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Posts Tagged ‘Housing’

A Moment of Reconciliation

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog

By Kelvin Lassiter – Policy Analyst

There’s a huge divide in America. Most believe that divide is either racial, economic, political or a combination of all three. They would be right. What about affordable housing? The heart of the matter lies in who is dominating the conversation regarding what’s affordable. The divide in the affordable housing conversation is racial, economical, and political. Let’s tackle income inequality, for starters, the federal minimum wage. Some would say our nation should explore provide universal basic income. Already underway and is a plus. See the pattern here? The individual, organization, or government entity directing the narrative determines what’s affordable and what’s not affordable. What income level is suitable and what is not. It was refreshing for a change to see the people determine what’s suitable regarding the recent events in Philadelphia, PA. 

For years, the Philadelphia Housing Authority has ignored its most vulnerable citizens. Eligible housing units that the poor can qualify to live in sits empty. This is by design. Developers and housing investors stalk their prey with lobbying efforts to develop something called mixed income communities. America, that’s just a fancy way to disguise “gentrification”. On average, a larger number of poor people that leave their neighborhoods behind never return. Philadelphia is no different. Empty housing just occupies city space while over 40,000 people sit on a waiting list for public housing. This is a normal practice in America. Make the poor sit and wait. Developers, house flippers, and city governments leave out the people that need it most, well, not this time. 

Lawyers, activists, and the unhoused seized on the opportunity to grab the attention of America with advocates that know something about grabbing attention; Black Lives Matter. It’s a marriage that ties housing and justice together. The people taking matters into their own hands may repair fractured relationships between housing authorities and the citizens they are supposed to serve. The journey started out with a simple demand; provide housing or we will take to next steps to provide housing for ourselves.

Well, of course, city hall did not listen, setting the stage for what would happen next. Close to 200 of Philadelphia’s most vulnerable people took over a park at 22nd and Ben Franklin Parkway in a neighborhood known for the lifestyle of the rich and famous. In this same time period, fifteen unoccupied housing authority homes became property of the people. The conditions may not have been ideal; however, it forced the housing authority to look at a much greater problem, humanity. Encampments were strategically set up in various parts of the city to force action. 

After months of political posture, an agreement was reached. The city agreed to turn over 50 public housing units including the fifteen occupied during a citizen take over.  These homes will be in a land trust meaning housing will be affordable for the poor and operated by the people. One of our sources who participated in the negotiations shared the following, something you may not hear with the national media:

Jobs are available through the trade union. Houses are being fixed up in North and West Philadelphia, and the formerly unhoused are welcome and will contribute to keeping the character of the neighborhood. While this is a landmark deal that will have implications nationwide, it comes with a set of challenges as well. The city council still continues the practice of political gamesmanship and owns a graveyard set up for housing policy. While it is much appreciated for the Philadelphia Housing Authority to grant 50 houses, it is still not enough for the estimated 6,000 plus unhoused people that remain in Philadelphia. Finally, the practice of encampment sweeps will continue in the midst of a global pandemic.

The fight for housing, which is a “human right”, has remained an issue since the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Discrimination has reached an all time high in punishing the poor just because they are poor. Will other housing authorities nationwide join Oakland, and Philadelphia using land trust models? Will the people have to take matters into their own hands or can we depend on housing authorities to do the right thing? Have we, or will we finally reach a moment of reconciliation in America? The jury is still out and has not yet reached a verdict. 

Eviction during a Pandemic: Hope or Hopelessness?

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog, News

by Kelvin Lassiter

Evictions are more complicated than just the actual meaning. At its root cause, we may be able to list job loss, medical issues, and loss of spouse/domestic violence as examples that are at the surface. It’s bigger than someone failing to fulfill their obligation in exchange for not being on the street.

Estimated numbers of people at risk of eviction are staggering; 30 to 40 million in the next several months are at risk for becoming housing insecure according to the Aspen Institute. 

There are 3 things currently standing in the way of mass displacement due to eviction:

  • CDC moratorium
  • Local moratorium
  • Legal Aid and rental assistance 

On September 2, 2020, The Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Robert Redfield signed a declaration determining that the evictions of tenants could be detrimental to public health. This action was instrumental since the CARES Act moratorium expired in late July.

Some city and state governments issued eviction prevention moratoriums at the beginning of the public health emergency which have since expired.

