Pages tagged "right to housing"
On Friday, June 19, ONE DC partnered with Serve Your City, Bigger Than Key, Party for Socialism and Liberation, SURJ DC, IWW DC, It Takes Roots, Right to the City Alliance, and the Movement for Black Lives to commemorate Juneteenth with a Defund MPD / Cancel Rent Rally & Protest March. We gathered outside Landlord-Tenant Court in Judiciary Square to call attention to looming mass evictions. Tens of thousands of D.C. residents have lost work since the pandemic began, and ONE DC estimates over 1/3 of residents haven't been able to make their rent or mortgage payments. While Mayor Bowser pushes forward "ReOpen DC," Black and working class residents still haven't gotten the relief they need. ONE DC's Right to Housing Committee is demanding the city "Cancel Rent" by creating a way for tenants affected by COVID-19 to have their rent forgiven.
ONE DC member-leaders Nzingha and Shakeara co-MC'd the rally. You can watch the rally on our Facebook Live (speakers start at about the 14:00 minute mark) or Instagram Live. Speakers connected the issues of racist police terror and displacement. The mayor's proposed budget adds an additional $18 million to MPD, on top of a budget that is already over half a billion dollars, while affordable housing programs face cuts. We also heard performances by poets Christian Sutton and Kiana Kelly, and BYP 100's Black Joy Experience.
The Defund MPD/Cancel Rent protest was one of four local feeder marches that converged on Freedom Plaza as part of the Movement for Black Lives national day of action. Thank you to all of our members, supporters, and partners who joined!
The Cancel Rent campaign continues! The Right to Housing Committee meets every other Thursday. Click here to join the Cancel Rent campaign and receive updates.
Photo credits: JoJo Morinvil
People's Demands DC
People's Demands DC, a group that came together through the DC Mutual Aid Network, are developing a list of demands with the help of community members, students of all ages, organizers, advocates and activists. We want to make sure that our finalized list of demands has been shared with and supported by as many DC folks as possible, particularly Black, brown, immigrant, low-income, indigenous and native Washingtonian residents.
Join ONE DC Outreach Team
ONE DC members are continuing to make calls to our base to understand how people are being impacted by the pandemic, offer support and resources, and engage people in our ongoing organizing work. Can you help by making calls?
- You can email [email protected] to receive a list and script to make calls on your own time.
- Or you can make calls with the virtual support of others! Join us on Thursday at 6:30 PM for a special outreach orientation and work session. Email Gabrielle at [email protected] to receive video call info.
Know Your Rights
After Mayor Bowser declared a state of emergency, the D.C. Council passed several emergency laws:
- No evictions and no hearings until (at least) May 15, 2020. Landlord-Tenant Court is closed for eviction proceedings until (at least) May 15.
- Landlords can still file some eviction cases and send you notices, but the court process are all on hold.
- If your building is a tax-credit or federally-funded property, no eviction notices can be served until July 25, 2020 according to the federal CARES Act. Your landlord cannot charge late fees or other penalties during this time either.
- Late fees are prohibited for rent owed during the state of emergency. They can still charge rent.
- No rental increases are allowed that would have gone into effect during March, April, or any further month during which there is a state of emergency. Any rental increases for March or April are retroactively canceled. Rent, however, is not canceled (yet).
- Any notice a tenant has given a landlord saying that they are going to vacate the apartment is paused from the date of the start of the public emergency (March 11). Tenants do not have to vacate during the public emergency even if they had previously notified their landlord that they were doing so.
- Utility shut-offs are prohibited during the state of emergency. This includes water, electricity, and gas.
- As always, the landlord has no right to ask about your health.
- If you need someone to stay with you because you’re sick, that’s allowed. Your best protection is to give the landlord notice in writing that because of your health limitations, you need that person’s help.
If you need to speak with a lawyer about a housing issue related to the coronavirus, you can call the Legal Aid COVID-19 Tenant Hotline, call 202-851-3388
If your landlord is trying to exploit this public health crisis to raise rent, please contact the Office of the Attorney General’s special price-gouging unit. Call (855) 532-5465 or submit a complaint online
Washington, D.C. is facing an unprecedented economic crisis as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. D.C.’s Chief Financial Officer has estimated that unemployment could reach 20%, bringing incalculable harm to D.C. residents. Just last week, a full 1% of the country applied for unemployment benefits.
