By Ben Adler for Grist – Forty-seven years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, you might think that these problems are gradually disappearing. You would be wrong. “Architecture of Segregation,” a new study from the Century Foundation, a liberal think tank, finds that concentrated poverty, especially among African-Americans and Latinos, is actually getting worse. Among the key findings: “The number of people living in high-poverty ghettos, barrios, and slums has nearly doubled since 2000, rising from 7.2 million to 13.8 million.” “Poverty became more concentrated [since 2000] — more than one in four of the black poor and nearly one in six of the Hispanic poor lives in a neighborhood of extreme poverty, compared to one in thirteen of the white poor.” But the culprit isn’t simply racial discrimination — it’s also suburban sprawl.
By Divya Rao for Rooflines – Over the last few years, communities have witnessed the latest iteration of Wall Street predation—the purchase in bulk of distressed single-family mortgages and foreclosed homes (REOs) with the intent to rent them- so called REO to Rental. Investors are muscling out first time home buyers, displacing tenants, outbidding nonprofit affordable housing developers, and changing the demographics of communities. This new scheme is being funded in the same way that caused the foreclosure crisis- by securitizing housing payments (this time, rent payments) and passing on the risk to communities. A recent survey by the California Reinvestment Coalition of 80 community based organizations identifies some of the most concerning trends, provides context for who is funding this recent boom, and makes recommendations to protect communities from additional harm.
By Sonya Dowsett for Reuters – The newly-elected left-wing mayor of Madrid on Tuesday overturned eviction orders for 70 families living in social housing and safeguarded more than 2,000 similar rental contracts. The move is the latest by the administration of Manuela Carmena, backed by anti-austerity party Podemos, to protect housing in a country where a property boom-and-bust has resulted in tens of thousands of families losing their homes. “There were 70 processes under way, but today those families have recovered their homes. Nobody is going to be thrown out on the street,” Carmena said after meeting activists. Carmena took office in June after her Ahora Madrid (‘Madrid Now’) alliance of community activists formed a coalition with the opposition Socialists to end 24 years of centre-right People’s Party (PP) rule in the capital.
By Carl Finamore in CounterPunch – Last year, San Francisco tenant rights’ supporters scored an important victory when voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition K, requiring all new housing developments provide 33% low and moderate-cost units. The objective was to put a lid on the unregulated, speculative construction boom that earned the city its most contentious distinction of being the country’s second most expensive place to live, just after New York City. Housing activists say Prop K was a partial victory but more is needed. That next step of “reining in record-high eviction rates” was announced at a July 27 city hall press conference attended by over 75 community, labor and political leaders. “The data clearly shows that the evictions crisis and resulting loss of rental units” is a big blow to the city meeting its affordable housing goals, said Board of Supervisor Jane Kim.
By Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center. EUGENE, OR: On Friday July 24, 2015, the Assistant City Attorney of Eugene dismissed a criminal case that he filed and prosecuted against Hedin Brugh, a long-time SLEEPS activist who advocated for unhoused people. The Civil Liberties Defense Center’s Lauren Regan had filed a constitutional challenge to the third attempt by Lane County to shut down First Amendment rights at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza located at 8th and Pearl Streets. Regan and the CLDC had successfully challenged two prior attempts by Lane County to restrict the constitutional rights of SLEEPS protestors who occupied the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza as an integral aspect of their peaceful protest. “Each time the Court ruled in our favor and found that the County had acted illegally, the County would attempt to devise another scheme to unconstitutionally restrict First Amendment rights on the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza.”
By David Dahlborn in The Student Assembly – If we learn one thing from the recent rent strikes at University College London (UCL) and the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) it should be this: we won and we can win again. In 21st century London rent strikes still work. And we should use them frequently to win campaigns by concentrating our forces at our enemies’ weakest point. Oppressive rents, scumbag landlords and gentrification caused by property investment are rampant. There is talk across London and the country of the need for housing campaigns and a “fightback” against property owners and their landlord lackeys. What we have demonstrated is that, alongside well-practiced campaigning methods – demos, occupations and blockades – it will, above all, be rent strikes that enable us to coerce the ruling class to concede to our demands for better and affordable housing.
By Timothy Ginty in RoarMag – In February 2009, after the Spanish government had shown itself incapable of enforcing Article 47 of the Spanish Constitution — declaring that “all Spaniards have the right to enjoy decent and adequate housing” — a citizens’ assembly was held in Barcelona to establish the Platform for People Affected by Mortgages, or the PAH (Spanish: Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca), a social movement which would wait for neither government action nor market corrections for this right to be enforced. The PAH’s immediate aims are simple — the prevention of the systematic eviction of tens of thousands of debtors across Spain — but its larger dream is bolder: the achievement of the socio-economic conditions in which the human right to housing may be secure.
