5 Things to Make You Furious About Housing
1. Realtors and their allies in government keep track of the growing size of single-family homes. But bigger is only better if you’re well-off. The federal government doesn’t track the size of apartments, but numerous articles predict smaller units. A 500 sq ft condo, anyone?
2. Want an apartment? How about engaging in a bidding war to get it? Rentberry (free to landlords) is a new app that pits tenants against one another and then adds a monthly fee to whatever astronomical price a desperate renter agrees to.
3. A recent issue of Bloomberg News that I picked up at my credit union cheerily reported opportunities to speculate in housing in the few remaining affordable areas. Out-of-staters, it noted, will pay more than those who live in a depressed market. So buy up houses, and put them out of reach of locals, shall we?
4. In the “gig economy,” people like my neighbor work on a two-month contract (which can go on for several years) only finding out two days before the contract ends that it will be renewed. Try giving 30-days notice on an apartment under those circumstances!
5. Mother Jones recently featured a fantastic undercover article about private prisons including the shocking fact that in Louisiana, if a prisoner does not have an in-state address to go to, (s)he simply sits in prison. One man stayed in prison an entire year past his sentence, because he had no place to go!
One man stayed in prison an entire year past his sentence, because he had no place to go!”
5 Achievements by Activists
Like so many injustices, housing injustice grinds on and on with very few champions in government. However – mainly on the city level – tenants and their allies have organized, educated and protested to bring about some significant improvements.
1. In Richmond, Calif., activists lobbied to get a rent control and just-cause-for -eviction ordinance, but soon after, landlord pressure repealed it. So the Fair and Affordable Richmond Coalition gathered enough signatures to put rent control on the November ballot.
2. The City of Santa Cruz, Calif., restricts the conversion of mobile home parks into other more expensive housing, stating that an application to convert a mobile home park may be approved if there are other parks in the county to accommodate the displaced owners … and the conversion will not displace low-income individuals or households who cannot afford rents charged in other parks.
3. Thanks to the Tenants Union, Seattle, Wash., law requires that landlords wanting to convert apartments to condos have to offer right of first purchase to tenants and relocation assistance to those who cannot afford to buy the units they live in.
4. The Winterfaith Collaborative, a San Jose grassroots effort involving at least 40 faith communities in the city, invested months of intensive planning, connecting, volunteering, lobbying, gathering of resources and educating the city council in order to open supervised day shelters and night shelters as well as safe parking, showers and at least two meals a day to 250 homeless people at 16 sites.
5. The documentary Right 2 Dream Too follows the successful struggle to create a legal campsite for homeless folks in Portland, Ore.
What good news have you heard about activists making a difference for affordable housing for low-income and working-class people? Please share it in the comments section. Ed.