Press Coverage 9/11/17-10-6/17 Renter Week of Action and Assemblies

Date Outlet City Title Link
9/11/2017 Sonoma Sun Sonoma County Upcoming Renter Week of Action
9/13/2017 KCET / Link TV LA/ CA City Rising, Multiple videos and articles
9/14/2017 Sonoma Sun Sonoma County Who Cares about Renters Issues?
9/17/2017 News Channel 5 – Nashville Nashville Coalition Lists Demands For Mayor's Transit Plan
9/17/2017 NewsChannel 5 Nashville Coalition Lists Demand for Mayor's Transit Plan
9/18/2017 Colorlines US #RenterWeekOfAction Addresses Nationwide Housing Crisis
9/18/2017 LA Weekly Los Angeles L.A.'s Housing Crisis Is Now the Nation's Housing Crisis
9/18/2017 Orange County Register Samta ANa Activists push for more affordable housing, rent control in Santa Ana
9/18/2017 Tennessean Nashville Billion-dollar transit plan must benefit all Nashvillians
9/18/2017 Tennessean Tennessee Billion-dollar transit plan must benefit all Nashville
9/19/2017 ABC5 Minneapolis Apartment Tenants Take Grievances to Twin Cities Landlord's Front Door
9/19/2017 BillyPenn Philadelphia Photos: Protesters outside Ben Carson's Vaux High School visit
9/19/2017 Fox 17 Nashville Protestors call Nashville's $6 billion transit plan the ‘gentrification train'
9/19/2017 KEYT3 Santa Barbara Activists rally for renter's rights in Santa Barbara
September 18-23 is ‘Renter Week of Action'
9/19/2017 Metro – Philadelphia Philadelphia Ben Carson to oversee reopening of Philly school, protests planned
9/19/2017 NewsChannel 5 Nashville Activists Protest Transit Plan, Hope For Affordable Housing Instead
9/19/2017 Next City US Here's What U.S. Cities Gain If Housing Is Affordable
9/19/2017 OC Weekly Orange County Housing Activists Kick Off “Renters Week of Action” in Santa Ana
9/19/2017 Philadelphia Magazine Philadelphia Time for a Protest: Ben Carson Is Coming to Philly on Tuesday
9/19/2017 Philadelphia HUD Secretary Ben Carson helps open a North Philly high school
9/19/2017 StarTribute Minneapolis Angry renters demonstrate outside landlord Stephen Frenz's home
9/19/2017 Tennesean Nashville Activists warn of Mayor Barry's transit push becoming ‘gentrification train,' demand benefits
9/19/2017 The Progressive Duplicate? Renter Week' Brings Protests to Corporate Landlord and HUD Offices
9/19/2017 The Progressive National ‘Renter Week' Brings Protests to Corporate Landlord and HUD Offices
9/19/2017 Twin Cities Pioneer Press St. Paul Romanish, Snyder: Pricing tenants out of their homes
9/19/2017 Univision Santa Ana Con una protesta, inquilinos en Santa Ana exigen que se respeten sus derechos
9/19/2017 Nashville Some worry $6 billion Nashville transit plan won't benefit their communities
9/19/2017 WSMV-TV Nashville Residents, community activists raise concerns over Nashville mass transit plan
9/20/2017 Alternet US Tenants Nationwide Tell Landlords They're Fed Up: Renter Week of Action
A week's worth of rallies, protests and demonstrations aims to unite renters and draw attention to their struggles.
9/20/2017 CityLab US If Rent Were Affordable, the Average Household Would Save $6200 a Year
9/20/2017 KEYT Santa Barbara Activists rally for renter's rights in Santa Barbara