While the emergency measures that have been passed so far are essential for containing the immediate impact of the pandemic, and we're grateful to the Council for heeding our call to close D.C. Superior Court to all eviction proceedings through May 15, job losses and other lasting effects will linger for many years. These economic effects are turning out to be even worse than anticipated, and it is clear that the city needs to step up with a more ambitious effort to protect residents.
Cancellation of rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the state of emergency, plus one month. No one knows how long this pandemic will last. It is no good to impose a moratorium on evictions alone, only to force tenants out when the eviction moratorium expires. With so many Washingtonians already out of work, we need to cancel rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the state of emergency, and allow a one-month cushion.
A two-year rent freeze on increases while the city recovers. We cannot allow the crisis to become the death knell of working-class life in Washington, D.C. Landlords should not make back their losses on the backs of struggling renters, and should not raise rents while tenants struggle to get back on their feet.
The right to counsel in eviction cases. The crisis is likely to cause a wave of evictions throughout the city; we must help tenants defend themselves in court by fully funding legal services and making an attorney available to any tenant who wants one.
Tripled funding and vastly expanded eligibility for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program and the elimination of annual limits on frequency and amount. ERAP’s small budget, high barriers to entry, and annual limit severely limit its ability to help a broad cross-section of DC residents. Expanding the program will help make it a pillar of D.C.’s response to the crisis. Residents who have claimed ERAP earlier within the last year should remain eligible for ERAP prospectively in light of the current crisis.
- The enactment into law of the Reclaim Rent Control platform in its entirety. The previous demands are all temporary, emergency fixes to a city that is already wracked by a housing crisis. One of the keys to a long-term solution to Washington, D.C.’s housing crisis is a broad-based rent control law.
We are entering an economic emergency that will rival the Great Depression. Now is not the time for half-measures. Now is the time to protect our tenants and save our city. Tell Mayor Bowser and D.C. City Council we need action now!
Are you not going to be able to pay rent on April or May 1? Have you lost wages due to COVID-19? How have you been affected the pandemic? Fill out the survey here to join ONE DC organizing efforts.
Wow!! A huge thank you to all who came out on Saturday to make our first ONE DC People's Assembly a success!
At the People's Assembly, our goals were to develop a shared understanding of the struggles we face, decide what should we do about them, and build our power to take collective action.
Through participatory processes, these campaign demands emerged:
Right to Housing: prioritize the preservation and creation of family-sized units with longtime affordability at 0-30% AMI that includes protecting rent control and housing alternatives to vouchers
Right to Income: get rid of tax breaks to corporations and developers and funnel those resources to the development of worker cooperatives
Neighborhood & Worker Defense: create community-controlled alternatives that address access to food, housing, childcare, and recreation
The People's Assembly was an important step in a larger movement-building process. Now we need YOU to join us in building out the next steps.
Here's what's next:
- Organizing Meeting - Join us Thursday, February 13 at 6:30 PM at the ONE DC office for our next Organizing Meeting where we will start the process of building out a strategy for the campaign demands we outlined above that emerged out of the People's Assembly.
- Member Orientation - Tuesday, February 11. Are you new to ONE DC? Join us to find out more about our mission, values, and history, and what it means to be a ONE DC member.
- Annual Membership Meeting. Save the Date for Saturday, March 14! Between now and then, ONE DC members will be meeting regularly to develop a strategy for each campaign. At the Annual Membership Meeting, the campaign strategies will be presented for feedback and approval from the Membership.
Finally, to build a strong people-powered movement, we need strong and powerful organizations. Become a ONE DC member by paying your 2020 membership dues today.
