Monday, November 1, 2021

Peoplestown Residents Facing Eviction Fight Back

 Peoplestown residents, Bertha and Robert Darden, Tanya Washington, Ms. Mattie Jackson and her family and Dwayne Adgar, have been fighting to stay in their homes for more than 8 years.  Two of the families have received eviction notices from the City’s attorneys, calling for their immediate displacement.  

Former City of Atlanta Mayor, Kasim Reed, initiated the action to take their homes by eminent domain 5 years ago on Oct. 31, 2016.  Their names were removed from the deeds to their houses and during the litigation evidence surfaced that the City never had the engineering data to support the taking of the entire block of 27 homes in Peoplestown.  The City engineer, Kimberly Scott (formerly Palmer) testified in court regarding the City’s unlawful takings and she was fired by the City for telling the truth. 

Mrs. Bertha Darden confronted Kasim Reed at a mayoral forum on Friday Oct. 24 about the City’s unlawful actions under his leadership.  In response to her accusations of the predatory use of eminent domain, Kasim said he made the best decision based on the information he had at the time and that he was concerned about flooding “killing people.”  Both of his statements are untrue.  

When Kasim initiated the taking of homes in Peoplestown and before the first of 20+ homes were taken and families displaced, engineer Kimberly Scott had provided written documentation that the City only had engineering data to justify taking 2-4 homes, not 27 homes.  Furthermore, the flooding in Peoplestown in 2012 did cause property damage to the 9 residents who sued the City, but it was not life threatening.  If flooding on the block was life threatening  Kasim would not have allowed Ms. Mattie Jackson to stay in the middle of the block.  Kasim Reed’s response to Mrs. Darden highlights the same untruthfulness and fraud that undergirds the City’s efforts to use eminent domain to displace the Peoplestown residents.  

Today, on the eve of the Mayoral election Peoplestown residents held rally and press conference to discuss the actions of the current and past administrations and share their perspectives on who should be elected the City’s 61st Mayor to handle the multiple and intersecting crises facing the City: gentrification of legacy communities, displacement of legacy residents, unlawful use of eminent domain, white collar crime/corruption, violent crime, an exploding population of unsheltered people, and  a dearth of affordable housing for people earning minimum wage.  This rally offers the people of Atlanta the chance to speak truth to power and make their expectations and priorities known to the next Mayor of the City of Atlanta.

Residents have created a GoFundMe page to help pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars we owe to our lawyers and engineering experts.  Please share their link —GoFundMe.com/Peoplestownfight

Residents have also created an on-line petition asking Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to suspend efforts to evict them from their homes and to allow the next Mayor to address the situation.  Please share their link -- ATL Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms Please Stop the Evictions of Peoplestown Residents | Housing Justice League (controlshift.app)


Friday, April 30, 2021

Biden Fails to Keep Life Saving Promise in His First 100 Days

  

Yesterday healthcare and global justice advocates gathered to protest President Biden’s drive-in rally in Atlanta celebrating his first 100 days. The demand is that he commit to providing global access to COVID-19 vaccines, as he said he would while he was a presidential candidate. This was part of a national week of action with protestors gathering at pharmaceutical company headquarters and Congressional offices in New York City; Boston; Atlanta; Washington, D.C.; Seattle; San Diego; Atlanta; and more. This comes amid mounting political pressure from more than 80 congressional Democrats, 170 former heads of state and Nobel laureates, and new polling showing that 60% of U.S. voters want President Biden to support a temporary waiver on patent protections for the COVID-19 vaccine. 


It was clear that Biden & his staff saw the banner

Yesterday we called on President Biden to stop blocking a proposal from South Africa and India to temporarily waive patent rules at the
World Trade Organization that are limiting global production of life-saving COVID vaccines and treatment. They will also call on big pharma companies to share vaccine technology through the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool. 



Biden has the power to save millions of people and stop the virus from mutating further. The question is, why is he dragging his feet as bodies burn in the streets of India?

Follow the hashtag #FreeTheVaccine to find out more.