9/20/2017 Nashville Public Radio (WPLN) Nashville Activists Question Whether Gallatin Road Will Really Benefit East Nashville
9/20/2017 OCRegister San Diego Majority of Orange, San Diego county voters support rent control, poll says
9/20/2017 Rhode Island Future Providence DARE smashes piñatas in protest against high rents, evictions and public subsidies for luxury housing
9/20/2017 Spare Change News Boston Boston puts Advanced Property Management on notice in kickoff to Renters' Week of Action
9/20/2017 The Baltimore Sun Baltimore “Renter Week of Action” calls attention to housing crisis
9/20/2017 The Detroit News Detroit Council approves housing law amid gentrification fears
9/20/2017 The Portland Mercury Portland From Slacktivism to Activism
9/21/2017 CityPages Minneapolis The newest battle coming to Minneapolis: Rent control
9/21/2017 Denver ABC 7 Denver Aurora mobile home residents fight owner's plan to close park
9/21/2017 Equal Voice US A Look at Hope and Housing on Skid Row in Los Angele
9/21/2017 KTVL (Channel 10) Ashland, OR Some Ashland community members say they pay 40 percent of their their income on rent
9/21/2017 Mission Local San Francisco The San Francisco Anti-Displacement Coalition has produced the series of advertisements as part of National Renter's Week of Action.
9/21/2017 ReWire News US Trump's America: Fair Housing Group Adds ‘Report Hate' Button to Its Website
9/21/2017 RPA Lab US Renters Call for Local, National Action as Rents Rise
9/21/2017 Sonoma News Sonoma County Housing advocates will rally at Sonoma Plaza
9/22/2017 Ashland Daily Tidings Ashland Seeking shelter
9/22/2017 Colordado Independent Denver Colorado renters to landlord law firm: educate don't evict
9/22/2017 Local ABC 10 Miami Nonprofit group builds tent camp for Civic Towers' residents
9/22/2017 Sonoma Sun Sonoma County ‘Renters Week' rally on Sonoma Plaza
9/23/2017 TruthOut US Tenants Push Back Against Corporate Landlords during Renter Week of Action
9/24/2017 Real News Network US Renters vs. Slumlords: Activists Nationwide Rally for Renter's Rights
9/25/2017 KALW San Francisco California tenant advocates galvanized by national ‘week of action' for renters
9/25/2017 UniCorn Riot Denver Eighty Families Offer to Purchase Mobile Home Park to Avoid Eviction
9/25/2017 Univision 14 San Francisco San Francisco Reunión de inquilinos en Alameda para discutir la falta de vivienda asequible
9/27/2017 East Bay Times East Bay Rent control fight to be arduous, Alameda conference hears
9/27/2017 East Bay Times (Bay Area News Group) Oakland/ East Bay Soaring rents, evictions, tenants rally in Oakland to close landlord loopholes in Just Cause protections
9/28/2017 Sonoma Sun Sonoma County ‘The rent is too damn high'
9/30/2017 Apartment Therapy US Here's how much extra cash you'd have if rent were affordable
10/2/2017 NLIHC US National Equity Atlas Releases Renter Fact Sheets
10/4/2017 The Oregonian Portland Portland City Council extends renter protection and ‘housing emergency' policies
10/6/2017 Daily Free Press Boston City Council votes to pass act protecting tenants