ONE DC Right to Housing Organizer
Donate to ONE DC
|Long-time DC residents gathered at Thurgood Marshall Academy on October 5th to tackle the issues of landlord neglect and displacement by force in the District.|
|Facilitator and Right to Housing Committee member Rosemary Ndubuizu kicks off the Freedom School by introducing attendees to ONE DC and to the issues raised at the Mini-Assembly held in July.|
|Attendees get to know each other in a buddy exercise. Participants ask each other two questions: “How long have you been in DC?” and “Have you experienced landlord neglect or displacement by force?”|
|A round of applause after three sets of “buddies” roleplay different scenarios of landlord neglect or displacement by force.|
|Landlord neglect is not a new phenomenon. Statistics from a 1950 survey of homes in a majority Black SW neighborhood first targeted for “urban renewal” demonstrate how intentional neglect is used to justify displacement of Black families from their homes.|
|Facilitators break attendees into three groups for an exercise. Each group represents a different neighborhood in D.C.: Kalorama, a mainly white, wealthy neighborhood; Deanwood, a low-income neighborhood composed of mainly Black renters and homeowners; and Brookland, a low-income neighborhood with a mixture of Black renters and Black and white homeowners.|
|In the exercise, each group drew out the current composition of their neighborhood. Facilitators then played the roles of urban planner, developer, and politician to expose different displacement tactics, and the way capital and the state work together.|
|Next, the groups envisioned their “Beloved Communities” and developed a strategy to defend them. Each group was encouraged to dream BIG in their shared vision of a truly affordable, accessible neighborhood.|
|Groups present their visions for their dream neighborhoods, designed by the people for the people.|
|Groups then developed and presented strategies to protect their neighborhoods. They focused on three areas: outreach, to recruit community members to their movement; political action, to identify decision makers that need to be challenged; and neighborhood defense, to plan community building activities that preserve the practices and values of their neighborhood.|
|Everyone came together at the end to discuss pluses (what went well) and deltas (what would we change for next time) from the Freedom School. A lot of pluses!|
|ONE DC Right to Housing Organizer Patrick Gregoire finishes the Freedom School by inviting everyone to join ONE DC’s Right to Housing Committee in preparation for the upcoming People’s Assembly. In the words of Ella Jo Baker: “If you have strong people, you don’t need strong leaders.”|
|Right to housing members participate in an interactive map of experiences with displacement in DC: “She couldn’t ever afford to buy her home.”
|"My grandmother lives in Northeast. They’re watching their neighborhood change. They get cold calls of people wanting to buy their home.”
|Displacement by force is one way long-time DC residents have lost their homes: “I became a victim of domestic violence. And then I actually lost my housing voucher since they said I had too much money in my account.”
|“My mom and I kept falling into the cracks. I went straight from being a ward of the state to case closed homeless at 17.”
|“We want you to think big. We want you to think about institutions.”
|Participants share their experiences of landlord neglect in DC within breakout groups: “The whole soap dish was black from mold. Then they hired inexperienced workers who mishandled it.”
|Some people felt they couldn’t be secure in housing unless they could afford to buy a house: “The system is responsible and they keep doing it to us. They wouldn’t do this if it was white people.”
|“We want to take our anger and our issues to DCHA, DCRA and Mayor Bowser. We need to study and reflect before we can assess and attack.”
|Nae came to the Right to Housing Mini-Assembly to fight for justice, just like her idol Ida B. Wells.|
Next up for ONE DC’s Right to Housing Committee is the Freedom School. We’ll dive deeper into the issues raised by participants in the mini assembly: Displacement by Force and Landlord Neglect. All of this work will lead to our city-wide People’s Assembly in the Fall. To get involved, email Patrick at [email protected] or call 202.232.2915.
At the ONE DC office in Shaw on a Tuesday evening, Right to Housing Organizer Patrick Gregoire carefully reads over a drafted email blast about the upcoming People’s Right to Housing Mini-Assembly. He edits the language to make it more accessible and compelling, asking for feedback from others. Members of the Right to Housing Committee have been meeting week after week to build out a city-wide housing campaign, and now it's time to launch summer outreach and base-building.
Sending communications is one of many features of Patrick’s work with ONE DC: his priority is to reach out and connect with people in ONE DC’s base of working class people of color. As the Right To Housing Organizer, Patrick's role is to organize tenants, especially long-time DC residents, to fight displacement, dismantle housing inequities, and end the privatization of housing. Housing being ONE DC's longest standing pillars of organizing, Patrick explains, “the big North Star is to have community-controlled, sustainable, affordable and dignified housing and to pursue models that support that."
|Patrick (fourth from left) at a LEAP workshop|
In order to move towards these goals and connect with the community, Patrick organizes regular 1-on-1 meetings with ONE DC members to connect the values of the organization to their experiences living in DC. “I mean if you don’t have safe dignified housing, what do you have? You can’t focus on your work. Where are you stacking your food if you've got any? We can’t fight for the things we need if we can’t even stay where we are.” he says.
