Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Darlington Tenants Fight as They Face Displacement


Monday, September 17,  at the Darlington Apartment Complex in Buckhead tenants and community allies held a rally to shine a light on their inhumane treatment by landlord Trace McCreary of Varden Capital Properties who purchased the longtime affordable complex a year ago.

At the time of the purchase tenants were told they would finally receive the renovations which where decades overdue only to be told in late august that they would all be forced to vacate the property indefinitely.

Since the time of the 60 day notice tenants were given in August the AC has been shut off and there have been four fires inside the complex. “There is no peace for us , days without hot water to bathe , laundry machines that destroys our clothes , & a Owner who would allow kids in this building to have to go to sleep in puddles of sweat from no Air. This is Not Fair , This is not Right , This is not Justice !” stated Darlington tenant LeBraunte Frost.

This kind of property flipping is nothing new to Varden Capital CEO Trace McCreary who apparently left Wall Street after the financial crash to focus on building wealth off the crisis the left 11 million Americans without a home. So far Varden Capital has purchased around 20k units in the South almost all of which are occupied affordable units which he then flips mostly luxury displacing current residents.

At this point residents simply want support identifying affordable housing in the communities they live and work in which has been a major challenge.

Atlanta is experiencing a perfect storm for mass displacement. With 95% of everything built since 2012 qualifying as luxury housing and a loss of 5% of affordable housing stock every year since 2012 we may be experiencing the largest displacement of long term residents in Atlanta history.       “ For those of us who live in the few affordable housing available in the city we find ourselves displaced with the race for newer properties and affordable properties renovating to keep up”, stated Darlington tenant Raymond Bushby. 

You can take action!


CALL THESE NUMBERS

Jennifer Eid, City Council Representive, District 6: (404) 330-6049

Matt Westmoreland, Post 2 At Large City Council: (404) 330-6302

Michael Julian Bond, Post 1 At Large City Council: (404) 330-6770

Keisha Lance Bottoms, Mayor: (404) 330-6100

Script:

“I am calling to express my great concern for the forced displacement of tenants from the Darlington. What will you be doing to ensure ALL tenants are relocated to safe, decent, affordable housing? What will be doing to ensure that this mass eviction events like this are no longer acceptable in Atlanta?”

Links tosome of yesterday's press coverage: 


Stand with the Transit Equity Coalition, and help us demand a fair MARTA Expan


MARTA is finally expanding. But for the most part, efforts at collecting public input through the More MARTA program have been relatively low-key – it’s safe to say that the majority of Atlantans have no idea that this initiative is underway. Which means that right now it is unlikely that the final expansion plan will reflect the true wants and needs of Atlanta’s commuters.

In 2016, Atlanta voters approved a half-cent sales tax to fund the expansion of MARTA. The tax is expected to generate $2.5 billion over 40 years. Since the tax was passed, MARTA has been fine-tuning a list of potential bus and rail projects to improve service in various parts of the city.

One of the projects that is garnering the most attention is the Clifton Corridor Light Rail Transit (LRT) project, a streetcar that will link Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to Lindbergh Center Station in Buckhead. The issue with the emphasis on the Clifton Corridor Project is that Emory University and the CDC were annexed into the City of Atlanta in 2017 – after the sales tax was passed. It is unfair that this project, which will receive $500 million of the $2.5 billion in MARTA funds, is being prioritized over the communities in south and southwest Atlanta that have been asking for improved MARTA service for years.

According to the More MARTA program’s questionable survey results, two more proposed projects that are on track to become a reality soon involve building a light rail along segments of the Beltline. The Atlanta Beltline has become the city’s main driver of gentrification as it causes property values to skyrocket. Though the forces behind the Beltline initially promised that the project would lead to the development of 5,600 units of affordable housing, they are far behind where they should be. The More MARTA program’s prioritization of a Beltline streetcar over transit improvements in south Atlanta communities is a slap in the face to the neighborhoods that are bracing themselves for Beltline-generated displacement. The More MARTA program should not spend a single cent on the Beltline rail project until the Beltline fulfills its commitment to affordable housing.

