Housing advocates around the country have found ways to connect with their local Occupy efforts. In New York, Rhode Island, California, and other states, housing groups have reached out to Occupy protestors to highlight the connection between recent calls for greater economic equality and the issue of housing justice. Since Occupy Wall Street began at New York City’s Zuccotti Park in September, protests have spread to virtually every state and many cities throughout the country. Many housing advocates are working in conjunction with the actions in their cities and states, adding the message that all people deserve fair housing they can afford.
Along with other housing advocates in New York City, New York State Tenants & Neighbors Information Service (T&N), an NLIHC state coalition partner, has been working to bring the issue of housing justice to Occupy Wall Street efforts. On October 5, T&N, along with community groups, tenants, and members of the labor movement, marched from Foley Square near New York’s City Hall to Zuccotti Park. “We’re calling for banks that have caused damage to our communities through their irresponsible loans to help undo the damage,” said Emily Goldstein, subsidized housing organizer at T&N. “During the housing boom, many banks fueled speculation on affordable multifamily buildings in New York. The consequences for tenants and communities have been devastating. In addition to losing thousands of subsidized apartments, tenants have faced harassment, eviction, severely deteriorated conditions, and even foreclosures.” The group plans to participate in a day of action on December 6, which aims to link the issue of foreclosure to the economic justice message of Occupy protests. Advocates are also coordinating with Occupy Albany to bring attention to issues surrounding the state’s rent regulation system.
Additionally, T&N has worked with community groups and Occupy organizers to bring discussion and action around income inequality and local housing issues into neighborhoods around the city. Many local community groups are emphasizing the impact of loss of affordable housing and poor building conditions on low income neighborhoods and communities of color.
Housing advocates in Rhode Island have also joined Occupy efforts. NLIHC state coalition partners Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless and Housing Action Coalition of Rhode Island are working with allies to organize a rally in conjunction with Occupy Providence on December 10. The event emphasizes the link between foreclosure and lack of affordable housing to homelessness in Rhode Island. Demonstrators will gather at Burnside Park, the site of Occupy Providence, and will march to the State House. Advocates are coordinating a teach-in that afternoon, which will educate attendees on their three major asks of legislators: a dedicated funding stream for affordable housing in the state, a homeless bill of rights, and a Just Cause/Right to Rent bill, which would allow tenants and former homeowners the right to stay in their foreclosed homes while paying rent to the foreclosing lender. Advocates also plan to pass out flyers at Providence’s nearby shopping mall, educating people about housing issues. “There’s a national and global message out there about greed and inequality, and we’re bringing it to the local level,” said Karen Jeffreys of Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless. “All politics is local. The 99% message is growing, and we’re finding ways to connect it to people’s day-to-day lives.”
Tenants and housing advocates in San Francisco participated in a day of action with the city’s Occupy effort on December 3. The day began with separate rallies in four of the city’s neighborhoods, with protestors joining together at Justin Herman Plaza, the site of Occupy San Francisco, where they demanded housing justice and corporate accountability. “We see what is happening on Wall Street, how the banks have wreaked havoc, and we also see the ripple effect and the impact that greed has on tenants and homeowners here in San Francisco,” said Sara Shortt, Executive Director of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco. “There are too many policies in place that allow profit to come before people.” Shortt also points out that the dialogue about economic justice coming out of the Occupy movement has brought together those advocating on different issues, “it has created an opportunity for tenants’ rights groups like ours to connect with groups working on homelessness and those focused on homeownership and foreclosure.”
As Occupy efforts across the country persist, affordable housing advocates continue to look for ways to bring their message into the protests. “Housing is and always will be central to economic justice,” said Brenda Clement, Executive Direction of Housing Action Coalition of Rhode Island and an NLIHC board member. “It’s crucial for people recognize the connection.”
For more information, or to let NLIHC know how housing advocates are connecting with Occupy efforts near you, contact Mary Kolar, Outreach Associate, at email@example.com.