When it comes to understanding the homelessness crisis in Britain, few know it better than those who’ve experienced it first-hand. Mark found himself in that very situation ten years ago, and today, he still hasn’t escaped housing insecurity entirely. ‘To get out of my situation, I had to get private rented accommodation as opposed to the hostel system provided by the council,’ he tells Tribune. ‘My private rented flat was already massively expensive. And today it’s even worse.’ In those days he went on to volunteer for homelessness charity Shelter, and today he works there full-time. But the cost of living crisis is biting. Mark relies on a foodbank twice a month, and his general quality of life has rapidly deteriorated in the past year. ‘Every day’s a challenge,’ he tells Tribune.
Vienna, Austria - We all know we have a housing crisis all across our country. Rents have skyrocketed; there are insufficient numbers of apartments and houses available; many people in our cities are unhoused; rent control is considered too radical; there are few protections against evictions. The American dream has long included home ownership and stable safe neighborhoods. But the dream has become a nightmare as racism and capitalism leave some without homes altogether, and have displaced so many more. Most discouraging, few people see any alternatives to the current system of how housing is allocated and paid for. But there is an alternative. Two members of Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution (FCCPR) were in Vienna, Austria recently and saw how things could be different.
Around 50 residents of a self-organized encampment known as Camp Resolution, which has been occupied since late September of this year, are now celebrating after the Sacramento City Council was pushed to pass a unanimous vote against a sweep by police, leading to a pause in a scheduled mass eviction. While the future of the space remains unknown, residents and supporters of the camp are currently rallying in support and gathering food and other supplies. What began as a safe place for people living in RVs and tiny homes, became another skirmish in an increasing war on the houseless, as Democratic run cities turned away from progressive policies towards an all out attack on the poor.
Portland, Oregon - A new study by a pair of researchers tried to find the root cause of homelessness in cities across the U.S. It revealed how Portland's housing market plays a much bigger part in the crisis than many might think. The urban study called “Homelessness is a Housing Problem” found that the biggest factors in the homeless crisis are not necessarily addiction or mental health but rather a combination of high rent prices and a lack of affordable housing. “Any given night in Multnomah County, five per 1,000 people are experiencing homelessness, which is quite a high number,” said Clayton Aldern, one of the researchers behind the study. The data dates back to 2019 and looks at the 30 largest urban areas in the country.
Oakland, California - It's been a long-term problem addressing the homeless crisis in Oakland and now those at the center of the fight are trying their own solutions. A group of unhoused individuals are buying land and building their own community to get people off the street permanently. The land on MaCarthur Boulevard and 76th Avenue is where they plan to build their own rent-free permanent housing community. “This dream of Homefulness is a homeless people solution to homelessness,” said Tiny, co-founder of the organization Homefulness. The 10-thousand-square-foot lot was bought by a group of current and formerly unhoused individuals. They finished their first project earlier this year where they’re providing 11 families with free housing, schooling, and healing-centered programming.
Chicago, Illinois - Isabelle Wright, a resident of protest camp RiseUpTown, puts out a chair for me at the edge of a circle. It’s 10 o’clock on a Friday in September, and people are chatting as their food grills. Occasionally a car pulls up and leaves cases of water, Covid tests or food on a folding table at the front of camp — donations to the over 25 members of this community of houseless people. Many camped together on this stretch of grass next to the roaring DuSable Lake Shore Drive long before they began organizing collectively. When the adjacent Weiss Memorial Hospital parking lot was slated to become luxury apartments, the camp transformed into RiseUpTown. The unhoused residents partnered with local housing justice groups Northside Action for Justice (NA4J), Chicago Union of the Homeless (CUH) and others to protest the role of luxury housing in displacement and homelessness.
At most landlord-owned mobile home parks, residents live in a property owner’s fiefdom, with no control over how their community is managed. While residents usually own their homes, they must pay rent on the land that the home is on, and face annual unfettered rent increases with not a semblance of tenant protection. Despite their name, many mobile homes are often immobile after sitting in place for a few years; any attempt to move them could potentially lead to major or even complete structural damage. Cooperative ownership offers a way for residents to not only have a say in their community’s decision-making, but also to prevent rent hikes and keep their housing costs affordable. Compare the space rents in two California parks over 27 years: Leisureville, which residents purchased and transformed into a cooperative; and Rancho Yolo, a mobile home community where the owner refused to sell to the residents.