KALW: California tenant advocates galvanized by national ‘week of action’ for renters

By Sep 25, 2017 Link: LISTEN HERE

It's been decades since this country has had anything like a tenants' movement. If you're young enough you might not even be familiar with the phrase. But today a movement is forming to fight for policies that preserve and create affordable housing. Last week, renters and their advocates coordinated more than 50 political actions in 45 states as part of national renters' week of action. In the Bay Area, Alameda hosted a weekend-long, statewide gathering of over 400 California tenants and organizers in the movement.

“[The gathering in Alameda] was one of the biggest actions anywhere in the country, it was state-wide, around 400 people, and what they focussed on was strengthening rent control.”

Real News: Renters vs. Slumlords – Activists Nationwide Rally for Renter’s Rights

September 24, 2017

Organizers in Minneapolis say it's about more than just rents increasing: affordable housing is basically disappearing, and the city's policies leave the door wide open for predatory landlords

Watch the video

Eze Jackson: It's the Real News. I'm Eze Jackson. Renters across the nation are taking part in a week of action to highlight their plate. So far, actions were held in Boston on Saturday and Long Beach on Monday. There are actions planned at the homes and headquarters of major corporate landlords in Minneapolis and Seattle and a march in Nashville. A new study is found, renters makeup a majority of households in most major cities and most pay more than they can afford for rent. The study also found “If every renter in the country was guaranteed that they only had to pay 30% or less on rent, renter households would have $124 billion per year or $6,200 per family.” Now, joining me to discuss this are two guests, Monique Quantane Carrillo is a tenant union organizer with United Tenants for Justice who is actively organizing tenants of The Apartment Shop Equity Residential LLC owned by corporate landlord, Steven Frenz. [Chelsea Hanvey 01:07] is a renter who lives in Apartment Shop housing and building captain for her tenant union. She was at the action Tuesday night and actively involved in growing campaign for renters, rights, and rent control. Welcome you all. Thanks for talking to us today.Monique C.: Glad to be here. Chelsea Hanvey: Thank you. Eze Jackson: Monique, I want to talk about the actions you took part in this week. What has happened and what's been the response? Monique C.: The actions I took part in this week was our kick off, which was nice to get to be involved with other organizations to support the actions that we've been taking throughout the week. Another action that I took part in was going to the Nexus Office and finding out that this is so insane. They're increasing some of the rents on some of these units that they've taken over $700. I was so infuriated when I walked into the office to find that there's a tanning salon and an exercise room when you walk in the door. These rents are being increased, I feel like, to contribute to their luxuries. They're not taking into consideration that they're displacing other people. That's been my personal response to the action at Nexus. Also, the action at Steve Frenz' house that's actually the owner of The Apartment Shop. I consider myself in a partner shop survivor. I did rent an apartment from Steve Frenz. It was awful experience. It had me in a state where I would've rather lived in my car than in his apartment. Eze Jackson: Oh, man. Monique C.: We had the action at his house on Tuesday to walk into his yard and to see his home. The way that he's living and the way that he is treating his tenant is just appalling. While we were there doing our actions, the sprinklers came on. The first thing that came to my mind was, “This is nothing new. Living at one of your units, you never know what's going to happen.” There were going to be [inaudible 03:33]. Just him turning the sprinklers on, it just really sparked my fire even more because that was actually a scenario that I had to deal with living in his unit. My response and what I see are a lot of people are starting to recognize that this is bigger than just rent increasing. This is involving displacement for children and they're having to move schools. A lot of people that are privileged and have more than some of us people that are struggling, don't realize that a solid foundation starts at home. Somebody has the power to shake that foundation and doesn't care that they can shape somebody's whole family's foundation for a profit is just really heart-wrenching. Like I said, it just makes me more compassionate. It fires me up even more to take action to stay involved to try to get this changed. Eze Jackson: Chelsea, what are some of the challenges you're facing as a renter? Chelsea Hanvey: Well, probably the rapid city development is one of the biggest problems right now. City of Minneapolis is trying to bring in wealthy renters, wealthy condo owners to develop the economy in our city. With this rapid rate of development, they're displacing, basically, their entire workforce. The affordable housing, both government subsidized housing and just housing that has reasonably priced, is pretty much disappearing in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Metro area. We have a 1%, I think it's a less than 1%, vacancy rate right now. We have a complete lack of housing no matter what your income bracket is. To have housing that's affordable, it's going nowhere. I make a decent wage. I make a fair wage. I'm cost burdened by my rent. I think I pay about 45% of my income after taxes on rent and entire system that is crippling people of our income bracket. Eze Jackson: Right. Chelsea Hanvey: It's been a struggle. Eze Jackson: Chelsea, you said that you were forced to come back. How were you forced to come back? Chelsea Hanvey: Through income limitations. There's not very much available to me in my income range that I can afford. At the time, I didn't have a vehicle and I needed to be close to work. The apartment shop owns buildings in major transit areas. I can access all the major buses from my neighborhood. That's how it works for most of his buildings. It's almost like they swooped out buildings in low income areas where people needed access. It feeds into that whole predatory thing. I didn't have a choice. I have bad credit. I don't make a lot of money. They would accept me as a tenant again and so I had to go back because that was the only option that I had. Eze Jackson: Right. Clearly, this sounds like part of a bigger pattern. Of course, you're not alone in this. I'm in Baltimore. We are seeing the same thing where it's raising and working folks being pushed out. Monique, what are the demands, locally, right now? Monique C.: The demands, locally, I would have to say two out of every three women of color in Minneapolis are cost-burdened. I know I personally make a decent income to live off of, but after paying rent, I'm paying over 48% of my income. The demands, I would have to say, are affordable housing like you have all these people coming in and putting in these condos and high-end apartments. I think that it needs to be some limitation. I am from Minneapolis. I'm born