Trump’s Shutdown Threatens 3.4 Million Low Income Tenants with Displacement: Take Action NOW to Save Our Homes!

The Trump shutdown of HUD and other federal agencies has already dragged on for 19 days, the longest in US history, with no end in sight!   HUD tenants are already feeling the sting. 

On Monday, January 7, HUD announced that no funds are available to renew 1,150 Section 8 contracts that expired in December 2018 and January 2019, or another 550 contracts that expire in February 2019 or beyond.  An estimated 100,000 low income households--elderly, people with disabilities and families with children-- already face repair and service cutbacks, and could face rent increases and displacement, if HUD funds are not restored soon.

Worse, another 21,150 Section 8 contracts housing 1.1 million low income renters have been funded only through February.  There is no evidence that HUD has funds for these properties if the shutdown continues into March, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.  

In addition, HUD does not have funds to continue subsidies after February for 2.2 million more Section 8 Voucher recipients, administered by local housing authorities.  For all Section 8 tenants, owners could attempt to terminate the leases low income tenants unable to pay rents three or four times what they pay today, to cover operating costs if HUD subsidies are terminated.  

Trump has threatened to make the shutdown last for “months or years” if he doesn’t get his Wall.  If the shutdown lasts past February, a total of 3.4 million Section 8 tenants could lose their homes. 

On January 2, the newly elected House voted to approve a HUD Appropriations bill, previously passed by the Republican Senate, to fully fund Section 8.   But Republican Leader McConnell refuses to bring this or any other funding bill to the Senate Floor, unless Trump will sign it, and Trump has vowed to reject any bill until Congress provides $5.6 billion for the Wall.  Democrats demand that Congress reopen closed agencies first, and debate “border security” and the Wall separately. 

For a good explanation of how Section 8 contracts work and the threats to HUD tenants, see the NBC articles below and this blog post from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Also see NAHT's resource page for articles about the impact of the shutdown on current low-income tenants.


What Tenants Can Do To Save Our Homes

  • Find the buildings whose contracts have already expired and are not yet funded. You can check if your building has a Section 8 contract expiring soon on through NLIHC's map here or through their spreadsheet here. If your building is on this list, most likely HUD funds have ALREADY been cut from your building! Owners and managers can see if they have been receiving payments from HUD through their online database system, called LOCCS (HUDs Line of Credit Control System). Contact the owner and manager of your building and ask them if they have funds available in their LOCCS account have been receiving payments through LOCCS.

 

  • Line up tenant leaders for quotes in media stories about the cuts--issue a press release and contact local media, to make tenant voices heard! Use the press release from the NAHT Board for quotes and messaging.  If you can, organize a press conference at a housing development, city agency, HUD office or local Senator’s office--invite elected officials to join tenants to protest the cuts! Let NAHT know of affected tenants willing to talk to national media! NAHT has been contacted by national media outlets, including NBC News, looking for tenants to interview at affected buildings. Contact NAHT at 617-522-4523 or [email protected]

 

  • Mobilize tenants to tell Congress to approve HUD funding NOW, especially in buildings with expiring contracts where you have tenant contacts.  If you don’t, doorknock and post flyers letting tenants know that their building is directly affected and the information they need to contact their Senator, including a call-in script. Click here to find your Senator or Representative, especially Republicans who have refused to fund HUD. In particular, tell Republican Senators to pass the Appropriations Bill they supported before the shutdown started! Organize phone banks to call your Senator, or ask tenants to call while doorknocking.

Message:   “I’m a <senior, disabled, family> Section 8 tenant at <your development>.  Without Section 8, my rent could triple or quadruple overnight and I would lose my home.  I’m one of 3.4 million Section 8 tenants who could lose our homes if the shutdown lasts through February.  My home should not be held hostage to Trump’s Wall!”

For Democrats:   Thank them for their support to pass the HUD budget NOW. 

For Republican Senators:  Demand that they tell Majority Leader McConnell to bring the HUD funding bill to the Senate Floor and pass it NOW!

For Republican Representatives (House):   Demand they vote to support the HUD funding bill and override Trump’s veto.  A vote against the HUD bill is a vote to throw people out of their homes. 

