Thursday, October 6, 2016

Atlanta Residents and GSU Students Demand Input in the Turner Field purchase

On noon, Tuesday, October 4th at Hurt Park, GSU students and NPU-V residents joined the Housing Justice League to deliver a petition to GSU President Mark Becker’s office. The direct action was geared towards securing a legally-binding Community-Benefits Agreement (CBA) that ensures residents of Turner Field neighborhoods benefit from positive development around their homes.

The rally began in a sunlit Hurt Park at noon, with joint cadres of Georgia State University students and NPU-V residents. Many held signs that read, “Stop displacement on our dime,” “Students and residents march together,” and “Gentrification State University.” Half-past the hour, student organizer Patricio Cambias Rojas rallied students and gave an overview of the action. Co-organizer Christopher Hollis took lead in giving chants, and marching students and residents towards Becker’s office.

Students and Residence deliver petition to President Becker

In the building of Centennial Hall, marchers learned that President Becker was “out” for the day-- his absence has not been confirmed by independent sources-- and that they would not be allowed into his office. Housing Justice League organizer Sherise Brown and GSU organizer Asma Elhuni delivered a petition to Becker’s secretary in lieu of Becker, and restated the demand that Becker meet with marchers to discuss a CBA clause within GSU’s purchase package. Brown noted, “We are following up on our last march to your office, and we wish to meet with President Becker. Please let him know that we are sincere, and want to discuss the mutual benefits of a CBA.” As of now, Becker’s office has given no response.

Students and residents initiated a sit-in during which many shared personal stories, ranging from oral histories of the Turner Field neighborhoods to student activism at GSU. Longtime resident May Helen Johnson recounted how Turner Field neighborhoods have long fell victim to the economic priorities of others. “Churches have been demolished in place of contaminated housing units, and empty parking lots have replaced long-time houses.”  Johnson, along with other residents, expressed hope that the combined efforts of students and residents would impress urgency behind the call for a CBA. This new wave of action, Johnson noted, “can bring positive development back to an area once filled with it.”   
Students and residents hold a sit-in

The Turner Field Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) is a valuable opportunity to reorganize administrative priorities and change the neglect of Turner Field. This legally-binding agreement has driven by local residents and the over 40 community organizations that make up the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition.

A CBA would mean tremendous change for all involved in the Turner Field neighborhoods. A well implemented CBA could alleviate flooding, improve transportation, provide jobs for residents, and include educational training for people of all ages. It could prevent displacement of existing residents, create housing for people of all incomes, provide the neighborhood with places to shop, and make streets and communities safer and cleaner.
Long term residents hold a banner iutside President Beckers office

The Housing Justice League, NPU-V residents, and GSU students are committed to demonstrating the power of a Community Benefits Agreement for our communities. On Tuesday, October 4th, we showed this commitment by rallying to Mark Becker’s office and delivering our petition. And we will continue pushing, and escalating, to create a more affordable, better serviced Atlanta.

Please SIGN and SHARE the online petition.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Atlanta Residents March on Fulton County, Challenge Cruel Eviction Process

Residents Take to the streets
 Yesterday members of the Housing Justice League took the streets of downtown Atlanta and Marched to the Fulton County Courthouse and the County Commissioners office. The march will be led by Atlanta residents who have experienced or in the process of experiencing the eviction in Fulton County.

Residents Sopke about their experience with eviction process

Carver Highschool Band helped keep the spirits up
Atlanta has been declared to be in a renter’s state of emergency. Right now in Fulton County the number of evictions has dramatically spiked to 500 a week! Many of those evictions are as a result of arbitrary rent increases that often come with no changes in tenant amenities. The eviction process in Fulton County is not only cruel, its decades behind the rest of the country. During eviction court in Fulton, which happens twice a week, Judges sign off on an average of one eviction per minute. A whole sickening economy has developed around the eviction process in our county with over ten 3rd party eviction corporations thriving off the crisis.
We call on the Fulton County Commission to take immediate action to change the eviction process in Fulton County. The following recommendations are working in other parts of the country, they are not revolutionary proposals but they would make the eviction process more humane and less difficult to bounce back for tenants in hardship. These changes are but a step in the right direction.
Residents Hold Space Outside Fulton County Courthouse

1.       Scheduled Evictions

Many counties and states around the country schedule evictions. We already know that evictors have to schedule eviction with moving companies, why not schedule evictions with the resident. As things stand now residents are subject to a knock on the door at any hour. Scheduled evictions allow residents the final reminder of the coming crisis at hand and gives them a last chance to secure their own belongings.