Thursday, April 15, 2021

How landlords are getting richer off of late fees and rental assistance

 By Jay Ahmed, ATLEJ Home Defender

 

Two things have happened over the last 6 months: 61 ultra-wealthy billionaire landlords saw their wealth increase by $24.4 billion, and I worked as an Enrollment Specialist for a non-profit organization that was one of dozens contracted by the City of Atlanta to distribute well over $20,000,000 in COVID-19 emergency housing relief aid. I will explain how the two are related. The organization I worked for, and most other organizations that distribute rental assistance, operated under a basic system of:

1. Having individuals fill out applications for assistance.

2. Screening applicants to ensure they have valid leases, mortgages, and financial documents proving COVID-19 hardship. 

3. Filling out income verification forms, eligibility letters, W9's, landlord rental verification forms for applicants with leases, among other forms.

 

Once we verified with landlords or property managers that applicants were indeed current residents with outstanding balances, we would then submit the complete application to the data team/financial department for checks to be sent out and files audited. 

 

Within its first few months, the popularity of the program had spread and it was not long before an influx of applicants and a lack of staffing caused my nonprofit's quality checks and standard practices to loosen. Specifically, after 3 months of administering the program, our rule stating that applicants needed to have an outstanding balance was not practiced. It became common to have applicants applying for prospective rental assistance-- for example, John applies for May rental assistance in April, before May rent is due.

 

Because the process time from application to check takes about a month, we began to pay property managers and utility companies for individuals who in the beginning of the program would not be qualified to receive assistance. 

 

Additionally, late fees were not paid by the COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Fund at first, but a revision changed that. Our "training" stated that it was our responsibility to negotiate late fees with property managers or landlords, but after speaking to a majority of my co-workers I found that none of them negotiate late fees. 

 

Late fees can often make up 20%-35% of the assistance we send to property managers and landlords. When this is extrapolated, the amount of financial assistance wasted on landlords immorally charging tenants late fees during a pandemic and economic crisis is morally disturbing. What is worse is that my nonprofit facilitated this on a daily basis. 

 

I would often catch individuals applying with what I knew was an obvious fake lease and forged separation letter. When I would bring these concerns to my manager, I would often be told "you're not paid to be a detective" or something similar in a dismissive fashion. To my supervisors' credit, they were just trying to logistically get through as many applications as possible. But an important observation I made while working in that system is that the City of Atlanta (and most of Georgia) has virtually no regulations for what can considered reasonable late fees. I’ve seen late fees that charge $15 for every day the rent is late, with no cap limit. The contractual language in the leases I’ve seen are textbook ‘predatorial’. 

 

Nonetheless, this pandering to landlords and misuse of government funds specifically meant to help tenants is a microcosm of the bigger issue at hand: the continued wealth extraction from poor communities of color by thieving landlords, rental assistance organizations that enable landlords, and the courts and law that make these egregious acts legal. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Tresletree Resident's Fight Back Against Illegal Harassment in Atlanta


Uninhabitable living conditions including mold and raw sewage, constant threats of eviction over petty lease violations, ignored maintenance requests, and constant harassment from onsight management are just some of the reason's Trestletree tenants banded together to form a Tenant Association at the beginning of the Summer. 

 For those that don't know tenant organizing is a legally protected activity in not only the the state Georgia, but the HUD contract the Monroe Group(owners of the property) signed makes the federal protections very clear; tenants have the right to organize. 

 After launching an online petition and organizing a peaceful family friendly community rally the property management company, who represents the owners of Trestletree, have doubled down on their harassment of tenants and their right to organize for liveable conditions wading deeper into not only violating Georgia law but breaching their HUD contract.  This is especially troubling considering we are living through an unprecedented pandemic.

The management is attempting to organize their own tenant association, which is a clear violation of HUD policy, they have also threatened to arrest members of outside organizations like the Housing Justice league if they are on the property, also a violation of their HUD contract. We have also learned they have intimidated several tenants who are guilty of nothing more than attempting to fix unacceptable living conditions.

