It’s Not Just Water: Detroit Thirsts For Democracy

Detroit protest on July 18. Photo by David Coates  for the The Detroit News.

Several thousand people marched from Cobo Hall to Detroit’s Hart Plaza on July 18, decrying the destruction of democracy in Detroit. The rally, organized in part by theMoratorium Now! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shutoffs, took place after a week of actions against the disconnection of water service to households unable to pay their bills. People previously blockaded to keep Homrich, a private contractor employed by the city, from shutting off people’s water on July 10. Another blockade took place the day of the rally, lasting six hours before police arrested a pastor, a veteran journalist in her 70s, welfare rights organizers and others. . . . Acts of resistance and the creation of forward-looking alternatives are in their embryonic stages, and the various forms both take have implications for what democracy will mean in Detroit and elsewhere in the future. “So we have to restore democracy in order for us to be in a position where we can really control our own destiny,” she said.

NYC Approves Building With Separate Entrance For Poor People

Apartment building in NYC

It would be difficult to come with a more on-the-nose metaphor for New York City’s income inequality problem than the new high-rise apartment building coming to 40 Riverside Boulevard, which will feature separate doors for regular, wealthy humans and whatever you call the scum that rents affordable housing. The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development approved Extell’s Inclusionary Housing Program application for the 33-story tower this week, the New York Post reports. The status grants Extell the aforementioned tax breaks and the right to construct a larger building than would ordinarily be allowed. According to the Daily Mail, affordable housing tenants will enter through a door situated on a “back alley.”

Stopping Foreclosure - New Lamps For Old


Once upon a time, financing the purchase of a home with a mortgage loan, compared to today, was much simpler. After saving the customary 20% down payment, the borrower would meet with the local banker for a long-term, fixed-rate loan. Once income and character were investigated, qualified and then approved, the borrower signed a mortgage note, and gave a mortgage in exchange for a loan. A mortgage note is the personal promise to repay a loan. A mortgage (lien) collateralizes or secures the mortgage note. Foreclosure can force the sale of the collateral (home) to repay the debt. It was at the same local bank where the borrower made monthly loan payments for the life of the loan. If and when the borrower had a problem making a scheduled payment due to an unexpected expense or temporary hardship it wasn’t necessarily an earthshaking event.

Homeowners Still At Risk Of Foreclosure Demand Action

Occupy Protest

The Occupy movement started on Wall Street and now its sibling, the grassroots movement to restore community wealth, has come to New York City. On Wednesday, a broad coalition of community activists joined with four allies on the New York City Council to draw attention to the epidemic of foreclosures and to call for immediate action to help rescue homeowners who are drowning in debt. At a press conference at City Hall, they released an eye-opening report, Thousands of Homeowners Still Drowning in Underwater Mortgages: How Toxic Loans Keep Fueling Foreclosures and the Need for Eminent Domain, designed to jump-start a campaign to address the problem. The report, sponsored by New York Communities for Change and the Mutual Housing Association of New York, reveals that tens of thousands of New York City homeowners are still at risk of foreclosure, because their mortgages are underwater and the banks aren’t providing any relief.

Brad Pitt To Help Build 20 LEED Platinum Homes For Tribes In Montana

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 9.45.28 AM

The Make It Right nonprofit founded by Brad Pitt is partnering with the Sioux and Assiniboine tribes of Fort Peck, Montana, to build sustainable homes, buildings and communities on their reservation. In addition to 20 LEED Platinum certified homes, the project will develop a sustainable master plan for the entire reservation, which covers thousands of acres and is home to more than 6,000 Native Americans. Make It Right was set up in 2007 to provide housing for people in need. All Make It Right projects are LEED Platinum certified, Cradle to Cradle inspired, and designed by renowned architects in collaboration with the community involved. For the current project, architects and designers from GRAFT, Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative, Architecture for Humanity, Method Homes, and Living Homes spent four days meeting with tribal members before developing their designs. Currently, more than 600 people are waiting for housing on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Overcrowding is a chronic problem, with multiple families commonly living together in two-bedroom homes due to lack of accommodation.

