WASHINGTON – A hundred people shared personal stories of their housing struggles and called for immediate relief during the The People’s Hearing on Housing in D.C. today. They represent millions of people in cities, suburbs and rural communities nationwide who are suffering under the national housing crisis.
The speakers also joined People’s Action in announcing the launch of a national campaign demanding affordable housing for all. People’s Action is a national network of more than a million people across 30 states working for economic, racial and gender justice.
Congress members including Sen. Bernie Sanders, (VT), Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (MO), and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL) also attended The People’s Hearing.
“I don’t think it’s too much to ask that in the richest country in the history of the world, all of our children, all of our people, have safe and affordable housing in which to live. I don’t think that is a radical demand,” Sanders told the crowd at the hearing.
The national housing crisis has reached emergency levels with over 12 million households spending more than half their wages on housing alone. Instead of meeting the challenges of the crisis, elected officials are supporting a budget and tax scam that will only aggravate the situation for low-income, working class and communities of color.
“Congress is giving handouts to the very same billionaires and private equity firms that are gobbling up the housing market and causing rents to skyrocket,” said Tara Raghuveer, Housing Campaign Lead with People’s Action. “Congress just voted for a tax scam that will aggravate the crisis. An emergency situation demands emergency action from Congress.”
Ten years after Wall Street greed crashed the housing market and the U.S. economy, recovery is still being denied to millions of people, especially low income communities of color. Speakers at The People’s Hearing demanded an end to Wall Street profiteering on the backs of families.
“In the wake of 2008, people like me, who were preyed on by big banks and fraudulent lenders, have lost everything,” said Mary Nguyen, of Seattle, Wash. “I grew up with the American Dream of owning a home; I was sold the American nightmare. Meanwhile the banks have done nothing to repay the American people whose wealth they stole. We declare an emergency and we demand emergency action.”
Any remotely affordable housing is being snatched up by investors. People of color are disproportionately impacted – the result of decades of policy like real estate redlining and legalized segregation. People of color still bear the worst of the affordable housing crisis.
“For seniors like me, and for their families, there is a housing crisis in America. I declare a state of emergency and I demand emergency relief that includes massive reinvestment in safe public housing,” said Jeliner Jordan, from Chicago, Ill.
Rep. Cleaver condemned the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress for cutting housing programs for the poor and working-class people while “leaning toward helping everybody else – including developers.
“We’ve got to allow our voices to rise, we’ve got to stand up. Don’t let anybody tell us to be quiet. We are going to be noisy until change comes,” Cleaver said.
People’s Action launched a new national housing campaign and announced specific demands for emergency action by Congress on the housing crisis including:
- Direct $1.7 trillion in affordable loans and down payment assistance grants to black and brown households over the next ten years.
- Institute principal reduction for homeowners in targeted neighborhoods who are underwater due to the housing crash.
- End homelessness by providing $12.8 billion annually to create new housing units in impacted areas.
- Introduce a $200 billion Preservation Fund to rehabilitate the 1.2 million existing public housing units.
- Issue an immediate moratorium on selling public housing to private businesses.
Participants at the Hearing were from People’s Action organizations in New York City, Buffalo, New Jersey, Wisconsin (Milwaukee and Wausau), Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Earlier in the day, People’s Action housing advocates held a silent protest during the House Financial Services subcommittee hearing. The committee members chose to hear from private equity firms and developers instead of people personally experiencing the worst of the housing crisis.