The Atlanta Economic Justice Program will continue to support tenants fighting for their rights and ask that you sign and share the online petition created by Tresltree tenants. 


Monday, March 16, 2020

March 16, 2020 

Dear Chief Magistrate Judge Kirk and Clerk of Superior and Magistrate Court Tina Robinson, 

On Friday March 13, the Magistrate Court of Fulton County declared a Judicial Emergency in an Order and stated that the court will not hear landlord-tenant matters and that answers must be filed within 48 hours of the Order being lifted. This was shortly followed by an Order from the Supreme Court of Georgia declaring a statewide judicial emergency that will terminate on April 13, unless extended. 

On behalf of the undersigned organizations, we are asking that the Fulton County Magistrate Court take further, necessary action to prevent unnecessary escalation of the pandemic and mass displacement:

  1. Publicly confirm that tenants will not receive default judgments for failing to answer a dispossessory warrant or failing to appear in court throughout the declared Superior Court Judicial Emergency period.
    1. Stop accepting eviction filings during the declared Superior Court Judicial Emergency period, to avoid extreme backlog in the courts and mass displacement.
      1. Suspend signing of applications for writ of possession through May 10 2020, in accordance with the guidance from the CDC which recommends the cancellation of all in-person events involving 50 or more people for the next 8 weeks.
        1. Meet with the non-profit, Housing Justice League, and other agencies that work on issues of housing stability and tenants’ rights to develop plans for the period following the health crisis, in recognition that weeks of unemployment and non-payment will result in renters across the city being unable to make rent and extreme backlog in the courts. Plans would need to include public rental assistance and reasonable repayment plans for those who lost wages during the pandemic and its aftermath. 
          On Wednesday March 11 Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, issued an Administrative Order halting the termination of water services for people who fall behind on their water bills. This was an important step to addressing the crisis but it is not enough. Low-income hourly wage workers and renters will face serious financial hardship in the coming weeks and months. Our local governments must do everything within their power to protect people from financial ruin and increased risks to health. For these reasons, the undersigned organizations endorse this letter. Please respond to this letter by no later than Wednesday March 18 by 5:00 pm detailing how you will act on points 1 through 4.

          Signed by:

          Housing Justice League
          SPARK Reproductive Justice Now!
          AMPLIFY GA
          Raksha, Inc.
          BYP 100 ATL/Mecca Chapter 
          Southerners on New Ground (SONG)
          American Friends Service Committee
          Muslims for Progressive Values-Atlanta 
          Georgia Working Families Party 
          The New Georgia Project 
          Twice as Good, inc. 
          IWOC ATL
          The Come Up Project
          Gangstas to Growers
          The Southern Center for Human Rights 

          Why do we Need to Stop Evictions Now and Following the Health Crisis?

          The coronavirus is spreading rapidly throughout the United States and poses a dire threat to public health and economic security, especially for working class people who do not have the option of working from home and who are paid by the hour. Our organizations work with economically precarious communities who are not paid a living wage and live paycheck to paycheck. 

          The potential of losing housing further increases the risk to public health as it forces people to keep working. If people are to lose their housing in the midst of a public health crisis, all efforts at containment would be further compromised. The CDC currently recommends that all individuals who are diagnosed or expect a diagnosis of COVID-19 should self-quarantine for 14 days. Without emergency protections in place, Fulton County residents facing housing insecurity will be unable to afford self-quarantine. To protect the public, we must make staying at home accessible.
          Fulton County and Atlanta Public Schools are closed. At this time many parents need to be with their children and shouldn’t risk losing their housing as a result.

          At present, we do not yet know how long we may need to undertake practices of social distancing. For families that may be subject to unpaid sick leave or forced work stoppages, the front-end costs of preparation (buying food and other necessities) will deplete most of their savings, with little or nothing leftover for rent.

          If a renter loses their housing due to an eviction during the public health crisis, the direct service organizations that serve displaced persons and families will be even more burdened than they already are at this time.

          Residents experiencing homelessness are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 as they often lack access to necessary preventative measures. Mass evictions will amplify an already precarious public health crisis.