 

  • Organize a postcard campaign demanding your Congresspeople pass the Appropriations bill to reopen the government! You can organize press and social media when postcards are delivered to local offices.  See NAHT's postcard and phone bank tip sheet here!

 

  • Keep NAHT posted of your local actions! We will post them on NAHT’s Facebook page and website. Join NAHT’s weekly Strategy Calls as long as the shutdown lasts.  Contact the NAHT office to join the list serve. The calls are currently every Wednesday at 12:30 pm EST. 

 

DISLCALIMER: VISTA Volunteers are not permitted to lobby for or against legislation. 

New HUD Notice on REAC Building Inspections a Result of NAHT Tenant Leaders Persistent Advocacy

At every NAHT Conference, tenant leaders ask HUD officials how their buildings can score passing REAC inspection scores when they know their buildings are in complete disrepair. In fact, there are multiple reports of buildings passing with flying colors, with scores as high as in the 90s, when they should score a failing grade, below 60. What’s more, tenants know that landlords will do the bare minimum of repairs in order to get a barely passing score and escape follow-up and enforcement from HUD. This is a product the federal government’s systematic defunding of HUD, leading the agency to contract inspections out to private companies.

NAHT updated its recommendations for REAC reform in 2015.   Several VISTAs, led by Nehemiah Bey, Devondrick Jeffers and others, were encountering substandard properties with high REAC scores.  NAHT formed a Special REAC Task Force which recommended changes in REAC’s scoring system to better respond to mold, bedbugs and other common problems ignored in REAC’s current system.   NAHT has advocated for these changes at every NAHT conference and Board meeting with HUD officials since that time, led by Board leaders Geraldine Collins, Demetrius Bonner, Rachel Williams, Charlotte Delgado, Charlotte Rodgers and others.

Recently, HUD published a new notice, Notice 2018-8, regarding HUD enforcement actions for substandard properties.  The new Notice implements Congressional amendments to the enforcement process in FY 2017, and replaces Notice 2015-2. The notice implements several recommendations made by NAHT tenant leaders, but also takes a few steps backwards in regards to tenant involvement when a building scores between 30 and 60.

On the plus side, the new Notice, for the first time, allows HUD to issue a Demand for Corrective Action for properties with REAC scores above 60, if there are:

  1. Less than 50% of possible REAC points earned in any category, particularly within units;
  2. Repeated inspection findings that indicate systemic deficiencies;
  3. Significant inspection findings that may pose health and safety risks to the tenants;
  4. Significant local code violations;
  5. Multiple tenant complaints about property condition; and/or
  6. Conditions observed by OAMPO staff during a site visit outside of a REAC or MOR.

This opens up an important avenue for tenant organizing and advocacy.   “Multiple tenant complaints” and “significant code violations” give us an avenue to invite HUD enforcement actions.   Also, if REAC scores are high but there are “systemic deficiencies” (such as mold) “within units”, HUD can issue a Demand for Corrective Action.

On the down side, HUD enforcement is now discretionary for properties with REAC scores above 30 but below 60.  The previous requirement for a Compliance, Disposition and Enforcement (CDE) Plan has been dropped.  Where properties score below 60, HUD can require a 100% unit survey and corrective action plan, but this is no longer required to be shared with tenants.   The only Notice requirement is to share Notices of Default/Violation with tenants, but not the Survey or corrective plans.  Following the FY 2017 Congressional amendment, tenant notice and participation has been downgraded.  NAHT leaders will continue to fight for tenants to be included in the repairs and renovations process when their homes receive scores less than 60 but more than 30.

NAHT has long advocated for these positive changes in REAC, most recently in the NAHT Board’s October meeting with Brian Montgomery, HUD’s newly confirmed Assistant Secretary for Housing.  Montgomery opened the meeting by recalling his discussions with NAHT on REAC reform in 2007, when he was previously at HUD, and that reforming REAC was one of his top priorities. 

Our persistence is  getting results!   We will keep the heat on until REAC’s scores are brought up to date, and continue advocating for NAHT’s recommendations to involve tenants in REAC inspections.