Patrick’s passion and dedication to the fight for equitable housing grew from his experience as a ONE DC member. After coming on staff, he now organizes closely with a dedicated group of ONE DC members and interns that make up the Right to Housing Committee. Several members have been displaced from their own neighborhoods in the District and use their experience to inform campaign strategy. In addition to the housing team, Patrick also works with other ONE DC staff and organizers: “I love being with a diverse cadre of people -- our Shared Leadership Team, our interns, the staff, our general membership -- especially when we have people that are the most impacted by displacement coming together and brainstorming ideas about how we’re gonna fight for our right to housing.”
|ONE DC's Right to Housing Committee connects with the nation-wide Homes for All Movement at a Tenant Power Assembly Training in Minneapolis|
Join with Patrick and tenants in DC to develop a popular education agenda and build our skills so we can fight back against predatory landlords and developers, and create collective power at the People's Right to Housing Mini-Assembly on Saturday July 6! This event is the first in a series of three and will be followed by the People's Right to Housing Freedom School and ONE DC's citywide People's Assembly.
Click here to RSVP
|Sharecroppers in Eutaw, Alabama, 1930s|
ONE DC recognizes that because all basic necessities of human life come from the land, community control of the land is an essential element of liberation. Displacement and dispossession from the land are perhaps the most powerful tools of colonialism because they strip us of our self-sufficiency. We become dependent on capitalist structures to provide our food, water, and housing as commodities, forgetting that as human beings on a plentiful Earth, we all have an inherent and equal right to these necessities, regardless of our ability to pay. Without control of the land, we may survive (when our survival is useful or convenient for those in power) but we can never ensure that our survival will continue. We cannot guarantee access to healthy food and safe, decent housing for our families and communities; and we cannot protect our water, soil, and air from pollution that poisons our bodies.
In DC, we live our daily lives on land with a long history of contestation, environmental inequality, and racial injustice. Our city exists on land stolen from its original residents, the Nanotchtank people, and developed using the exploited labor of enslaved African people by European colonists. People of color in the District have been relegated to less desirable land, and dispossessed of their land as soon as it has become profitable for those with more power. Systemic housing discrimination and mass displacement guised as "urban renewal" efforts have led to the disenfranchisement of Black residents throughout the 20th century. At the same time, many white residents were able to benefit from this inequality to build intergenerational wealth, creating a dramatic wealth disparity between white and Black families in DC.
|Overlooking development in Anacostia|
In the ongoing struggle to defend our homes, DC residents must contest with the joint powers of corporate greed and government corruption. It is common practice in DC for government officials to provide enormous subsidies to real estate developers in return for campaign contributions. Instead of funding affordable housing, transportation, education, or community-led, equitable development, hundreds of millions of dollars of city funds are given away to developers each year by way of tax breaks and land deals. In these so-called "sweetheart deals," corporations have received public land worth millions of dollars for only $1. Meanwhile, D.C.'s housing costs continue to skyrocket, and the rate of homelessness remains one of the highest in the U.S. Now, as the housing crisis reaches a critical point, political resistance in the District is stronger than ever as working class people and people of color are uniting and organizing for land, equity, and justice.
At Congress Heights, tenants are still going strong in their fight for community control over housing and for safe, dignified housing conditions. After a fire broke out on the property in November 2018, the tenants have been temporarily relocated to other buildings in the area, and maintain their legal standing as tenants of their Congress Heights apartments as they wage the fight for quality, long-term, and meaningfully affordable housing in their neighborhood. The two ongoing lawsuits against Geoff Griffis and City Partners regarding their improper ownership and evasion of tenants' TOPA rights have been fought in the courts over the past year. The property also remains under the control of a court appointed receiver due to past negligence of the property.
|Congress Heights tenants hold a meeting at the BWWC|
In the way that development and humanitarian aid are often used to mask imperialist intervention abroad, the rhetoric surrounding mixed-income development obscures a sinister process of displacement. At the very core of the politics of mixed-income development is the undermining of communities of the working poor, particularly when these communities are also Black. Gentrification exposes already marginalized communities to increased policing and surveillance. As new, wealthier, whiter residents move into communities, long-term tenants find themselves subject to racialized stereotypes of criminality, often resulting in dangerous and violent encounters with the police.
|Kelsey Gardens tenants prior to the demolition
In addition, once residents move into shiny, new developments, building management implement a draconian slate of rules enforced through constant surveillance of private behavior and space. This is coupled with an aesthetic and cultural transformation of neighborhood and community space, which compounds feelings of unfamiliarity, loss, and discomfort. As this discomfort mounts and long-term residents choose to leave, rather than be subjected to continued indignities, the traditional networks of mutual support, which working class and poor people rely on to survive the perpetual onslaught of capitalism, start to fall apart.
