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Articles tagged housing


Blueprint for the Future: Housing the 99%

Posted 4 months ago on Feb. 27, 2014, 3:14 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: Homelessness, Occupy Madison, tiny homes, housing, Direct Action

This article is by Damien Crisp

The future has not been written, but blueprints are being drawn up everywhere.

Many of us live as prisoners to architecture defined by capitalism. Rent is too high and far out of balance with wages. Mortgages are rigged against us.

We can pay and pay but still lose our home to foreclosure. The job market around you has collapsed and you live in fear of exile. We live in fear. Many people are homeless in the United States. Elderly and whole families unable to find shelter are becoming more and more common across the country. Homelessness and becoming a prisoner to your home mortgage are intertwined states.

What is the solution? There are endless solutions. Long term solutions demand redefining architecture, redefining the home, redefining homeless shelters, and redefining perceptions of homelessness. These solutions require lengthy dissections of our whole system but their need is immediate.

In Wisconsin, Occupy Madison occupiers collected energy leftover from the end of a successful occupation and focused on building an organization capable of redefining what it means to shelter the vulnerable homeless from economic violence.

Their tiny houses project has the promise of permanent revolution for Madison. Each homeless person, inside each tiny house, will become a homeowner and steward of projects on the land where houses are parked. Occupy Madison’s solution is: give people a home. Plans for OM’s tiny houses include composting toilets, structures wired to plug into both the grid and solar power sources, vented propane heaters for blistering Wisconsin winters and a water system.

The group imagines on-going construction leaving many tiny houses spread across the city. Mobility and adding sites are central to realizing this larger idea. Tiny houses are designed with trailers on wheels. Keeping homes mobile will allow owners to rotate through a circuit of sites. Becoming stewards for various spaces, every owner would play a role all along this network. Travelling with their house to points along a circuit, owners would have shifting views through windows as they switch parking lots. Tending to projects such as gardens established at all sites, everyone would contribute to projects sustaining the community without becoming fixed on one particular role. Expanding the projects’ map furthers potential for sustainability. One garden becomes two gardens, two become four and four become eight as the list of sites grows. Every additional site multiplies openings for new stewards.

As the circuit grows, it could become a community living visionary alternatives to our dominant order that question traditional parameters defining how living, home and survival are conceived. Purchasing just one site, however, has been difficult enough. Buying one site after another is an impossibility for now but Occupy Madison is working around this obstacle by connecting with churches willing to share their parking lots and surrounding land.

How did Occupy Madison shift from encampment to construction?

“Our encampment was one of the longest,” Occupy Madison’s Bruce Wallbaum said. “It was about 580 days. We found that people that camped and were part of the political protests joined with people who didn’t have homes.“

When Occupy Wall Street was in full swing and energy flowed towards occupations movements nationwide, Wallbaum says, their focus was the “greater political protest”. Special communities had developed within Occupy Madison and lasted after “greater political protests” under Occupy’s banner were pressed until dissolution under the boot of the all-knowing State. Small communities within communities, which had orbited within Occupy Madison at its encampment, were all seeking ways to create a better world with the collective energy they found together occupying. Several people from OM travelled to Eugene, Oregon and learned from a tiny house project there. Wallbaum recalls they found the same narrative there: collective growth during occupations and a shift from greater protest towards creating another world. Because Occupy Madison became a combination of occupiers with homes and Madison’s homeless, their shift from encampment towards building another world for the homeless was simply their group dynamic manifested into an idea.

The homeless population in Madison faces a hostile real estate owner’s market hell bent on constant production of high-end residential buildings with little consideration given to ensuring balanced growth for people from diverse economic circumstances. The city has a 2% real estate vacancy rate, which is only 1% higher than New York City. This creates a top end expensive housing market for owners and renters. It also exacerbates homelessness. The city briefly had more sway over development which ensured real estate plans included affordable housing . This attempt at balance came from legislation championed by future Occupy Madison activists.