Home Line VISTAs Support Tenants During Owner Opt-Out

"In St. Louis Park and St. Paul, Minnesota, tenants from Lou Park and Mears Park Place Apartments are facing the non-renewal of their Project-Based Section 8 contracts with Bigos Management, which would equate to a loss of 82 long-term deeply affordable units. These residents primarily represent folks from immigrant, elderly, disabled, and low-income and single-parent family backgrounds. At Lou Park, half of the tenants are Russian Jewish immigrants.
 
VISTAs Ivory Taylor and Asha Ahmad from HOME Line worked with the tenants to establish tenant associations; the tenants then reached out to Bigos Management to request a meeting to talk about the non-renewal and the effects it would have on the residents. After receiving a letter back from Bigos Management's attorneys which reiterated their decision to end the contract, but did not respond to the request for a meeting, residents decided to organize an action around the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
 
Sukkot is observed by building a temporary shelter in your backyard to invite friends and neighbors to join together and celebrate the end ofsummer. Many neighbors at Lou Park find meaning in the symbol of a temporary shelter this year due to the uncertainty surrounding the future of their housing.
 
Jewish Community Action, HOME Line, and the St. Louis Park Housing Team helped the tenants organize the event and spread the word for turnout. Numerous state and local elected officials attended, included current House Representative and candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota, Peggy Flanagan, who spoke about growing up in Section 8 housing in a building across the street. Rabbi Michael Latz performed a blessing of the Sukkot and tenants from both Lou Park and Mears Park Apartments raised their voices about the need to preserve their homes as Project-Based Section 8. The program was followed by a community potluck where people shared fellowship and tenants continued to press community members and elected officials for support in reaching and negotiating with Bigos Management.
 
Tenants were very excited about the turnout and said the event made them feel hopeful. They were thrilled to see the support they received from their community. The event has prompted several elected officials to take further action, based on tenants demands. The residents continue to push forward with the support of their community in the fight to save their homes."

NAHT Supports Tenants in Atlanta Against Slumlord

 

NAHT member group Forest Cove Apartments and NAHT affiliate Housing Justice League in Atlanta, held a rally at the Forest Cove complex on Wednesday, July 18th. Tenants delivered a list of demands to the management office, which included repairs and for the tenants association to be included in the repair planning. Three NAHT board members joined in support and spoke at the march. Forest Cove Apartments is owned by Global Ministries, a notorious slumlord being forced by HUD to sell it's entire portfolio to another company. NAHT is beginning a national campaign to organize tenants in Global Ministries properties to make sure tenants voices are heard throughout this process!

 

New York Tenants in D.C. for NAHT Conference

By Mary Bradley, Tenant Leader at Tecumseh Road Apartments in Syracuse NY

The National Alliance of HUD Tenants meet to better understand the problems tenants are facing in their homes meaning apartment buildings, and having workshops to address how tenants can tackle these problems to solve them for the greater good of the tenants in these buildings. Representatives from HUD were present to help and learn about these issues.

NAHT also traveled to Capital Hill in Washington DC and confronted legislative Aides on issues plaguing NAHT like promises made by HUD that are being recanted.

We marched around the Martin Luther King Jr memorial and made protest on issues facing the poor people’s march and took many photos of NAHT’s plights with speeches, and banners .

The Greater Syracuse Tenants Network was front and center representing , and the Tecumseh Road Apartment Tenant Association’s president was also present.

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                                                      "Schumer Lobby Visit"      

                                           

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                               "Rally at MLK Memorial

 

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"True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice"

 

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Sharon Sherman-Executive director of the Greater Syracuse Tenants Network
John Herman-Tenant organizer at Great Syracuse Tenants Network
Hollywood Pemberton-Tenant leader at Clinton Plaza, Syracuse NY
Mary Bradley-Tenant Leader at Tecumseh Raod Apartments

It was a wonderful trip to Washington DC, and to see all those people so eager to fight for the poor, disabled and senior citizens living in horrendous conditions that makes bullying ,harassment, and unsafe living a burden that no one should have to suffer. I personally applaud the NATIONAL ALLIANCE of HUD TENANTS .