated by Steve Dubb, NPQ economic justice senior editor, and Miriam Axel-Lute, Shelterforce’s editor in chief, four tenant activists shared their stories of direct tenant organizing and policy advocacy.
When Thomas Bradley showed up for his third shift at Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort and Spa in Dana Point, California, on July 2 he encountered something new: a picket line. The picket was part of a wave of strikes at Los Angeles-area hotels by members of UNITE HERE Local 11. Their contracts at 62 hotels expired June 30. The hotel workers’ top demand is for pay that will allow them to secure housing in a market that is pricing them out. Bradley, who had been a hotel union member years before, stopped to talk to the picketing workers and then joined them, exercising his right to strike under labor law. But there was a problem.
A mobile home park in Moses Lake is up for sale and a new state law assures residents a shot at buying the property. In the past they might’ve never known it was on the market until after it was sold. Owners of North Pointe notified residents on July 17 that they are looking to sell the 25-space mobile home park. This started the clock on a process providing those living there and eligible organizations approved by the state Department of Commerce an opportunity to compete with other potential buyers. That chance is etched into a law that took effect Sunday and is intended to help preserve this stock of affordable housing.