The Transit Equity Coalition is an alliance of civil rights organizations, faith-based groups, and neighborhood associations who are working to hold MARTA accountable to the true needs of the community. Our members are:

American Friends Service Committee
Atlanta NAACP
Concerned Black Clergy
Dekalb NAACP
Housing Justice League
Our Truth, Our Power – The South Atlanta Listening Project
United Youth Adult Conference

We are asking everyone who supports MARTA equity to call their Atlanta city councilmember and demand that they put pressure on MARTA to:
  1. Cut the Clifton Corridor rail project
  2. Expand the west rail line from Hamilton E. Holmes station to Fulton Industrial, and the east rail line to Stonecrest along I-20.
  3. Refrain from funding a streetcar on the Beltline until the Beltline begins to live up to its affordable housing promises.

The Atlanta City Council can be reached at (404) 330-6030.

More information about the More MARTA project can be found here: https://itsmarta.com/moremarta.aspx
Like the Transit Equity Coalition on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MARTAequity/



Foluke Nunn
Youth Organizer

American Friends Service Committee

Monday, September 17, 2018

Peoplestown Residents Win Retrial After Presenting New Evidence

Peoplestown Residents Returned to Court With  Evidence of City’s Unlawful Use of Eminent Domain to Displace Longterm Residents of Peoplestown

                                                                                                                                                


Peoplestown residents returned to court on Wednesday Sept. 5 at 11 a.m. before Judge Schwall seeking a rehearing based on newly discovered evidence.  That evidence, an email authored by a City of Atlanta engineer, establishes that the City of Atlanta knew, BEFORE it demolished 21 of 27 homes on the block, that it did not need the property for its proposed flood mitigation project.  This email was produced by the City in response to a discovery request 3 days after Judge Schwall ruled that the City needed the property.  The delayed production of this highly relevant information is consistent with the culture at City Hall that has prompted the on-going investigation by the GBI.

Despite having produced more than 200,000 documents, the City has failed to produce evidence rebutting this internal Department of Watershed communication.  Tanya Washington, a Peoplestown resident,  said, “Had I gone to court and been presented with credible evidence that my house was needed for the City’s plans I would take the loss and move on.  I wouldn’t be happy with the situation but at least I would know that there was a real reason for taking my home. But when a City employee documents that the homes are my block aren't necessary and there is NO evidence to the contrary  I’m ready to go all the way to the Supreme Court for justice, and I SHALL NOT BE MOVED!

The outcome in these cases will create precedence that will either protect residents against these types of land grabs by the City or it will give the green light to city officials, authorizing them to steal peoples’ homes without following the law.  The residents are asking "Housing Mayor" Keisha Lance Bottoms to drop the lawsuits against them.

From Tanya Washington:
"The Judge ordered the City of Atlanta to return to Court on Oct. 29 at 2:30 with the former City of Atlanta engineer who documented the lack of "technical data" and "engineering validation" to justify the taking of homes on our block. We are looking forward to this hearing which will establish that THE CITY OF ATLANTA'S USE OF EMINENT DOMAIN IS ILLEGAL!
This is a VICTORY that proves 3 incontrovertible truths: WHEN YOU FIGHT YOU WIN, COMMUNITY IS A VERB & COURAGE IS CONTAGIOUS! Thank you for standing with us!"

Right now as more residents in Washington Park, Vine City, and English ave we are asking folks to continue to call the Mayor and ask her not to use eminent domain to forceably take peoples homes for development projects.

Friday, July 13, 2018

From Atlanta to DC

 Earlier this month we had the opportunity to travel to Washington DC with tenant leaders from the Housing Justice League for the National Alliance of HUD Tenants(NAHT) national convention. This has been our fourth year attending the conference which is a gathering of HUD tenant leaders from around the country along with tenant/community organizers and representatives from ally organizations. The conference is an excellent opportunity for tenants to share and develop strategies to preserve, improve, and expand affordable housing in their complexes and communities. Here in Atlanta we've learned so much over the years from the amazing HUD tenants that helped form NAHT, several of them have organized such strong tenant associations that they have actually collectively negotiated negotiated with complex owners to purchase the building they live in.


