Letter to HUD Secy. Opposing PETRA (Part 2)

Continuation of Letter to Secy. Donovan

Under current law, conversion from public housing to project-based Section 8 must

include a transfer of control, such as a change of ownership or a transfer of units through

a land lease agreement between the housing authority and a nongovernment entity.

Therefore, any proposed disposition or conversion would significantly increase the

influence of private and for-profit development interests on public space.

When housing authorities relinquish control over their public housing, it is unclear what

mechanism, if any, is in place for residents to seek redress for issues and conflicts with

private development companies. In Los Angeles, for example, the Pueblo Del Sol Public

Housing Community is currently under a 55 year land lease to a private developer which

maintains the property, sets property rules and collects residents’ portion of the rent, as

well as the government subsidies. The private developer has imposed tighter restrictions

on residents since taking control of the property, including more stringent eligibility

requirements. As the development is no longer managed by the housing authority,

residents must try to negotiate with a private company that is operating under a private

market model with little to no regard for tenant needs or the vital societal role affordable

housing programs serve.

Even if HUD creates a hybrid board of ownership, which includes representation from

local housing authorities and nongovernmental actors, it is unclear whether or how

residents will have redress through government agencies as is currently available in

public housing. Hence, any proposal would have to ensure a process whereby the

government remains accountable and accessible to residents’ needs and concerns.

3. Under the HUD proposal, resident participation and representation will

be severely undermined.

Public housing residents are currently protected under the Federal Code of Regulations

Title 24, Section 964, which provides for resident organizing rights. These organizing

rights include, but are not limited to, the formation of recognized resident councils,

participation in annual review processes and entitlement to specific grievance

procedures.

Public housing residents subject to disposition to project-based Section 8 currently lose

these protections. In the aftermath of a conversion, resident councils must be

reconstituted as tenant organizations subject to Federal Code of Regulations Title 24,

Section 245. Since Section 245 does not encompass the same set of rights and protections

as Section 964, it is likely that residents will lose some of the safeguards and protections

provided under Section 964. Additionally, since project-based Section 8 units are

privately owned, there are fewer protections against evictions than in public housing.

Therefore, under any proposal, HUD must ensure that individuals and communities are

able to take an active role in the decision-making that impacts their housing rights. Since

project-based housing is not government-owned, federal standards of participatory

decision-making do not apply. Hence, HUD must ensure that participatory protections,

including but not limited to Regulation 964, remain intact under any new scheme.

4. The HUD proposal will likely exacerbate the long waiting lists currently

faced by those seeking to access affordable housing programs.

In cities across the country, waitlists for public and subsidized housing have thousands of

applicants, some of whom desperately wait many years for a housing unit to become

available. Under the current HUD proposal, those residents seeking to opt into the

Section 8 voucher program would be given priority over those already on the waiting

lists.

 

2

Similar to the Section 8 voucher program, waitlists for public housing units have tens of

thousands of applicants. When public housing developments are converted to projectbased

Section 8, site-based lists specific to the property are created, taking the

development off the public housing waitlist. Site-based lists force prospective residents

to complete an application for each development. To maximize their ability to obtain

housing, prospective residents are required to fill out multiple applications and be subject

to approval at each project-based Section 8 development, adding more red tape to an

already arduous application process.

Any HUD proposal must ensure that those currently on waitlists do not wait even longer

for units they desperately need and are not forced to reapply on site specific lists.

5. Residents have little legal recourse should this proposal violate their

housing rights.

HUD’s current proposal is not unique. Administrations throughout the years have tried

with varying degrees of success to reform the agency and its programs. Regardless of

whether a reform succeeds or fails, it is the residents that ultimately bear the brunt of

HUD’s decision-making. After witnessing the recent mortgage crisis, it is disturbing to

think that public housing, which was immune because of its fully public nature, will be

exposed to the same market forces that recently caused a wave of foreclosures.

Additionally, HUD administrations in the future may use TRA to further privatize the

nation’s public housing stock. HUD has not adequately addressed concerns that TRA

could eventually mean the loss of this valuable affordable housing to market-rate

housing.

Consequently, any proposal must include a resident approval process. The approval

process, which would determine whether local housing authorities are able to move

forward with project-basing plans, should be developed and overseen by residents and

other key stakeholders. Additionally, a private right of action must be included to ensure

that residents have adequate legal redress should the current proposal fail to meet the

community development objectives envisioned by HUD.