Building a solution has been easier than challenging powerful local real estate developers with legislation. Support for OM’s tiny houses has been overwhelming, according to Wallbaum, who says the group struggles to plug in all who want to volunteer. Fundraising events have also seen overwhelming response. Still, OM’s vision faces a myriad of local zoning laws as well as the not-in-my-backyard syndrome which plagues many attempts at empowering, or even sheltering, people who find themselves homeless.

The tiny house movement is an escape for the homeless. Other models of alternative housing gaining popularity focus on building escapes from mortgages and and escapes from rent. Bruce Wallbaum says younger activists joining the tiny houses project see it not only as a solution to homelessness but as a solution to their own crisis of how to survive against the pressure of debt, against a flood of low wage jobs, against widening economic inequality. Escape from standard residential space, which demands its owners or renters play the game out of fear of homelessness, as well as escape through solutions to homelessness, could reach a depth of transformation comparable to any other powerful social revolution.

Too often “home” is narrowly defined by square feet, location, and income from full-time work. Too often “home” is defined by what we are told we deserve if we just work hard enough. Cracks in the illusion our system rewards hard work will not be repaired by raising more expensive condos or denying suffering under the thumb of capitalism all around us. Cracks in the illusion of our dominant order should be encouraged, not repaired, until the illusion shatters and leaves us free to redefine living on a large scale we can only begin to glimpse in projects like Occupy Madison’s Tiny Houses.

Damien Crisp is an artist, writer and activist. He has lived in New York City, Guadalajara. Mexico, and currently lives in southeast Tennessee. His writings can be followed on social media and blogs. He was a body, voice, and citizen journalist during Occupy Wall Street's time at Zuccotti Park, as well as a coordinator for Occupy Sandy.

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The 1% Are Still Stealing Our Homes

Posted 7 months ago on Dec. 20, 2013, 8:57 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: hedge funds, occupy our homes, housing

Laura Schlegel, a mother and active community member in Portage Park, Chicago, is facing eviction by the Cogsville Group, a private equity firm in New York City. The family is one of thousands of families now renting homes owned by massive private equity firms and hedge funds. Capitalizing on the foreclosure crisis, these Wall Street investors have purchased 200,000 homes across the country -- mostly in cities hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.

Laura is struggling with chronic pain due to nerve damage and needs to be close to her doctors in Portage Park. She could be evicted any day, and she has nowhere for her, her son and her dogs to go.

Instead of putting them out on the street, the Cogsville Group should at least offer her and her family a new lease that allows them to stay in the home they previously owned.

Why this is important:

As the banks enjoy record-breaking profits and the 1% steal a bigger share of annual income than ever, the 99% have learned that this so-called economic recovery is nothing more than a big fat lie.

Tens of thousands of people are still being evicted each month through foreclosure, and now private equity firms and hedge funds are executing a massive land grab in cities across the country. In some cities, like Phoenix, there are already Wall Street-owned homes on every single block by the hedge fund Blackstone.

These Wall Street hedge funds and private equity firms are pretending to help by renting out these vacant houses -- but we know that they are just trying to make more money off the banks of the 99%. One of these private equity firms has even released a new risky security backed by rental payments -- which is just like the mortgage-backed securities that destroyed the economy in 2008.

The story of Laura and her family show how we must stop this land grab and demand that housing be enshrined as a human right, not a means to make a short-term profit.

Laura, her son and 3 small dogs have lived in their Portage Park home for the last seven years. With the help of a partner, she bought the home in 2006 for nearly $400,000. After the market crashed, they attempted to refinance the mortgage. Following the bank’s instructions, Laura and her partner missed three months of their mortgage payments to qualify for a loan modification. But instead of working with the family, Bank of America put the home in foreclosure, using the highly controversial process of “dual tracking” in which banks simultaneously put families in the process of modifying their loans and put the loan in the foreclosure pipeline.

In Laura’s case -- as with so many other homeowners across the country -- the foreclosure process won.

Her home was sold at an auction and bought back by the government-owned mortgage giant Fannie Mae -- which then allowed a private equity firm, The Cogsville Group, to buy the right to manage her house and collect rent from the family. But when her home flooded this past spring, the company did not help her with clean up, mold remediation or repairs.