Kelsey Gardens, one of the first properties where ONE DC organized, is a clear example of the negative impact of mixed-income development on working class and Black communities in DC. After a long struggle against the developers who sought to transform their housing into luxury apartments, in 2006, the residents of Kelsey Gardens, led by their tenant association, won the right to return to the new building after construction was completed. The residents would live in subsidized apartments within the building, which would be shared by new arrivals to Shaw who could afford to pay market-rate rent.
When the residents returned to the building after being displaced for six years, however, they realized that the communal feel of the old Kelsey Gardens had been erased with the construction of the new property, Jefferson at Marketplace. In the new building, subsidized tenants found that they were subject to a different set of rules than the market-rate tenants, including restrictions on access to amenities, surveillance and criticism of their guests, and verbal harassment from management.
In addition, residents have reported previously undisclosed fees for basic services, coldness from market-rate residents, and interference with the tenant associations right to organize on the property. In one extreme case, a resident was even evicted for smoking cigarettes in her apartment, a practice she had maintained for most of her adult life. These forms of harassment and invasion of privacy and comfort have caused many of the original residents, who fought hard for the right to return, to leave the new building and Shaw entirely.
Despite the injustice they faced at the hands of building management, the current and former residents of Kelsey Gardens continue to fight, and want their experiences to serve as a counterbalance to the dominant discourse on mixed-income development. Over the course of the last few months, former Kelsey Garden residents have been working with ONE DC member Martha Davis and Virginia Commonwealth University Professor Kathryn Howell to share and record their experiences living in new mixed-income developments.
|Former Kelsey Garden tenants sharing their stories in 2018|
The results of these interviews will be compiled into a policy document that will be used to educate lawmakers and combat the mythology of mix-income developments. In addition, the interviews will be turned into a popular education tool to discuss the relationship between mixed-income development and the displacement of working class and working poor communities of color in DC. This, in turn, will be used to collectively educate buildings experiencing similar redevelopment attempts and give them tools to identify, articulate, and organize against mixed-income development and in favor of their right to the city. We look forward to the results of this project and the implementation of its associated written resources.
In November 2017, Mrs. Jourgette Reid-Sillah, (aka. Ms. J.), a ONE DC member, along with a few of her neighbors voted to create a Tenants Association at the Richman Apartments in Southeast DC. The Richman Apartment residents, noticing the increase in expensive housing developments popping up in their community, wanted to take action and get organized.
Ms. J and other tenant-leaders began meeting monthly in their laundry room, and encouraged fellow residents to get involved. ONE DC enthusiastically supported Ms. J. and her neighbors’ organizing efforts. ONE DC staff and members helped knock on doors, conducted outreach, and offered technical assistance on how to create a Tenants Association.
Ms. J. saw the Tenants Association as an important group that could help build community and stay abreast of development plans. But even as residents recognized its value, not everyone was willing to contribute the necessary labor. "Everyone thinks that a coalition is a good idea," Ms. J. says, “the challenge is making people understand that they must help carry the water.”
Their hard work has paid off. They have named their association the Because We Care Coalition, Richman Apartments Tenants Association. Through a process of debate and discussion, the tenants created their by-laws and are now focusing on electing a board and registering their Tenants Association with the DC Government.
Ms. J. is excited about the future victories they will win for their complex and neighborhood. She, like Fannie Lou Hamer, believes, “If you don’t speak out ain’t nobody gonna speak for you.” Over time, even more community leaders have become dedicated to building power in their community, and the association is continually seeking to recruit tenants who care. They are focused on organizing and setting goals for the future.
ONE DC is only one component of a growing international movement - we partner with and take inspiration from organizations all over the world who share our vision. Methods of achieving community control of land and housing differ from place to place, as different communities exist in unique historical contexts, with different needs and cultural values.
From Justice for Grenfell in London...
