Squad Vows to Act on Housing Crisis

Reps. Garcia, Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley, Tlaib help launch “A Home to Thrive” campaign, hint at legislation

 

For Immediate Release:
September 10, 2019

Media Contact:
Lia Weintraub, lweintraub@populardemocracy.org, 202-618-2482

**Pictures from the action can be found here and livestream here. 
Interviews with tenant leaders available upon request**

 

WASHINGTON -- Today, Representatives Chuy Garcia (D-IL), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) joined 100 activists from across the country to launch “A Home to Thrive,” The Center for Popular Democracy’s campaign to address the housing crisis. During remarks to the packed hallway, each Member of Congress decried the structural roots of our housing and homelessness problems and indicated that they would prioritize a federal legislative response this fall.

Each Member of Congress demonstrated their unique angle to address the crisis, from public health to corporate tax giveaways, tenant protections to shoring up the affordable and public housing supply. 

The priorities align with the Center for Popular Democracy’s launch of its “A Home to Thrive campaign,” a bold proposal to address the housing affordability crisis. Tenets of the platform include: tenant protections, like just cause evictions, right to counsel for people facing eviction, and banning discrimination based on source of income; improving the quality of the housing stock through fully funding lead abatement and repairs/maintenance for public housing; reining in corporate landlords with disclosure requirements and tightening of standards for FHA engagements with the worst offenders; creating a participatory budgeting process for people in public housing; addressing exclusionary zoning; and creating models of community-based ownership, like community land trusts and cooperatives.

“Housing is a human right. Beyond that, it is a critical indicator of health. Where there is a housing crisis, there is a public health crisis,” said Representative Ayanna Pressley. “Everyone deserves more than to survive. They deserve to thrive. People deserve more than shelter. They deserve a home.”

“All families deserve the freedom to thrive in communities all over the country,” said Representative Jesús “Chuy” García. “In the Logan Square and Pilsen neighborhoods of my district, approximately 30,000 Latinx and low-income families have been forced to move because of encroaching gentrification over the last fifteen years. To stem the tide of this displacement, we must invest in affordable housing, and I am proud to be involved in the efforts of the Financial Services Committee to do exactly that.

“We need a home to be able to thrive,” said Representative Rashida Tlaib. “A home is the center for economic viability for our families. Our housing crisis is an issue of structural racism. We have shifted away from supporting everyday working families and have instead given tax breaks for stadiums and high-end developments. Meanwhile, my constituents are spending 30-40 percent of their income on housing. These tax giveaways and systems of inequities are denying our families access to homes and affordable rents.”

“How many of us are paying too much on rent? It’s extortion. It’s too high it’s outrageous,” said Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “We need a complete overhaul of housing policy. We need to stop commodifying the housing market because it’s not a speculative good, it’s a human right. We’re allowing the rich to launder their funds in the housing market while people are homeless on the streets. We need universal rent control. We need to make sure that everyone facing eviction has access to counsel. We need to decarbonize the housing stock so people live in clean buildings that are good for our environment. Without a home, people cannot thrive. Everyone needs a home to thrive.”

After hearing from the Members of Congress, activists and tenants went to the offices of some of Congress’ worst perpetrators of the housing affordability crisis to deliver eviction notices. During visits to the offices of Representatives Peter King (R-NY), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Scott Tipton (R-CO) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY), tenant leaders decried the millions of dollars that the members collectively receive from the private equity and real estate lobbies, while 40-50 percent of all of their constituents are rent burdened.

The activists and tenant leaders came from New York and Arkansas, North Carolina and Michigan to share their stories of housing insecurity and homelessness and demand that the members take action to end the worst crisis in a generation, instead of lining their pockets with private equity and real estate money.

“Since 2013, my family and I have been homeless,” said Dorothea Johnson, a member of Action North Carolina in Charlotte, North Carolina. “First, we lived in a motel because we couldn’t find housing. When they tore the motel down, we moved into an apartment, but it violated coding requirements and the management didn’t repair anything. Now, the management is kicking out 281 residents by the end of the year. People in my building have children and families, they have disabilities or are senior citizens. None of us can afford to pay $1,000 a month for a one bedroom. We need affordable housing for everyone.”

The activists and leaders are all involved in local and state campaigns to address the affordable housing crisis. The trip to D.C. marks their first engagement in federal advocacy through the launch of the “A Home to Thrive” campaign.

**Pictures from the action can be found here and livestream here. 
Interviews with tenant leaders available upon request. 
The full “A Home to Thrive” platform can be found below.**

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A Home to Thrive: Policy Platform

A safe, affordable, stable home is indispensable to any family’s ability to thrive. It is a core building block of the economic, social, and civic health of our nation. Yet we have allowed a combination of disinvestment in public and affordable housing, unregulated rental markets, and predatory practices by corporate landlords to spark a nationwide crisis in affordable housing. The demands below would provide targeted support for low-income renters and residents of public housing, two of the most vulnerable and neglected groups in federal housing policy. 

  • Protect Tenants

    • Create an Access to Counsel Fund to provide grants to cities implementing Access to Counsel programs for those who cannot afford an attorney.

    • Impose a national cap on annual rent increases.

    • Block evictions without just cause, such as failure to pay rent, destruction of property or other violation of explicit lease terms.

    • Ban Discrimination Based on Source of Income: No landlord should be allowed to turn an otherwise eligible tenant away because of her income source.

  • Improve the Quality of our Housing Stock

    • Fully fund nationwide lead abatement 

    • Repay the debt to public housing residents by fully funding the Public Housing Capital Fund to cover needed repairs and maintenance

  • Rein in Corporate Landlords 

    • Impose disclosure requirements for the nation’s largest landlords--those owning hundreds of units across multiple states. At minimum, these companies should be required to make public their standard lease agreements; annual eviction rates; median rents; code violations; and tenant turnover.

    • Stop Aiding and Abetting Predatory Landlords: Direct FHA to develop rules that would prohibit the sale, insurance or guarantee of mortgages or mortgage-backed securities or the sale of FHA assets to landlords with a history of harassing tenants, violating housing codes, unjust evictions, engaging in unconscionable rent increases; or unjust foreclosure policies.

    • Prioritize nonprofit developers and owner occupants in sales of FHA assets

    • Discourage Monopolies/Oligopolies in the rental market: Block FHA and HUD from selling properties or mortgages to landlords who already own a maximum number of units.

  • Empower Public Housing Residents:

    • Develop a participatory budgeting process that empowers public housing residents to determine how capital funding dollars are spent

    • Increase support for resident councils, resident management corporations, and the Tenant Opportunities Program.

  • Fair Housing

    • Address exclusionary zoning: Affluent localities across the country use local zoning as an instrument to promote racial and class segregation in violation of local authorities’ obligation to affirmatively further fair housing. The federal government must act to ensure fair housing  policies are not undermined by local prejudice.

    • Ensure that housing access is not based on immigration status by repealing all provisions that block access to safe, stable, affordable housing to undocumented members of our communities.

  • Develop and fund new models of community-based ownership such as community land trusts and cooperatives.