2.       No evictions after hours

After hours evictions can leave families with nowhere to go, no truck to rent, no storage facility to move things into. We know after hours evictions have been facilitated in DeKalb County. This is a cruel practice that no family should be subjected to. We ask that you commit to making evictions outside the hours of 9am-4pm against DeKalb County policy

3.       No evictions during extreme weather

Going through the evictions process means immediate homelessness for some, it also means all of your life belongings are put out on the street in the elements. Many counties will not do evictions in freezing, raining, or 100 degree weather.

4.       Costs paid by the evictor or a cap of public spending

Evictions can bring an enormous cost the county. The banks and private equity groups that do most of the evicting make an enormous profit. In many counties the evictor pays for the process, in some cases counties put a cap on what they will pay for.

5.       Relocation and 30 days storage for belongings

One of the most dehumanizing parts of the eviction process is having your things dumped in the front yard. Not only are families immediately faced with the prospect of having nowhere to go, they also have to protect their belongings. Furthermore this process is bad for the whole community, effecting the financial and spiritual value of the neighborhood. Many counties, and some states, require the evictor to pay property to be moved to a storage facility for at 30 days.

6.       Handle belongings with care

Often times peoples belongings are destroyed or stolen during the eviction process. We hope that as Sheriff you are able to facilitate stringer accountability for your constituent’s belongings during the eviction process.

7.       Referrals for housing services

Many facing evictions have now where to go. As a point of policy it would be fairly simple to provide those being evicted with a comprehensive list of service providers in the area. Often time’s people are given assistance finding temporary shelter for their animal but no assistance finding temporary shelter for themselves, this should change immediately.
Residents posted "Final Notice" with demands on the Fulton County Government Building and the County Courthouse

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Residents and Students Unite to Ensure GSU Does Right by Community

 On Wednesday, September 7th at noon on Georgia State University’s Library Plaza, the Housing Justice League joined forces with the Turner FieldCommunity Benefits Coalition(TFCBC) and Georgia State University students to demand conversation about the University’s purchase of Turner Field stadium. Current action has engaged thousands of Turner Field residents in developing a draft Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) that ensures new development benefits long-time residents. The Wednesday noon action advanced local talks to GSU’s doorstep, and initiated conversation with Pres. Becker and power brokers on campus. 

                The Library Plaza March included a large, intergenerational crowd of GSU students and local Turner Field residents. Solidarity and community was strong between the two groups. As part of the opening statements, Turner Field resident Jane Ridley noted that conversation with GSU was necessary to ensure the NPU-V community did not face further gentrification. “We’ve faced problems with the Braves Stadium, and it looks like we might have more with this one… we need conversation to protect ourselves. The neighborhood can’t face further evictions.” Her words echoed the Liveable Centers Initiative, that any future development in Turner Field remain transparent and inclusive to the community.

                Students and residents marched together to President Becker’s office, chanting songs like “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Us Around.” The crowd swelled along the way as more students and school staffers joining the rally. Marchers congregated in front of Centennial Hall to determine appropriate steps forward. Movement eventually continued peacefully into the building, and to the Administrative Office on the fifth floor.  

At President Becker’s Office, State Senator Vincent Fort, joined demands that the GSU president make time for community members and students, and meet residents face-to-face. “He’s not too busy for us,” Fort retorted, “and if he is, then he isn’t doing his job.” Organizer and resident Sherise Brown headed conversation with President Becker’s secretary, passing along the letter demanding conversation with the president. The crowd of students and residents stood firm to rejection and backed Sherise’s negotiation. Though no meeting was confirmed, Sherise exchanged information with Becker’s secretary and pressured for more communication. The delivered gave president Becker 7 days to respond to the request.

The CBA Proposal the resident led TFCBC wishes to discuss with President Becker keeps the community’s needs front and center, and offers a sure path to accountability and development without displacement. The Coalition consulted a wide range of experts, community members, and both local and national institutions to develop a comprehensive Community Benefits Agreement Proposal. The CBA provides opportunities for GSU to both fulfill its general Strategic Plan and incorporate recommendations from the LCI Study which was completed last month. The Housing Justice League stands ready to work with TFCBC and GSU to turn the CBA Proposal into a full-fledged agreement that ensures success and does not leave impacted communities behind.

We encourage folks to sign andshare the online petition encouraging president Becker to meet with community members who will be impacted by the purchase of Turner Field and to insure they have a seat at the table as plans are being made that are sure to have a deep impact on their community and their lives.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Atlanta Declared a Renter's State of Emergency

Atlanta is in a renter’s state of emergency. How many of us have engaged in or overheard conversations with folks in our city about the rising rents and rapidly changing face of our city? Development doesn’t have to be a bad word, but what we are seeing in Atlanta right now is the kind of development and wealth extraction that will leave Atlanta totally unaffordable for low and moderate income people.