In efforts to pressure Cogsville to assume responsibility for its property management, Laura’s partner stopped paying the rent. But instead of negotiating under the circumstances, the family received an eviction notice.

Laura and her family are asking that the eviction be dropped, and that the Cogsville Group offer Laura a new lease with an option to buy.

Help us stop Laura’s eviction -- and send a message to Wall Street that they can no longer exploit our human needs for their short term profits!

Sign this petition to demand that Laura and her family are allowed in their home.

This article originally appeared on Occupy Our Homes

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Rising Out of Disaster with Occupy Sandy

Posted 7 months ago on Nov. 26, 2013, 3:51 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: Occupy Sandy, worker cooperative, housing

A full year after Hurricane Sandy battered the eastern seaboard, we can begin to glean valuable insight into the community-led relief network that sprung up in response, also known as the Occupy Sandy network. In late October 2012, as the “Superstorm” was approaching, Occupy Wall Street participants focused social media and interpersonal networks in preparation. By the following morning, the group had already begun to use social media and network-based communications to amplify the relief efforts in some of the the hardest-hit communities across New York City and New Jersey.

In the days and weeks that followed, Occupy Sandy helped create and connect a complex, nimble, and oftentimes haphazard relief network. Donation centers, mutual aid hubs, open-source needs assessments, and volunteer assignment systems sprung to life, seemingly overnight. Drawing on the strengths of network-based organizing, these efforts were often more effective than the work of traditional, top-down aid organizations like the Red Cross.

One of the tens of thousands of people who came together to make this network thrive was Sofía Gallisá Muriente, who spent the last year organizing in Rockaway Beach. Listen to her share her experiences from the effort and her thoughts about the future promise and latent perils that the Occupy Sandy network now faces.

Organizing during disasters is becoming an increasingly important role of the social justice movement, particularly as climate change threatens to wreck havoc upon nations and people who are the least responsible for the pollution and exploitation of the earth. Today, tens of thousands of residents of the Philippines are organizing to survive amidst the devastation wrought by the most recent typhoon. So-called elected leaders refuse to address this crisis, evidenced by the utter failure of last week’s climate summit in Warsaw. Since politicians and the powerful continue to work for the fossil fuel industry, we must work for the people -- both to slow climate change by forcing an end to consumption and fossil fuel burning, and to organize survival networks that protect ourselves and our fellow humans against the climate genocide.

As this talk demonstrates, this work has already started. Now, we must amplify it.

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Call to Action: A Month Later and Still No Housing and No Medical Access #OccupySandy

Posted 1 year ago on Dec. 2, 2012, 11:15 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: health care, gentrification, bloomberg, occupy sandy, housing, nyc

Urgent Call To Action And Bloomberg’s Stealth Visit To An Occupy Sandy Relief Distribution Hub In The Rockaways

New York City’s billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, stepped out of a helicopter midday Thursday in St. Camillus’ parking lot, ironically an Occupy Sandy relief distribution hub in the Rockaways, Queens. The visit had been kept under wraps and not listed on his official schedule. Watch this video, read the statement, and stay informed and pledge your support for the communities most affected by Sandy that are still in dire need! We are planning a day of action on December 15th. Join us!


VIDEO


Bloomberg and a small party accompanying him were whisked off in black cars. He missed a greeting from community members in an area still reeling from Hurricane Sandy, with quickly-lettered signs: “Rockaways in Health Crisis,” “We Need Safer Housing.” Bloomberg made his way to the still-shuttered offices of The Wave, the Rockaways weekly newspaper. As word spread about the stealth visit, a crowd gathered outside hoping to explain those signs to the mayor: a month after Sandy hit, swamping homes with seawater, many residents—homeowners and tenants—are still living without electricity, without heat, without working appliances, with black mold taking hold of walls and other surfaces. Temporary housing is desperately needed, absentee landlords must fix their properties.

The mayor emerged behind a row of police, thanked the group, and was quickly driven away—avoiding a repeat of his November 4 visit when residents lambasted him for ignoring them.