By Laura Proto in The Standard – Squatters were today evicted from the historic Elephant and Castle pub after a month-long protest about gentrification and the selling off of social housing. Police said bailiffs secured the pub in the early hours of this morning and about 20 squatters were removed. The group took over the pub on Wednesday, June 17, in a protest against gentrification after estate agent Foxtons submitted an application to open a premises at the famous pub site. Kazz Rafi, who works at Elephant and Castle Food and Wine, said five or six police vans and security crews arrived just before 4am today. He told the Standard: “The people were sleeping inside and [police] told them to go. They were illegally inside – it’s not their property.” The squatters were expected to move on to occupy another vacant building.
By Rebecca Nathanson in Waging Nonviolence – Thanks to the 1971 Urstadt Law, New York State, rather than New York City, controls the city’s rent laws, which expired on June 15. These laws include vacancy decontrol, which allows rent-stabilized apartments to be destabilized once they are vacant and the rent reaches a certain threshold. However, the city does have one means of managing its rent-stabilized apartments: the RGB, which votes on yearly rent increases for stabilized apartments. This year’s vote was scheduled for late-June. The combination of the rent laws expiring and the RGB vote resulted in a period of heightened mobilization for tenant organizations and provided an opportunity for them to come together to pressure both the city and the state in two separate but related struggles.
By Ross Barkan in The Observer – Telling reporters that they were “royally screwed,” tenant activists and a Democratic city councilman blasted Gov. Andrew Cuomo today for failing to bolster rent regulations as much as they had hoped. Gathered outside Mr. Cuomo’s Midtown office, the activists from left-leaning groups including Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change and Crown Heights Tenant Union called the Democratic governor a Republican, said he had done the equivalent of urinating on them, and even claimed he would be arrested before he sought re-election in 2018. “The deal that is about to be voted on is worse than the deal in 2011. They have done absolutely nothing to help tenants in New York City,” said Councilman Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat and chair of the Council’s housing and buildings committee.
By Dennis Parker in ACLU – We’re living in a tale of two Americas, where racial segregation and racial disparities in housing continue to plague our nation. A report we released this week outlines just how disadvantaged future generations of Black Americans will be because of predatory lending practices that disproportionately targeted people of color. Yet, in the midst of the seemingly relentless reminders of the ways that racial discrimination continues to plague our nation, the decision of the Supreme Court in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. provides a much-needed cause for celebration. The decision is important not because it articulates a new principle, but because it re-affirms long-standing legal precedent that recognizes the purpose and function of the Fair Housing Act passed in 1968.
By Nick Muscavage in Legislative GazetteProtesters in support of stronger protections for renters slept in Academy Park in Albany last night with only pillows and sleeping bags. They are planning a protest in the Capitol Tuesday as lawmakers return to Albany to finish the legislative session. Rent regulations remains one of the last major issues to address before lawmakers can return to their districts for the summer. There were about 15 protesters from different organizations including NYC Communities and Real Rent sleeping in the park. While there, at least two Assembly members came to the park to show support and chat with the protesters. Assemblyman Keith Wright, D-Manhattan, and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, D-Manhattan, both stopped by the park last night and visited with the protesters. Wright said at a press conference last week that he will fight for stronger rent laws as long as it takes.
By Monica Morales in Pix11 – Tenants, advocates and lawmakers camped out overnight Thursday outside the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo to protest the state letting housing regulation laws expire, impacting millions of New Yorkers who have rent stabilized apartments. Protesters have a powerful allies with them in the protest– Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams and several council makers. Many there are sleeping on the streets–to show the growing frustrations that millions of New Yorkers are feeling right now. Meantime the Mayor and the Attorney General held a joint press conference about busting bad landlord under a new taskforce created to protected tenants of rent stabilized apartments across the city. One of the first landlords arrested ran a building on Union Street. He allegedly endangered the health of his residents–including a six-year-old girl.
By Naureen Khan in Occupy – Tenants of this 43-unit apartment building — predominantly African-American, many of them elderly or disabled and receiving vouchers for Section 8 federally subsidized housing — were told their rental contracts were being terminated shortly after the building came under the ownership of Lafayette Square Apartments in December of last year. Critics charge that the maneuver is part of an increasingly common scheme in Los Angeles to drive away low-income residents and raise rents, contributing to the affordable-housing crunch in the city and the gentrification of once diverse neighborhoods. Notices informing residents that they had 60 to 90 days to forfeit their units began arriving in their mailboxes in January. By March, most tenants had been notified that their rental contracts would be terminated by mid-June.