The official enquiry into the Grenfell Tower atrocity is currently adjourned indefinitely. Justice delayed is justice denied. But some of the root causes are well known to the working class communities around Grenfell, across the Atlantic and throughout the world. Neoliberalism considers the lives of the poor unimportant. Housing has become just another commodity to be traded. The people and agencies who should have been ensuring the safety of people at Grenfell were more interested in making money out of them, or pursuing their political careers.
But it goes deeper. UK council tenants, like US public housing tenants, have been stigmatized for decades. The Grenfell fire spread because of the flammable material fitted to prettify a council housing tower block. There are some very rich people living near Grenfell. They didn’t want to look at “ugly” housing, or think about the people who lived there. Grenfell has become a symbol of our failing housing policy and divided cities. But there is hope. It’s also become a totem for campaigns demanding decent, safe, secure and truly affordable homes for all. Winning that is the real way to get Justice for Grenfell. -Glyn Robbins, author of There's No Place: The American Housing Crisis and what it means for the UK
...to the MST (Landless Workers' Movement) in Brazil:
Agrarian reform may seem like an old problem, but it is vitally important for a new vision of modernity. It means tearing down three fences, as the MST puts it—fences around land, capital, and knowledge. As part of a larger effort to democratize access to resources, agrarian reform and food sovereignty can encompass everything from providing credit for settlers in land reform areas so that they can practice agroecological methods, to establishing good public schools and universities in every region. It might start with diversified local economies supported through farmers markets, but it also envisions universal health services, access to the internet, public transport, movie theaters, and more in every town. (Source)
...to Abahlali baseMjondolo (Shack Dwellers' Movement) in South Africa:
The state makes promises. The state breaks its promises. People respond. We were promised a piece of land. That land was sold to a businessman. Anger welled up. We brought traffic to a standstill for hours, demanding answers from the authorities. Most popular protest in South Africa uses road blockades as a tactic. What is significant is that although there were so many protests around the country, we were able to sustain that protest and turn it into a movement.What made that possible is that the state was prepared to lie and put lies ahead of the truth and put profit ahead of human needs. Because they were prepared to continue lying, I think that act really enabled us to put sustaining plans in place to resist. We did not only organise our locality. Neighbouring communities also got involved. They said, ‘we identify your demands with our demands. We can amplify our voices if we all unite’. So, this unity was organic. This movement grew from anger to the table, not from the table to anger. Ours is a politics of the poor – a homemade politics that everyone can understand and find a home in. (Source)
And in 2018, ONE DC joined Homes for All, a national campaign launched by Right to the City Alliance that aims to protect, defend, and expand housing that is truly affordable and dignified for low-income and very low-income communities by engaging those most directly impacted by this crisis through local and national organizing, winning strong local policies that protect renters and homeowners, supporting efforts at building models for truly affordable community-controlled housing and shifting the national debate on housing. We believe that housing is a human right not a commodity.
To get involved, contact Patrick Gregoire at [email protected] or 202-232-2915
By Brook Hill
Between July 18th and 22nd, ONE DC members Keisha Harden, Janice Underwood, and myself attended the Homes for All Assembly convened by the Right to the City Alliance in Atlanta. The assembly brought housing justice organizers together from across the country to discuss housing challenges, share solutions, and plan how to react to those challenges nationally and regionally. The assembly was also an opportunity to introduce attendees to and invite comment on a training tool that includes a blueprint for building a grassroots group and an articulation of shared values. The ONE DC delegation was able to establish ties with groups working in nearby cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Newark, and to strengthen ties with folks from D.C. that we were already familiar with.
The first full day of the conference was spent discussing the current state of our housing work and collectively planning what we would need to do over the course of the next decade to achieve our goals. Despite the fact that the group included people from east, west, north and south, many of the problems they faced were surprisingly familiar. Low-income communities of color face displacement fueled by commercial and residential real estate development not only in cities that have been earning reputations as expensive places to live like DC, New York and the Bay Area, but also in places like Lincoln, Nebraska; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Nashville, Tennessee.
The solutions they are seeking to implement are familiar too; just cause eviction, right to counsel, tenant opportunity to purchase, and rent control. Even though these tenant protections have not solved all of the problems facing tenants in cities where they exist – such as the District of Columbia – tenants’ rights would be a lot more elusive without them. It was inspiring to hear about serious campaigns to pursue them in so many places. If tenant protections become common outside of DC it will be easier to push for even stronger protections in DC. Folks were serious about what it would take to accomplish these things, as much of the plan for the next ten years included spending a lot of time door knocking, making phone calls, recruiting members, building coalitions and raising funding.