and raised here. I've seen the process changed where people that weren't struggling as hard moved out to the suburbs and met the struggling people in the city. Now that everything is a little more fast-paced and about convenience, now, they're raising the rents up and trying to push everybody out not taking into consideration that public transportation is a lot of way that people get around. The school systems, the kids, and for the parents that actually do public transportation, public transportation in the suburbs isn't as convenient and it's easy to get around on. For parents that are having to transport through public transportation, moving to the suburbs, it's not an option. I feel like the demand here in Minneapolis that they need to have more affordable housing and they need to open up the zoning for some of these multi [inaudible 09:26]. Some of these single homes that can be converted into multi units, they're not allowing that. I just think that some of that needs to change a lot. I don't think that, I know that that needs to change. I know that a lot of the laws need to be changed. That's the development that needs to be made and a lot need to be changed. Eze Jackson: Yeah. It sounds like, you said earlier, they're not taking in consideration the convenience of public transportation, but it sounds like they all take it into consideration just not for you … Chelsea Hanvey: Yeah. Exactly. Eze Jackson: … for working class people. Chelsea, tell me about what you're doing to get accountability for your management company. What's been the response from the company and what's been the response from other renters? Chelsea Hanvey: I think one of the biggest challenges that we face speaking to, first and foremost, other renters is apathy in some cases and fear. What we're doing with this movement is challenging a societal norm. Nobody really thinks about renting as a good that we're paying for. They don't think about the fact that you have these business owners that come in. We are paying their rent. We are paying their mortgage on their building. We are paying for the repairs. We are paying their workers through the rent that we pay to the company. They are accountable to us. A lot of renters kind of just, “Oh, well, I'll just move” or “Oh, well, I just have to accept that this is what it is because this is what I can afford.” There is this fear that if you push back that you'll lose your home. There's nothing more frightening than losing your home. I've been in that situation. The response from friends is, it's always the renter's fault. It's the renter's fault that we have infestations because we don't keep our apartment clean enough. Not that they don't treat the problems systemically rather than chasing them from unit to unit to unit or fixing plumbing problems. “The mold is our problem. The security with our doors. I've been attacked.” Other members that organize with [inquilinos 11:54] have been attacked in their buildings because the doors are broken. His response is that, “It's our fault.” It's not his fault. It's our fault. He blames us and he continues to abuse us. He is basically just trying to get out of everything that's going on with the class action suit that we filed, with the city revocation of his license. We recently found out that supposedly, he has sold about 40 to 45 of his buildings. No, he hasn't sold them. They've essentially created shell organizations that have just popped up in the state registry and their parent company are Steve Frenz's companies. He's trying to get the blame shifted off of himself. It's never his fault. It's never his responsibility. Eze Jackson: Yeah. We've definitely seen that thing happened before. Monique, can you discuss the upcoming actions happening across the country and the national domains from the movement? It seems like organizing an awareness is two major obstacles to getting changed. What's your plan to achieve that? Monique C.: Well, I know that, right now, we're laying the path. We got to lay the path before we can actually walk it. We know there's going to be a challenge, but we are trying to get it to a level where it's being recognized that there needs to be rent control because right now, there's no law. They can charge you any amount at any time that they feel. I use the example. It doesn't always have to be a slumlord. It doesn't have to be somebody that does bad business. You can have a great landlord, but if that landlord or that property owner hits a financial situation that you're unaware of, how do you think he's going to fix that? I can hit this tenant with any amount that I want at any time. It doesn't just have to be abused. In the apartments, [Wisty 14:17] Frenz units, to me he's a landlord because the people that are in his units are prisoners of the environment that they're in and the way that he takes care of things. As a landlord, he don't care what we're going through in our daily lives. This is something that really needs to be addressed. Let's not just push these buildings off to other people. The accountability still needs to be held, for these repairs to be made for the rent to stay reasonable, and for displacement to stop with unjust evictions. Getting a rent freeze into play and getting, I would say, a ladder as to how often an amount that it can be increased, the economy changes. That's understandable that there may be an increase here or there, but just because that's what you want to do, because it creates a bigger profit for you, rather than stable housing for other people, that needs to be addressed, just bottom line. It needs to be put into action that this isn't just an option for people. Housing is a necessity. It's not a luxury. It's a necessity. Eze Jackson: Let me ask you, either one of you can answer this. Are you getting any support from policy makers, city council or state legislators? Is there any move to try to draft legislation to not only stop this but prevent it from happening in the future? Chelsea Hanvey: My understanding of what we're seeing is, there are some interests. The things that we're talking about changing, getting rent control, just cost protection for eviction, rent caps, rent freezes, changing city policy, it is equally as intimidating to politicians just to forward you that because it would be an entire paradigm shift. Eze Jackson: Right. Chelsea Hanvey: It would be forcing the city to put the people first as opposed putting developers first. There has been some tentative interest. We've been to a lot of city council forums for candidate election. I've sat in a few of those. The council members and the candidates don't always seem to quite know what we're talking about, but they're listening. I think the important part of that is that we're forcing to listen. We have a less than 1% occupancy or they can see in our city right now. We can't just move. We can't just go somewhere else. Eze Jackson: Right. Chelsea Hanvey: We have to stand up for ourselves now. Eze Jackson: Right. Well, we hope you continue to get the supports you need and appreciate you joining us today to talk about this. Monique C.: Absolutely. Thank you for having us. Chelsea Hanvey: Yeah. Thank you very much for having us. Eze Jackson: All right. Thanks for joining us on The Real News Network. I'm Eze Jackson.