Menifee, California - About one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. come from fossil fuel residential energy use, like natural gas, oil and coal, which contributes to more frequent and severe weather events. According to the most recent U.S. Energy Information Administration data, from 2013 to 2020, the duration of blackouts caused by extreme weather and other events related to the climate crisis has tripled, reported PR Newswire. This makes the transition to renewable energy all the more important. In a collaboration between the University of California, Irvine, SunPower Corp., Southern California Edison, Schneider Electric and KB Home, a new collection of Energy-Smart Connected Communities — more than 200 homes powered entirely by solar energy — are being built in Menifee, California, and are the first of their kind in the Golden State.
Los Angeles, California - In the coming weeks, Los Angelenos will vote on a ballot measure to hike taxes on the sale of multimillion dollar properties, with the expected near-billion dollars in annual revenue going towards addressing the housing crisis in the second-largest city in America. The initiative has been strongly opposed by real estate interests — from huge corporate landlords to realtor lobbying groups and pro-business groups — who have so far poured more than $5 million into efforts to defeat the measure. Measure ULA, which would increase real estate transfer taxes on properties in the city of Los Angeles valued at $5 million or more, would only apply to an estimated four percent of real estate transactions annually.
New York City, New York - Tito Delgado, 71, has lived in the Lower East Side for almost all of his life. He has seen his neighbors and friends driven out of their neighborhood, and himself too, because of unaffordable housing prices. “There is a whole history of displacement here,” Delgado said, adding “I still live in the Lower East Side, but I sleep in Chelsea.” Some who have been forced to leave their homes like Delgado aren’t giving up on the neighborhood. Sixth Street Community Center, This Land is Ours and the Cooper Square Committee with the help of the community are developing a plan, starting in the Lower East Side, to create more accessible housing through community land trusts (CLTs).
Penn’s band was wrapping up its halftime show, and moments before the third quarter was set to begin, protesters rushed the field, holding three banners: “Save The UC Townhomes” “Divest from Fossil Fuels” “PAY PILOTs” The protesters occupied the center of the field while security guards swarmed around them. At the top of the stadium, another group of students held a banner where Yale fans sat that asked: “Which side are you on?” Approximately 75 student protesters, members of the Fossil Free Penn organization, planned the action after an ongoing fight with Penn’s administration over climate issues and community justice. Penn did not comment on the protest, but the students believe the university knew about it beforehand.
As landlords continue their relentless pursuit of profits, and politicians allow pandemic-era eviction moratoriums to expire, the human toll of a fundamentally brutal housing system is arguably more visible than ever—particularly in America’s largest cities. Much of corporate media’s coverage of the deepening housing crisis, however, focuses on what are presented as three great evils: that landlords of supposedly modest means are being squeezed; that individuals and families living without homes destroy the aesthetics of cities; and that, in line with the most recent manufactured panic over violent crime, people without homes pose a threat to the lives and property of law-abiding citizens. By pushing these narratives, corporate media are engaging in a strategy of misdirection.
Affordable housing activists spend a lot of time talking about how to bring about solutions that match the scale of the problem. Co-ops and community land trusts—frequently mentioned strategies for creating permanently affordable housing—often face challenges about their potential to scale up. It seems timely, then, that a new book is out about the largest housing cooperative in the country, a development of phenomenal scale and longevity—Co-op City in the Bronx. Freedomland: Co-op City and the Story of New York, by Oberlin College history professor Annemarie Sammartino, traces the history of Co-op City from its initial planning stages in the mid 1960s through the early 1990s, including a major rent strike, the assertion of community control, race and class dynamics, and the ways the development reflected what was happening in New York City as a whole.
Los Angeles, California - After increasing nearly 25% between 2018 and 2020, the homeless population in the Los Angeles area has grown more slowly over the past two years. According to the latest count from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, L.A. County’s unhoused population grew from 66,436 in 2020 to 69,144 in 2022, an increase of 4.1%. While there are numerous reasons for this downtrend, government intervention has played an important role. Such measures as Project Roomkey, which used federal, state and local funds to keep more than 10,000 residents in hotels and motels during the Covid-19 pandemic, showed that even modest public programs can make a significant impact on the city’s housing crisis, even as the initiative’s remaining residents lost their housing at the end of September.
On a summer day last year, a group of real estate tech executives gathered at a conference hall in Nashville to boast about one of their company’s signature products: software that uses a mysterious algorithm to help landlords push the highest possible rents on tenants. “Never before have we seen these numbers,” said Jay Parsons, a vice president of RealPage, as conventiongoers wandered by. Apartment rents had recently shot up by as much as 14.5%, he said in a video touting the company’s services. Turning to his colleague, Parsons asked: What role had the software played? “I think it’s driving it, quite honestly,” answered Andrew Bowen, another RealPage executive. “As a property manager, very few of us would be willing to actually raise rents double digits within a single month by doing it manually.”