Three main reasons why tenants are still being evicted from their homes:

  • Landlord intimidation of tenants
  • Tenants not aware of their rights as renters
  • Lack of legal representation in court 

Landlords have taken measures into their own hands during this public health crisis. While they depend on payments for survival, boarding up doors, shutting of utilities, and filing for eviction with the courts does not make a tenant speed up their ability to pay rent. The fine print on a lease may become a challenge to understand and it’s a tool used by management companies to evict.

What can be done to protect the American People?

A fifth coronavirus package to protect the American people, extending the CDC moratorium beyond December is pivotal in blocking the wave of evictions. An executive order by local, and state governments can potentially protect certain groups of Americans from evictions such as the elderly, and domestic violence survivors.

There are benefits for families to stay in their homes. Kids are able to focus in school and decrease the chance of suffering from lack of rest and food insecurity. Prevention of long term mental instability is also a plus.

Should we have hope in that a piece meal approach that has slowed down what’s inevitable? Or will people remain hopeless in the lack of assistance to help Americans sustain their quality of life?

Make no mistake, the United States will face a housing crisis not seen since the great depression regarding housing insecurity. Most moratoriums put in place at the beginning of the pandemic have expired causing massive amounts of eviction filings by landlords.

What will happen if the CDC moratorium on evictions is not extended past December 2020? The jury is still out on that answer, however, the American people must have a say, and challenge our elected officials to do what they were elected to do, legislate. 

Available resources:

Let’s not return to business as usual

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog

The National Coalition for the Homeless applauds all the communities that are rushing to provide desperately needed housing for people who are unhoused, and especially vulnerable to contracting and succumbing to COVID-19. 

However, we are, quite frankly, disturbed that so many are still relying on congregate settings: big tents and open floor warehousing of people, in what is clearly a dire public health emergency for the entire country. In the hopes of relieving the strain on other overcrowded shelters, the San Diego government decided to open the convention center to the homeless population. They are expecting to house over 1,500 people during this crisis. San Francisco ignored early warnings from advocates and requests to place vulnerable folks in empty hotel rooms, and now residents and staff of shelters are falling ill. This is unacceptable. We are clearly failing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in both sheltered, and unsheltered, populations, and in direct opposition to clear guidelines given by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). 

Researchers who have long studied homelessness have projected that homeless individuals infected by COVID-19 would be twice as likely to be hospitalized, two to four times as likely to require critical care, and two to three times as likely to die than the general population. (Read the full report)

This crisis continues to highlight the structural inequities that have plagued us for decades, causing mass homelessness since the defunding of Federal affordable housing programs starting in the 1970’s. 

We call on Congress to respond swiftly with the following: 

  • 11.5 billion for ESG (15 bil based on this study, minus the $4bil in the CARES Act) 
  • 4 billion for fair elections (based on this information
  • Emergency rental assistance for all tenants, including rural renters
  • Extend moratoria on evictions to all renters, extend sunset date to 3 months after stay-at-home orders are lifted, and do not require all back rent paid when moratorium lifts 
  • Extend health care for uninsured/underinsured 
  • Extend funding for hotel/motel space for people who do not have a permanent home
  • Facilitate transfer of unused/vacant housing to families who are unhoused 
  • Increase food assistance through the SNAP program

Further, we call on HUD either to automatically renew all FY 19 funded COC projects, or greatly simplify the renewal process. Our service providers are using all their capacity to ensure their unhoused community members are safe, we don’t need a lengthy application process during this public health crisis!

But again, let’s be clear, homelessness has been a public health emergency for over 4 decades!!

We stand in solidarity with our neighbors who are calling to #CancelTheRent. They know so well that the over 22 million Americans who have filed for unemployment, plus the up to 140 million Americans who were already on the edge before the coronavirus appeared, are in danger of becoming homeless. 

We stand in solidarity with all those who have been left out of the Federal relief responses thus far, our poorest and most vulnerable neighbors. As Rev. Dr. William Barber puts it, “The virus is teaching us that from now on, living wages, guaranteed health care for all,unemployment and labor rights are not far left issues, but issues of right vs wrong, life vs death.”

We must work to correct the long-standing and systemic causes of housing, income, health and further racial inequities. When the emergency of Coronavirus infection has passed, we do not want to return to normal. We should all hope to see a new normal emerging where we and all of our neighbors have safe, affordable and accessible housing; adequate wages to cover our living expenses, adequate and affordable health care, and where our civil and human rights are equally defended and protected.

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