Truthout: Tenants Push Back Against Corporate Landlords During “Renter Week of Action”

Saturday, September 23, 2017 By Candice Bernd, Truthout

In her five years renting from notorious Minneapolis slumlord Stephen Frenz and his Apartment Shop LLC, Molly Hasbrook, who is the building captain for her apartment unit, has seen it all. “Lots of ignored maintenance issues, some very major, cockroaches for about three years that weren't properly handled … and leaks,” she told Truthout.

It gets worse.“One year in January we didn't have any heat. They would come and they would quote-unquote ‘fix it' during the day and by nightfall it would be completely gone and out,” Hasbrook said, describing how she and her neighbors were left exposed to the biting cold of a Minnesota winter. “For that month, I still got a bill that was over $100 for utility costs,” she said.

All this, coupled with Frenz's steady rent hikes over the years, led Hasbrook and other tenant-organizers to hold a protest and vigil on the front lawn of the slumlord's mansion this week: to remind him of the substandard conditions she and the tenants of his 1,200 other units endure. “He did not come out. However, the sprinklers were turned on,” Hasbrook said. “But we just covered the sprinklers with bandanas and kept right on going.”

The vigil was just one of several actions popping off this week in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area — and across the nation. Renters in 45 cities are organizing protests from September 16 through September 24, during a nationwide “National Renter Week of Action and Assemblies” spearheaded by the Right to the City Alliance to fight back against the Trump administration's threat to cut billions from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and to demand rent control and just-cause eviction policies.

Creative direct actions, including protests at the residences of corporate landlords and HUD offices, banner drops, and targeted actions at candidate forums and zoning hearings, have been unfolding across the country to draw attention to an ongoing crisis of displacement constituting a renters state of emergency disproportionately impacting neighborhoods of color.

Renters Resist HUD Cuts, Privatization

Shatia Strother, program coordinator with Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, worked to coordinate a march to the office of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) this week to call for full funding for HUD and push back against programs opening up public housing to privatization.

President Trump's 2018 budget, with the support of HUD Secretary Ben Carson, proposes cutting $6 billion from HUD's $46 billion budget — a cut that would slash the agency's funding by 14 percent. In the face of these cuts, NYCHA is turning to a controversial program aiming to sell off the authority's land to private developers to soften its multi-billion deficits.

“A lot of resident protection programs, a lot of the policies and guidelines that HUD provides to local housing authorities in different states, those things are at risk through the budget cuts, because whoever holds the purse strings actually hold the power,” Strother tells Truthout. “The federal government has been constantly failing our communities for decades, and you can see a pattern and a trajectory of decreased funding over time. So these more recent proposals are really just a continuation of that, but they are a lot deeper in terms of the amount that's being cut, and they also have taken on this insidious nature when you look at the current administration.”

Strother, who is part of the national planning team for the Renter Week of Action this week, told Truthout it's is the second annual call to action for renters, public housing residents, homeless families and homeowners whose mortgages are “underwater” (or higher than the market value of the property) to demand affordable housing since the campaign's first day of action last September.

Nationally, rents are rising coast to coast as incomes and real wages continue to drop. Angel Ross with the Oakland-based research organization PolicyLink told The Progressive that the national median rent has “increased by 9 percent from 2000 to 2015 while median renter household incomes declined by 11 percent in real, inflation-adjusted terms.”

This combination of rising rents and declining incomes is even more pronounced in rapidly gentrifying housing markets like those in California's Bay Area. “In Oakland, for example,” Ross said, “median rent increased by 16 percent while median renter household income declined by 11 percent. Unsurprisingly, the share of renters paying more than 30 percent of income on rent has grown since 2000.”

Renters Reveal Landlords' Malfeasance

Tenant rights activists speak at an action in Boston, Massachusetts, September 17, 2017. (Photo: Helen Matthews)Tenant rights activists speak at an action in Boston, Massachusetts, September 17, 2017. (Photo: Helen Matthews)

Back in Minneapolis, Hasbrook's organization, Inquilinxs Unidxs Por Justicia (United Renters for Justice), has been working to call attention to the systemic nature of Frenz's and other landlords' predatory rent hikes and failures to maintain their buildings. Last year, the Star Tribune found that Frenz had “accumulated more housing violations than any other landlord of large apartment buildings in Minneapolis over the past three years,” according to the city records they analyzed.

Frenz, who is currently embroiled in multiple lawsuits, has come under fire from the city and faces revocation of all his rental licenses after hiding the fact that his buildings' former landlord, Spiros Zorbalas — who was banned from owning any rental properties in the city — continues to hold a major stake in the buildings.

Further, Hasbrook says Frenz has used shell corporations to sell off the properties taken control of by courts, a modus operandi that tenant-organizers in Boston who took action this week are also familiar with.