Brazilians Take Back The City

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 12.54.05 AM

Only the steady flow of men, women and children through a rusted, grey door alert passersby that anyone lives inside the 22-story building. It’s covered in graffiti: a small house – bright yellow, with a brown door, window and roof – two women’s faces, and the number 911. With an abundance of unused buildings peppering the city, low-income residents of Sao Paulo occupy vacant structures, often with the help of local social and housing rights movements. This is one of them. “We occupy [buildings] to give a social function to the properties and give houses to people without houses,” said Maria Silva, one of the residents. In other cases, several families occupy large homes, and each family rents out a single room while sharing other facilities, like bathrooms and kitchens. These structures are known as corticos (boarding houses, or tenement buildings). Unlike the favelas, corticos consist of large, urban apartment-syle buildings shared by several families. In Sao Paulo, rapid urbanisation was linked to a shift from agriculture to more modern industries, and as labourers moved into makeshift communities to be closer to work. While most favelas are in the peripheries of Sao Paulo, many low-income families also moved into the city centre to be closer to basic services

Activists Pour Concrete Over Spikes In Protest


As if their city’s failure to provide them with shelter weren’t bad enough, homeless people in London faced further acts of dehumanization recently when a property developer and supermarket erected spikes meant to deter them from sleeping there. A few weeks ago, spikes were assembled outside a grocery store called Tesco as well as in front of the entrance to luxury flats. “There was a homeless man asleep there about six weeks ago,” an anonymous resident told the Telegraph. “Then about two weeks ago all of a sudden studs were put up outside. I presume it is to deter homeless people from sleeping there.” In response to the inhumane construction, activists called the London Black Revolutionaries took to pouring concrete over the spikes outside of Tesco, leaving signs behind that read “Homes Not Spikes.”

Skid Row Residents: Heart Of Hope


As he, Sabo and other tenants organized similar committees in other hotels, they all began to develop a greater sense of themselves as a low-income community. That victory was one of several partial ones at the Frontier from about 2003 to 2008. Together, the tenants also succeeded in getting Los Angeles to pass a hotel preservation ordinance that requires no net loss of low-income housing, covering 17,000 to 18,000 units citywide. That includes about 8,000 downtown. The final ordinance gained approval in 2008. Diaz, who now works for LA CAN, points out that at the Alexandria all the rooms are covered by Section 8, the federal government’s low-income rent subsidy program, and rents start at $56 a month.

‘Can’t Afford, Can’t Wait’ Rise Of Renter Nation

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 3.49.30 AM

Housing is a human right, but affordable housing nationally, is in short supply. There is a gentrification, displacement, and affordability crisis across America. Cincinnati author Alice Skirtz has identified it as “ECONOCIDE”. In over 90 US cities median rent is unaffordable and people struggle to pay for other expenses like food, utilities, healthcare, and childcare. Rents have been consistently on the rise since 2000, while wages stagnate. The housing foreclosure crisis has evolved into a renters’ crisis- pushing thousands of low-income families into the rental market. n June 6th, Homes for All/ Right To The City Alliance- launches a national report called-“Can’t Afford, Can’t Wait: The Rise of the Renter Nation”. In Cincinnati a panel discussion at SOS ART 2014, is The Peoples Coalition for Equality and Justice’s contribution to the national campaign- HOMES FOR ALL. We will explore the crisis in Cincinnati from boots on the ground of homelessness and displacement to the new national study.

Disappearing Middle Class In UK As Well

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 8.00.44 AM

High property prices will wipe out the British middle class within the next 30 years, according to a UK government advisor. He says society will be left with a “tiny elite” and a “huge sprawling proletariat.” “The really scary thing is if in the next 30 years house prices rise as much as they have done in the last 30 years, then the average house in Britain will cost £1.2 million (US$2 million),” said David Boyle, a British author and a government advisor who is a fellow of the New Economics Foundation. According to Boyle, who spoke at the Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts, most representatives from the traditional middle class won’t be able to afford a house because wages will fail to keep up with huge price increases. “We won’t own our own homes, we won’t be able to afford it,” he said. “We cheered the rise of property prices not realizing that it would destroy, if not our own lives, but the lives of our children.” He added that in order to pay rent, representatives from the traditional middle class will have to take on several jobs. As a result, they won’t have time for any hobbies, Boyle predicted.