This years was year was a highlight for us as both Housing Justice League and American Friends Service Committee received awards in recognition of our victories over the last year.

This years was also special because we had the opportunity to join the Poor Peoples Campaign for their day of action. Many of us marched to HUD and witnessed over a dozen committed faith and community leaders block the doors of HUD's office demanding better living conditions and more peopled centered policies. It was truly inspiring to be surrounded by so many people with such deep commitment to real economic justice.

The following day NAHT held a rally against Trump's proposed HUD cuts on the steps of the MLK memorial statue. If passed Trump's HUD budget would include deep cuts and much stricter work requirements. The cut's impact would put over 5k Georgia families at risk or homelessness and rent hikes that would be difficult to survive for those on fixed income. From there we went to visit congressional members and lobbied against the proposed cuts before saying our goodbyes and heading back to Atlanta.

Conferences like NAHT are important. They give us the opportunity to compare notes, inspire and be inspired by each other, to celebrate our work, explore how to more effectively, and leave with our imaginations on fire!

Big thanks to all who contributed to Housing Justice Leagues tenant training crowd source fundraiser as it helped cover the cost of three tenant leaders attending the conference!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Our truth, Our Power – The South Atlanta Listening Project


The growing number of luxury high-rises and trendy restaurants may give the impression of increasing prosperity, however Atlanta continues to be one of the worst cities in the country for income equality and economic mobility.

As the city enjoys a period of growth in several different industries, it is apparent that it is catering to the wants of newcomers and business interests- the voices of groups without the resources and influence to make themselves noticed are strikingly absent.

Young people who were born and raised in Atlanta’s poor communities make up one of the groups that is talked over and spoken for the most. Younger generations are almost always left out of discussions about the city’s future, even though they will play a major role in shaping its future. Those of us who come from the ‘hood are often viewed as part of Atlanta’s problem, instead of potential contributors to the solution.

We’re tired of being written off as “thugs” and ignored by the leadership of this city. We’re tired of being told that our problems will miraculously disappear once we “pull our pants up”. We’re tired of everyone trying to tell us what we should do, but rarely asking us what we want for ourselves.

We believe that we can make our voices heard, and work to build an Atlanta that prioritizes our interests and needs.

Our first step will be to conduct a listening project, so that we can give young people in Atlanta a chance to share their opinions about their city. A listening project is a series of interviews done with the goal of solving problems and helping communities realize the power they have. We will be interviewing people ages 17 to 25 who live in South and Southwest Atlanta (the east side of Zone 4, the north side of Zone 3, and the very south side of Zone 1). We want them to share as much as they can about their experiences living in their communities, so that we can paint a picture of the most major issues from many different perspectives.


Our ultimate goal is to bring the young people of Atlanta together, to build the confidence and skills that we need to stand up for our communities. We will use what we learn from the interviews to guide the next steps that we take to address some of the most pressing problems.

Most importantly, we need people who live in Atlanta’s disinvested communities to be at the forefront of this effort.

There are several organizations that are already providing crucial services for young people in Atlanta’s low income neighborhoods. Their presence and the work that they do are much needed and valued. The specific purpose of this project is to spark a movement to create a more just and equitable Atlanta— led by young people, for young people. We want it to be a chance for us to contribute directly to meaningful social change that we define on our own terms.

It’s easy to look at the shootings, the poverty, and the police violence and think that that’s just how life goes in the ‘hood. But we refuse to accept that things can’t be different. Every one of us has the ability to fight for a better world. First we must speak our truth, then we can claim our power.

If you would like to volunteer with us, please click here
To sign up for an interview, please click here

By the AFSC Youth Organizing Project: Foluke Nunn, Brenquavious Johnson