Renters in Boston marched on the home of another notorious landlord on September 16 to protest predatory rent increases and mass displacement. Real estate tycoon John McGrail has pioneered the cruel tactic of “building clearouts” to drive low-income renters out of their homes to extract profits and gentrify neighborhoods. He also controls numerous real estate firms, including speculative capital funds, and property remodeling and management groups.

Organizers say this web of overlapping corporations has targeted a largely immigrant neighborhood in East Boston with threats of deportation, withholding maintenance work and hundreds in rent increases.

“They keep switching the properties to different names … They pass it around. They would sell two or three buildings just for $10 among themselves and keep switching the names of the deeds, and that way if you want to know who owns them and want to take actions against them, it's difficult,” said Ronel Remy of McGrail and his inner circle. Remy is a tenant union organizer with City Life/Vida Urbana in Boston, who purchased his own home back last July after it was foreclosed on in 2013.

No matter whose name is on the deed at the time, Remy says, the conditions at McGrail's properties are always the same. “Roaches, rats, mice, mold inside the apartments … He would turn the heat off when it's very cold or turn the heat on when it's very hot, that kind of thing,” Remy says — all while hiking the rent to unaffordable rates.

While McGrail declined to comment, a staffer in his office sent Truthout a copy of a letter sent to City Life/Vida Urbana representatives by his attorney, stating, that “neither the Mayo Group nor John McGrail maintain any interest in” a Boston property where a mass eviction occured.

But, like Frenz, McGrail has also found himself in court battles over his properties. He was convicted in 2011 by the Massachusetts Environmental Crimes Strike Force for illegal removal and disposal of asbestos after ordering off-the-books construction workers to rip the asbestos out without any protection against dispersal, and dispose it in dumpsters behind his numerous properties around the city.

McGrail's investment companies were part and parcel to the real estate foreclosure crisis, piling up $187 million in loans from the Anglo Irish Bank that eventually went bankrupt. Moreover, Wells Fargo Bank, the city of Dallas and several other jurisdictions sued him for failure to maintain the properties after his buy-and-flip empire of properties in several states crashed.

Frenz did not respond to Truthout's request for comment in time for the publication of this article.

Renters Hope to Become Their Own Landlord

Elsewhere in the nation, renters are developing new organizing strategies to resist corporate landlords and developers like Frenz and McGrail, who are rapidly shifting the landscape of urban life in the US toward the white and the affluent.

In Denver, immigrant residents of the Denver Meadows Home Park in Aurora, Colorado, have planned a series of demonstrations to call on the mobile-home park's owner to halt the sale of the property that would displace hundreds of families — and instead sell it to the renters to turn into a community land trust.

Cesiah Guadarrama, a canvasser with the grassroots organization 9to5, has lived in a mobile home since 2009 and has worked over the last year alongside Denver Meadows residents against rent increases, neglected maintenance, car-towing, zoning issues — and now, to win a community land trust.

Guadarrama says that residents began knocking on doors and meeting with their city council officials after park owner Shawn Lustigman submitted an application to rezone the park for “transit-oriented development.” Residents have since received notices on their doors that they must be out by July 1, 2018, leaving some of them facing homelessness.

That's when 9to5 stepped in, connecting the tenants with ROC USA, a nonprofit that organizes financing for residents to buy parks. The only problem is that Lustigman will not agree to sell to them. Lustigman could not be reached for comment on the situation.

Denver Meadows residents stepped up the pressure on Lustigman this week, delivering a letter requesting that he sell the park, and telling their stories.

“While this development continues to happen … we're not seeing any protections for tenants,” says Guadarrama. “Landlords will always have legal representation, but evictions are happening really at an epidemic level.”

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Candice Bernd

Candice Bernd is an editor/staff reporter at Truthout, and a contributor to Truthout's anthology on police violence, Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? With her partner, she wrote and produced Don't Frack With Denton, a documentary chronicling how their hometown became the first city to ban fracking in Texas, and its subsequent overturn in the state legislature. She received the Dallas Peace and Justice Center's “Media Accountability of the Year” award in December. Follow her on Twitter: @CandiceBernd.

City Lab: If Rent Were Affordable, the Average Household Would Save $6,200 a Year

A new analysis points to the benefits of ending the severe affordability crisis.