~

The U.S. government passed the Housing Act of 1949, in which the government pledged

to realize: “as soon as feasible . . . the goal of a decent home and a suitable living

environment for every American family, thus contributing to the development and

redevelopment of communities and to the advancement of the growth, wealth, and

security of the nation.” Additionally, international human rights instruments speak to the

human right to housing. Article 25(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

which was unanimously adopted by all the member countries of the United Nations,

states: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well

being of himself and of his family, including … housing …”

We urge your office to give serious consideration to the issues raised in this letter. Public

housing provides a vital resource for low-income residents and is a crucial part of

ensuring last resort housing for all our citizens. Our nation and human rights principles

have long recognized the importance of guaranteeing to every citizen the right to

housing. Therefore, we call on your leadership in ensuring that HUD’s decision-making

does not undermine the intrinsic value of public housing being owned and operated by

the government and compromise the human rights principles your office has embraced.

We look forward to working with you and your staff as you work towards making the

public housing system stronger and preserving our nation’s affordable housing programs.

Sincerely,

National Organizations

Advancement Project

Campaign to Restore National Housing Rights

Center for Constitutional Rights

Housing Justice Movement

National Alliance of HUD Tenants

National Economic and Social Rights Initiative

Nation People’s Action

Peabody Watch

Poverty Initiative

Right to the City (RTTC) – HUD Working Group

Western Regional Advocacy Project

Community Groups

California

Beyond Shelter – Los Angeles, CA

Coalition LA – Los Angeles, CA

Coalition on Homelessness – San Francisco, CA

Data Center – Oakland, CA

Lamp Community – Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness – Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN) – Los Angeles, CA 

People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER) – Los Angeles, CA

People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER) – San Francisco, CA

Union de Vecinos – Los Angeles, CA

Illinois

Cabrini Green Local Advisory Council – Chicago, IL

Chicago Anti Eviction Campaign – Chicago, IL

Coalition to Protect Public Housing – Chicago, IL

Jewish Council on Urban Affairs – Chicago, IL

Lakeside Action Coalition – Chicago, IL

Lawndale Alliance – Chicago, IL

People for Community Recovery – Chicago, IL

Louisiana

Mayday New Orleans – New Orleans

Survivors Village – New Orleans, LA

Massachusetts

Alliance to Develop Power (ADP) – Statewide, MA

Minnesota

Minnesota Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild – Minneapolis, MN

Minnesota Tenants Union – Minneapolis, MN

Northside Neighbors for Justice – Minneapolis, MN

New York

Coalition to Save Harlem – New York, NY

Concerned Citizens of Greater Harlem – New York, NY

Community Voices Heard – New York, NY

Families United for Racial & Economic Equality (FUREE) – New York, NY

Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) – New York, NY

Housing is a Human Right – New York, NY

Jews for Racial and Economic Justice – New York, NY

May 1

 

st Coalition for Worker & Immigrant Rights – New York, NYNew York City AIDS Housing Network (NYCAHN) – New York, NY

New York Solidarity Coalition with Katrina & Rita Survivors – New York, NY

Picture the Homeless – New York, NY

Ohio

Communities United For Action (CUFA) – Cincinnati, OH

Oregon

Street Roots – Portland, Oregon

Pennsylvania

Northeast Pennsylvania Organizing Center – Wilkes Barre, PA

Virginia

Residents of Public Housing in Richmond Against Mass Eviction – Richmond, VA

Washington, DC

Organizing Neighborhood Equity (ONE DC) – Washington, DC

Academia

René Francisco Poitevin, New York University

David Harvey, Graduate Center of the City University of New York

Gilda Haas, University of California – Los Angeles

Jacqueline Leavitt, University of California – Los Angeles

Peter Marcuse, Columbia University

Mark D. Naison, Fordham University

David Wagner, University of Southern Maine

International Organizations

Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions – Geneva, Switzerland

International Alliance of Inhabitants – Genoa, Italy

Priority Areas – The Church of Scotland – Edinburgh, Scotland

Popular Action Front of Action on Urban Planning – Montreal, Canada

No-Vox International Solidarity Network – Paris, France

 

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