7/12/18 Newsletter: Public Money for Private Profit or Social Housing?

In Washington, D.C., as with cities across the country and around the world, luxury redevelopments are subsidized by taxpayer money. In other words, private developers receive public land and money, owned and generated by working people in order to build unaffordable, luxury redevelopments from which they profit. Meanwhile, the working people who subsidize and make developers' wealth possible are forced to live on the streets, face housing burdens, or pay ever-skyrocketing rents while their quality of life suffers immensely.

The transfer of public land, property and money to private developers is a regular practice in D.C. For example, the $95 million worth of public land that was handed to politically connected developer and known slumlord Geoff Griffis for $1 was part of a vast luxury development plan at the Wharf in Southwest Washington, D.C., including high-end restaurants and unaffordable housing supported in part by $300 million in taxpayer money.

Ms. Yahvon Early showing the nebulizers and inhalers that she has to take every day while living with toxins at a public housing unit at Montana Terrace, Northeast Washington, D.C. Photo credit: Francis Tatem

Not only are there a litany of deals for developers that have long been exposed to the public, but more recently the first audit of the Housing Production Trust Fund that Mayor Bowser often brags about revealed chronic mismanagement and potential fraud.

The fact that housing policy is formulated to further the interests of profit-driven developers is the reason why public housing like that at Montana Terrace in Washington, D.C., is neglected and its tenants treated inhumanely. Rather than subsidizing private developers, the city could be directing public money to support the health, safety and economic security of the people who generate that same public money by paying taxes.

Justice First's aim with this newsletter is to expose a highly organized economic and political system that consistently puts the profit interests of private corporations over the human needs of the people. The D.C. housing struggles exemplify the blatant corruption, collusion and fundamental inequity of a system organized around money rather than around people.

Montana Terrace Update

Justice First will continue to feature a weekly update on the living conditions of two families at Montana Terrace, a public housing property in Northeast Washington, D.C., managed by the D.C. Housing Authority. Reporting on Montana Terrace began two weeks ago with interviews that exposed mold, infestation and depression -- the result of a combination of public housing neglect by the Housing Authority and the city-wide affordable housing crisis perpetuated by the city's housing policies which serve developers' interests.

Last week was our second update on the status of the families of Yahvon Early and Gretchen Helm, both of whom have suffered in slum conditions at Montana Terrace for years.

We are publishing updates on the status of Ms. Early and Ms. Helm and their units on a weekly basis, to demonstrate to the public the length of time and the unbelievable level of follow up and pressure required to force the city to act protect its own residents, whose health and safety has been greatly compromised.

Inside of Gretchen Helm's unit at Montana Terrace, Northeast Washington, D.C. She and her family are unable to use their closets due to rodent and mold infestation. Photo credit: Francis Tatem.

7/12/2018 Update - Yahvon Early

Yahvon Early and her daughter were finally moved to a hotel pending a rehab of her unit, which the Housing Authority suggests will take two weeks. This action was taken by the Housing Authority after Ms. Early and her daughter endured conditions that resulted in a huge, gaping hole in the ceiling of her daughter's room, exposing mold and inviting infestation, as well as water leakages and damage throughout her unit. The ceiling collapse took place in early June and the move to a hotel took place just yesterday, over a month later, on July 11.

7/12/2018 Update - Gretchen Helm

Gretchen Helm and her young children remain trapped in a mold and mice infested unit, with holes throughout that make it impossible to stop rodents from coming in. This family remains in unsafe, poisonous conditions as they wait for more information from the D.C. Housing Authority. In response to an email inquiry to the Housing Authority from D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie's office, a Housing Authority representative replied: "Thank you so much for checking in regarding the concerns raised. DCHA staff is actively working with both families to assess and mitigate any hazards identified." As of today, July 12, Ms. Helm has confirmed that the Housing Authority has been silent and has failed to contact her or provide her with any additional information since July 2nd, when a mold inspector was sent to her unit.

Social Housing: Solving the Affordable Housing Crisis

           Image: People's Policy Project

In the United States, outrageous rents that cause hardship and burdens for the broad masses of working people are made possible by a private market controlled by profit-driven corporate entities and their political administrators.

Earlier this year, the People’s Policy Project released a paper, Social Housing in the United States, outlining a concept that could feasibly solve the affordable housing crisis by beginning the reorganization of the economy on the basis of human need, and creating a system in which housing is a human right.

While private market forces can only function as a means of transferring wealth from public to private entities, a viable alternative is publicly owned, publicly controlled, state-of-the-art social housing.

What are your thoughts or questions about social housing? Email them to [email protected].

Video: LinkUp Interview with Neeka Sullivan, Brookland Manor Tenant

A video interview with Brookland Manor tenant Neeka Sullivan highlights the systemic attacks on working class communities, including the role of politicians in facilitating displacement and gentrification, and her take on the potential to organize and win a system to meet the needs of the people. The interview is accompanied by an article on the LinkUp blog surrounding the ongoing fight for affordable housing at Brookland Manor in Northeast Washington, D.C.

Watch the video and share the link 

Click to watch the LinkUp interview with Brookland Manor tenant Neeka Sullivan.

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