Tanvi Misra Sep 20, 2017 Link: CityLab

If renters paid just what they could afford in rent, the average household would have $6,200 a year more in their pocket to spend on groceries, childcare, medical care, and education—things one in five households have been skimping on to make rent. Collectively, that would amount to $124 billion that can help fuel economic growth.These estimates of the 100 most populous U.S. cities come from a new analysis by the National Equity Atlas—a joint project by PolicyLink and the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity. “Renters are the lifeblood of cities,”Angela Glover Blackwell, CEO of PolicyLink, said in a statement.If rents were affordable, renters could meet their basic needs like transportation, food, and child care and contribute even more to thriving communities. This would have a positive ripple effect throughout their regions.”In 2000, the share of rent-burdened households in the U.S. was just 39 percent, according to the analysis. But now—10 years after the Great Recession—more than half of the nation's renters divert more than 30 percent of their incomes towards rent and utilities, according to an analysis of of the 100 most populous U.S. cities. The folks at Equity Atlas calculated how much the nation's renters would save if they paid only 30 percent of their income in housing costs.
Of course, the affordability crisis varies considerably by geography—and so do the savings from ending it. According to the analysis, residents in Washington, D.C., would stand to gain around $8,600. That's relatively high among the cities analyzed: El Paso renters, on the other hand, would make only around $4,000 in savings. (National Equity Atlas created individual profiles for 37 cities that are participating in the “Renter Week of Action,” a campaign to push for policies that help mitigate the affordability crisis.)A quick recap on how we got here: The foreclosure crisis triggered a fundamental shift in the housing market, moving Americans away from owning homes and towards renting. In 2009, CityLab's Richard Florida deemed it the “great reset.” This trend has slowed down, but not abated: “Growth in renters continued to outpace that in owners, with their numbers up by 600,000 last year,” reads a 2017 report by Harvard's Joint Center of Housing Studies.Meanwhile, construction of new housing is at historical lows. And whatever little supply of affordable units is being created, it has just not kept up with the climbing demand. Meanwhile, even as new jobs boost median incomes, wages remain stagnant. Inequality refuses to slough off, holding those at the bottom of the income ladder in a steady squeeze.
(Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies' State of the Nation 2017 report.)

Renters of all ages and races are being pinched to keep a roof over their heads. But the affordability crisis is, at its core, an equity issue. Homeownership—the primary way to build wealth in America—has always been set up to favor the white and the rich. Then the recession hit, dealing extra blows to people of color. So, it's not a coincidence that the black homeownership rate has seen the steepest decline, plummeting to 1994 levels; simultaneously, minorities have made up the bulk of the increase in renter household numbers in the last two decades.

For the poorest Americans, there are already some programs that base rents on affordability, including the federal Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance which subsidizes private rent.

If the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)'s affordable housing programs get slashed, renters would stand to lose the most—(in some ways, they already are). On the other hand, if the government prioritizes ending the affordability crisis through greater, more targeted rental aid and incentives for affordable housing construction, black and Hispanic households could see the highest gains. The two groups would see 13 and 11 percent increases in their disposable income, respectively (in chart below). Others would be better off, too, mounting credence to the claim that higher racial parity makes cities richer.

Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering urban demographics, inequality, and culture. Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.

MinnPost: Could Minneapolis be doing more to address its affordable housing crisis?

MinnPost photo by Jared Goyette
Rally attendees protesting rent increases outside the Uptown Minneapolis offices of Nexus Real Estate Services on Sept. 6.

Flora Dominguez lives in a one-bedroom apartment in a nondescript tan brick building on Pleasant Avenue in the Whittier neighborhood of Minneapolis. There's not much space for her and her husband, Alfonso, their two teenage children, and the newest arrival, an 8-month-old baby girl named Zueleyka.

But while the space is cramped, it's also filled with the kinds of things — a stroller and a baby walker, a stuffed Bugs Bunny, a picture of grandma on the shelf next to art projects the kids made in school — that convey a sense of home.

It's a home Dominguez may soon lose. In the 12 years that they've lived there, Dominguez and her family have seen their fair share of rent increases. But the latest one, which came after a new company took over the management of the building this April, was a step too far. “When they gave us an increase in rent, it wasn't more than $40 or $50,” said Dominguez. “This time it's $75. We came to live here because the rent is cheap. We are poor, we don't make a lot of money. And what we earn isn't just for ourselves. It's for our children.”

The rent increase would bring the monthly payment to more than the family can afford with what Alfonso Dominguez makes as a landscaper, and they haven't been able to find another place in the neighborhood at a similar rate, at least not one that would allow a family of five. Many apartments in the neighborhood now have leases restricting the number of residents to two or three people per apartment.

Another factor that weighs heavily on Dominguez's mind is that her 14-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter are now settled in school, with teachers and friends they know. “They have the trust to speak with their teachers, and if they go to a new place they'd have to get to know everything from scratch — the neighbors, the place, the school,” she said.