 On Tuesday July 12th at 11am on the Trinity side of Atlanta City Hall the Housing Justice League released our, “Renter's State of Emergency” report and declared Atlanta a state of emergency for renters and low income homeowners. After the press conference we presented the report to City Council members. 

Some of the report’s findings include:

*Since 2012 Atlanta has lost 5% of its affordable housing every year
*95% of Apartments built since 2012 have been considered luxury
* 72% of Atlanta neighborhoods are considered gentrified or gentrifying
* More than 53% of all renters in the city pay more than 30% of their income on housing, yet many landlords require proof that tenant income exceeds 3x rent

The Rally and Press Conference kicked off with welcoming and introduction to the report from Deborah Arnold. Senator Fort then spoke declaring that "We need to build an Atlanta for everyone." Senator Fort was then followed by stories from those who have been most affected by Atlanta's Renter's State of Emergency.

Autumn Rivers, Atlanta Native and a college student a Bard College, spoke about her experiences growing up in Atlanta, being evicted, and hoping to move back to Atlanta after College, but not being sure if she will be able to afford to. 

Avery Jackson said, "There are systemic intersections of how black people and low income folks are not prioritized in this city." and declared "it is a renter crisis in the city of Atlanta."

Nashia Clemons and Rosalind Hemphill, work and make $7.25 an hour and are both homeless.  Rosalind Hemphill said, "I sleep outside. I can't afford anything. I've been here for 20 years." With Atlanta's current rent prices, it makes it difficult for hard working people to afford rent, especially if they are working for minimum wage. 

Z.Bediako, a third generation Atlantan, spoke about her families experiences living in Atlanta, as well as her own. "We are here today to demand that housing is a human right. When you walk up and down downtown and you see people on the side of the road, thats not a representation of bad luck, thats not a representation of misfortune, that is a representation of oppression, systematic oppression."  

David Waid, a Marta worker,  who can no longer afford to live in the city he works in said "What our reality is, we can work here, but we can't live here". 

The last speaker was Vera Web. Web lives in a senior facility and  spends 60% of her income on her rent because her rent has continued to increase each year. "My rent increased by $85 a month this year, not because the place got fixed up, simply because they felt they could charge more despite the fact that we are seniors who are mostly on a fixed income"

After the Rally finished, members of the Housing Justice League went into City Hall to deliver the report to the Community Development and Human Resources Committee. Sherise Brown and Alison Johnson gave public commentary about the reports findings and delivered the report to City Council members. 

On July 19th, at 6:30pm in the City Council Chambers at City Hall (55 Trinity Ave SW) there will be a public hearingwhere people struggling to afford Atlanta can testify and share their housing story with local and state lawmakers. This hearing is the opportunity for law makers to hear stories of those experiencing an affordable housing crisis. The hearing will be presided by Councilman Dickens, Councilwoman Moore, Rep Park Cannon, Senator Fort, and others. 

Please sigand share the online petition to Georgia law makers!

To read the full Renter's State of Emergency Report click here!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

City View @ Rosa Burney Tenant Association Anniversary

City View @ Rosa Burney's Tenant Association celebrated it's one year anniversary with a 2 day event celebration. In one year, the City View at Rosa Burney Tenant Association has brought together tenants, allies, and the Mechanicsville Community. The tenant association organized to keep City Views at Rosa Burney affordable by getting a HUD contract for 7 years. A very eventful and successful year! 

The celebration kicked off last Wednesday at 4pm with Bingo with Councilman Andre Dickens. Tenants gathered for numerous rounds of competitive Bingo with Andre Dickens calling out the lucky numbers. A great time was had by all!

The anniversary celebration continued into Thursday. Tenants and allies gathered at the Dunbar Center for the Anniversary Party. The agenda was facilitated by the Tenant Association President, Deborah Arnold. There was space for tenants to discuss housing and community issues, followed by guest speakers. Becky Rafter, from Georgia WAND, spoke about Voter Registration. Maggie Kinnear, from Atlanta Legal Aid, spoke about what tenant's legal rights and what to do if they are being violated. After speakers we all had the opportunity to get to know each other and enjoy some anniversary cake. 

Congratulations to City View @ Rosa Burney's Tenant Association for building community power for over a year! We can't wait to see what the upcoming years hold for City View @ Rosa Burney's Tenant Association!