The second day of the conference was about what it would take operationally to achieve the plans that were laid out the day before. Appropriately the day began with a direct action because after we do the work of bringing people together, disrupting the status quo with protest is important to bring about change. However, the rest of the day was spent discussing the less glamorous work of building a group that can fight for housing justice in a meaningful way. To that end, the Right to the City Alliance introduced the Homes for All Handbook, movement DNA. It is a pamphlet with a dozen or so pages that lays out the shared values of the Homes for All Coalition along with step by step instructions on how to build a group. The techniques reminded me of what I had learned as an organizer at ACORN and New York Communities for Change and they were packaged in an inviting and digestible fashion. The Homes for All Handbook has the potential to be an invaluable tool for new organizers and tenant leaders.
On the third day, everybody attended a training session. The one I decided to attend was about development without displacement and community control. We participated in an exercise where we imagined that we were planning our ideal community and the facilitators would approach us and try to offer us things that would ‘improve’ our communities – we’d have to think about the consequences and reject or accept the offers. It was a great exercise. After that, we heard about how one Bay Area community group teamed up with a community development corporation to successfully fight for an alternative vision of development in their community.
|ONE DC members Janice Underwood, LaKeisha Harden, & Brook Hill|
All in all, the conference was a great experience. We were able to deepen our ties with other DC organizers, networks with other organizers in the region, do some reflection on our work in recent years and begin planning the future. The other ONE DC members and I left Atlanta inspired and anxious to continue building at home.
The cost of housing has reached frightening levels in the nation's capital. At our July People's Platform, we emphasized the importance of knowing your tenant rights and how to exercise collective power to protect our communities. Three tenant leaders joined us and shared their ongoing fight and wins to preserve affordable housing where they live. The event was held at the ONE DC Black Workers Center, located in Anacostia, with the goal of identifying more tenant leaders living East of the River who want to organize in their building.
|ONE DC members talk about the first steps to forming a tenant association|
During the panel, we heard from three tenant-leaders who have been organizing at their property to protect their right to affordable, safe, and decent housing:
The Hodge on 7th
Ms. Deborah Brown is a tenant leader from the Hodge on 7th, a 55 and older building in Shaw. Residents at the Hodge are dealing with poor property management, safety issues, and property management turnover. They are organizing a tenant association and taking steps to have their demands met by the building owners.
Ms. Paulette Matthews has been living at Barry Farm for almost 22 years and has been fighting, along with other tenants and Empower DC, against the demolition of the public housing property, which would mean the displacement of hundreds of Black families. Barry Farms residents demand redevelopment without displacement and the preservation of truly affordable public housing that meets the needs for large families in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Robert Green is a resident at Congress Heights, where residents have been organizing against slum conditions for over five years. Recently, they have achieved several major victories! 1) Sanford Capital, the slumlord responsible for creating uninhabitable conditions at the property where Mr. Green lives, has been banned from doing business in the District for the next seven years by Attorney General Karl Racine's office after the CH tenants brought Sanford's shady business practices to light. 2) On Friday, July 13, D.C. Superior Court Judge Mott ordered CityPartners to pay $900,000 in repairs to rehabilitate the property. CityPartners (owned by Geoff Griffis) took control of the property from Sanford Capital in a potentially illegitimate transfer in December 2017, which the tenants and the city continue to fight in court. For more info about the ongoing struggle at Congress Heights, visit JusticeFirst.org.
All of the stories shared by Ms. Brown, Ms. Matthews, and Mr. Green had common themes: the critical need for tenants to organize themselves; the importance of knowing your tenant rights and how to exercise collective power; and that the struggle must go beyond our individual needs toward building tenant solidarity not only in our own building, but across properties, the city, and the world!
The People’s Platform is a movement of low-income and working class DC residents of color and people who share our values and vision. We seek to organize, educate, fight for and win truly affordable housing, sustaining work, and wellness for all in DC. Our monthly People's Platform general body is a space where we work towards our goals by prioritizing political education and leadership development in our work.
Our August People's Platform will commemorate Black August by exploring the intersection of mass incarceration and gentrification. We will meet on August 23 at 6:00 PM at the ONE DC Black Workers & Wellness Center, located at 2500 Martin Luther King Jr Ave SE.