So instead of moving, Dominguez has resolved to fight. Working with the affordable housing advocacy group Inquilinxs Unidxs por la Justicia (Renters United for Justice), she and a group of nine families in the building are refusing to pay the higher rates. They complain of repairs left undone, including a broken front door lock, which allowed strangers to wander in.

In response, the company that now manages the property, Nexus Real Estate Services, initially agreed to meet with the group to negotiate. But then the company changed tack, serving seven of the families with eviction notices and taking them to court, a process that started last week. (Nexus President Mike Tempel declined to comment for this story.)

Limited policy options

There are two well-established and related trends at work behind the loss of affordable housing in Minneapolis: developers building new luxury apartments in mixed-income areas, and developers buying old buildings in those same mixed-income areas and then increasing the rent. The Dominguezes' situation is due to the latter, as their building was one of several purchased over the last year by a California-based landlord, who in turn hired Nexus to manage the properties.

To address the loss of low and moderate-income housing from these two developments, the city of Minneapolis has two general categories of policies at its disposal. There are those that promote the building of new affordable housing, and those designed to help preserve the existing stock.

In Minnesota, one well-known policy option is off the table: There's a state law pre-empting the ability of local government to impose rent control. That would be difficult to change or circumvent, but Inquilnxs Unidxs is pushing to start the process, with a “Rally for Rent Control” set to take place Friday at City Hall.

Minneapolis renter Flora Dominguez holding her daughter
MinnPost photo by Jared Goyette
Minneapolis renter Flora Dominguez holding her daughter, 8-month-old Zueleyka.

But state law also casts doubt on the city's ability to use one of the tools many cities employ to increase the number of new affordable housing units: inclusionary zoning. That is, requiring developers of new apartment buildings to include affordable units as part of the projects.

Even so, Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Bender says that exploring inclusionary zoning as a policy option should be a “no-brainer.”

“We need affordable units, and this is a way for the market to provide that,” said Bender, whose Ward 10 includes Whittier. “I know that there is pushback, but if we do it correctly, I think the market can absorb the cost of the units.”

Bender admits there are “different interpretations” as to how and if the state law would apply to an inclusionary zoning ordinance. “The question for the city would be how much legal risk to assume,” she said. “We could adopt an inclusionary zoning policy and it would likely be challenged in the courts and then the courts would decide how the state law should be interpreted and applied to this policy.”

In a statement emailed to MinnPost, Cecil Smith, board chair of the Minnesota Multi Housing Association, which represents landlords, said that rent increases in Minneapolis have been lower than other comparable cities across the country, and that the MHA is ready to “join with leaders throughout the Twin Cities to urgently develop a thoughtful regional approach” to housing issues.

“In other markets, government and others have partnered to identify more funding for affordable housing,” said the statement. “Unfortunately, in our region, local governments keep suggesting more regulations and burdensome policies that will have significant negative, unintended consequences. None of the proposed policies, like mandatory Section 8 and advance-notice of sale, actually help create affordable housing. Just ask residents of New York, Seattle or Portland whether policies like these are working. Those cities struggle with chronic homelessness and unaffordable rents. The increased regulation adds costs to owners and managers that are passed along to renters.”

Other tools

There is another tool that has gained popularity in other cities that have tried to stabilize the availability of affordable housing, one that developers would be unlikely to greet with a court challenge: Freezing property tax increases for property owners of affordable housing apartments. Such a move would likely answer the concerns of property owners, who argue that increased city assessments of their property values are part of what's forcing them to increase rents.

Minneapolis does incentivize developers to include affordable housing units in new projects by providing city financing via the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Program, and Mayor Betsy Hodges recently proposed including another $6.5 million for the fund.

But Bender says that the trust only helps create a few hundred new units each year, which is far below the pace at which the city is losing affordable housing. She sees more promise in ramping up the city's efforts to help preserve existing affordable housing — often called “Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing” — by helping housing nonprofits purchase apartments.

In theory, at least, an expanded version of those efforts could have helped Flora Dominguez. If the city were to require property owners of affordable apartments to notify the city when the buildings are up for sale, Bender says, that could give nonprofits with access to NOAH funds a better chance of purchasing them.

For now, though, Flora Dominguez is fighting — in court, and on the street. On Sept. 6, Dominguez spoke at a community meeting at the Calvary Lutheran Church on Blaisdell, which was followed by a rally outside's Nexus's offices in Uptown Minneapolis. And though she and her family face an uncertain housing future, she has found meaning in her activism, she said. “My plan is that if I don't achieve our goal, of blocking the rent increases, and if have to leave, I'm going to continue to fight for those who stay.”

Update: This piece was updated to include comments from the Minnesota Multi Housing Association.

By Jared Goyette | 09/18/17