THE CRISIS AND STATEMENT

Hurricane Sandy is an ongoing tragedy that for many people is only getting worse. Residents, community organizations and city, state, and federal agencies must come together to address the IMMEDIATE crisis that is worsening as the weather gets colder.

A month after Hurricane Sandy, thousands remain without electricity, heat, water, healthy food, basic healthcare, adequate housing, or even temporary shelter.

Here is a statement from a group of individuals and residents who have been working in the affected communities with Occupy Sandy:

1) HOUSING

Long before Sandy hit, New York City already ranked high for homelessness. Now, tens of thousands of New Yorkers have been displaced, while many more are living in unsafe, moldy houses. Many NYCHA residents have been forced to pay full rent while having no heat and, in some cases, no water or electricity for weeks.

There should be an immediate housing plan that addresses their needs; it would include: extending the NYCHA rent credit to cover November and December to account for lost wages and the storm’s true impact; providing sufficient federal disaster relief funding to NYCHA, and employing NYCHA residents for building repairs instead of outsourcing jobs.

A recent census found 2,489 vacancies in 20 City Council districts that could house 200,000 people. In Far Rockaway, there are 384 lots that could be used to set up housing for 31,696 people immediately, keeping families close to their community networks. The City of New York should seize this opportunity to set a global precedent that would address both the immediate crisis as well as create housing for the tens of thousands who were homeless before the storm.

2) HEALTH

The storm has compounded an already existing health crisis in NYC. Now, families are living in unsafe homes, there is not enough access to primary care physicians, mental health practitioners and health care facilities in affected communities, and it has become even more difficult for those in impacted areas to access healthy food.

FEMA and Red Cross should work with volunteer healthcare infrastructures to set up more clinics to dispense necessary prescriptions and trauma counseling, and should direct money toward supplying healthy food to those in need — instead of canned goods, military rations, and other food high in sodium.

3) SAFETY NET SERVICES

Workers are being or have been deducted pay from jobs they cannot physically get to, many are unaware of FEMA benefits and deadlines, and private insurers are denying many claims. The Red Cross should dedicate some of its Sandy recovery funds to public information campaigns that inform employers and employees of their rights and what services are available. FEMA should be out canvassing neighborhoods with interpreters in order to ensure that all individuals impacted by the storm know their rights. FEMA should also organize weekly or twice weekly mass mailings for a minimum of four weeks, distributing leaflets in multiple languages, notifying people of available assistance and pertinent deadlines.

Already many residents are being denied FEMA assistance because they have insurance while their insurance companies are denying claims. The Attorney General should immediately intervene on behalf of residents who are unable to make repairs and in danger of losing everything because of these discrepancies.

4) TRANSPARENCY AND COMMUNITY INCLUSION

The influx of relief money coming into the region provides an opportunity for healthy, environmentally sustainable rebuilding with the inclusion of communities and community-based organizations.

We call for a public task force to monitor the use of funds and create structures that encourage community participation to help sustainably rebuild NYC in a way that prepares for today’s environmental challenges.


STAY INFORMED AND TAKE ACTION

From the start, Occupy Wall Street has always been a disaster recovery effort propelled by the power of the people to rebuild a better future. We, along with our many allies, have been dedicated to more than just addressing economic inequality. We believed, and continue to believe, that New York City can reverse its role as the capitol of economic inequality, homelessness and corporate control over our democracy, and become a model for addressing the needs of its residents while promoting their dignity and ability to help shape our future.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, yet again we see both an opportunity and a threat. As Hurricane Katrina showed, moments of devastation and rebuilding can lead to the return of the status quo, or worse — gentrification, displacement and continued privatization of basic services and jobs.

  • We are dedicated to seeing that that does not happen here in New York City.
  • And we are dedicated to ensuring participation and transparency in this process.
  • We know another world is possible and we are committed to working with our neighbors to build it.

STAND WITH US!

We are planning a day of action on December 15th. To stay informed about this issue or to join us on the 15th, please fill out this form.

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