Change From Below In Dominican Republic


Previous theories of social transformation could be constructed based on the American Far West movies, where the stagecoach came through the desert with those who stole, guarded, and transported the gold. The revolutionaries waited to raid the coach. Revolutions – the October Revolution, all of them – were based on that image of the assault on power. This is an anti-Zapatista image, which instead is of building power from the community, from below. This image requires a new vision. Our problem nowadays is how to build power and a new economy from below. There are many factors to take into account in doing this, but first and foremost: human beings. There had been some social movements in the city: traditional movements as well as the union movements and so-called “housewife” movements; cultural and youth clubs that worked on popular art, popular education and sports; the literary movement… During times of dictatorship, the youth movement and the teachers’ movement were those that had the most staying-power.

For COP21 Alternative Villages Springing Up


Alternatiba is mobilising tens of thousands of European citizens on alternatives to climate change, with an upcoming COP21, the international climate summit that will take place in Paris in December 2015. Following Alternatiba in Bayonne, uniting 12 000 people on October 6th 2013, dozens of alternative villages are springing up in Paris, Geneva, Brussels, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Rennes, Strasbourg, etc. Plans are in motion in Spain, South Basque Country, Austria, Romania… and even in Tahiti ! Alternatiba’s film is featured on our website and are now available in English, German, Spanish and French. The call to organise 10, 100, 1000 Alternatibas is now available in 23 European languages. Solutions to climate change exist. Even better : they’re building a nicer, friendlier, fairer, more human society.

New Haven Dismantles Homeless Camp

New Haven removes homeless camp

Just one day after activists set up a camp for homeless people on Rosette Street, the city removed their tents—and took two organizers away in handcuffs. That was the scene Friday afternoon in the Hill, where the police arrested Gregory Williams and Mark Colville after they refused to leave a piece of city-owned property. On Thursday, Williams and Colville had organized an encampment for homeless people following the closing of the seasonal 88-bed “overflow” shelter on Cedar Street. The Harp administration had told the activists that they were occupying the vacant lot illegally and would have to leave. ..Luz said she recognized that the camp was not a permanent solution, but it was the best alternative given the situation. “I don’t appreciate that they take our leaders,” said a man who declined to give his name. He said he slept at the camp Thursday night. “I was going to stay tonight,” said Nicholas Terlecky. He said he came to the nearby Amistad Catholic Worker house for breakfast and was invited to stay. Terlecky said he was happy for the opportunity to get away from bedbugs in the shelters.

What Is Our Vision For A New Urban Economy Based On Democracy?

Baltimore economic democracy conference

Tonight is the first night of the Building Our New Economy Together, Economic Democracy Conference in Baltimore. If you are unable to make it to the conference tonight, keep it tuned to this page for a live stream of our town hall at The Real News Network! You will also be able to catch the opening and closing plenary sessions on Saturday right here. For more on the event’s schedule, visit here. The evening will bring together top national experts on reframing our political situation with the folks in Baltimore who are already working on these issues. This session will be held from 7 to 9 PM, with doors opening at 6:30 PM and a reception following. Speakers will include (order TBD): Margaret Flowers of Popular Resistance and Its Our Economy Diane Bell McKoy, Associated Black Charities Gar Alperovitz, University of Maryland, College Park Jacqui Dunne, Author, Rethinking Money: How New Currencies Turn Scarcity into Prosperity Michael Coleman, United Workers

Mobilizing For The Common: Some Lessons From Italy

Demonstrators fight with policemen during a protest in downtown Rome

Saturday’s protest in Rome was the latest in a series of actions around a common project. What can organizers elsewhere learn from Italy’s movements? “The Italian movements may provide us with at least one clue on where to start: by sitting down together and carefully spelling out a common project behind which disparate political groups, autonomous movements and isolated individuals can unite. What is needed is a single banner capable of sustaining a broad popular coalition behind a set of shared aims and principles.” Tens of thousands of protesters marched on Rome this Saturday to denounce the austerity measures and economic reforms of Matteo Renzi’s new government and to restate their call for income, housing and dignity for all.