NLIHC Collective Member Testifies about Human Rights in Housing at Senate Subcommittee Field Hearing

The U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law held a field hearing, “Human Rights in Housing,” on March 3. The hearing took place at City Hall in Roswell, Georgia, and addressed findings from the Subcommittee’s ongoing investigation into the mistreatment of families by landlords. The investigation has included site visits and interviews with nearly 100 tenants, landlords, maintenance staff, and housing attorneys in Georgia and across the country, as well as reviews of court records and communications between landlords and tenants. Subcommittee chair Jon Ossoff (D-GA) explained that the investigation has uncovered patterns of housing code violations, harassment of tenants, retaliation, and other illegal activities on the part of landlords that jeopardize the health and safety of tenants, particularly children. NLIHC Collective member Miracle Fletcher provided witness testimony at the field hearing alongside two other tenants and two housing attorneys.

“Too often landlords and large property owners and managers are securing and receiving massive federal subsidies while subjecting vulnerable families and children to dangerously unsafe and unsanitary living conditions,” said Subcommittee chair Jon Ossoff (D-GA) in his opening remarks. “Our subcommittee will continue to investigate human rights violations in housing and elsewhere to protect families in Georgia and nationwide.”

Miracle Fletcher, a member of NLIHC’s Collective, shared her experience living with her children in unsafe conditions in the Trestletree Villages Apartments in Atlanta. Despite numerous requests for repairs, her family experienced the regular flooding of raw sewage into their apartment. Eventually, her family was relocated to another unit, at which point she began organizing with her neighbors to address their mutual concerns. Miracle learned about the rights afforded to tenants in HUD-subsidized properties but found these rights were repeatedly violated by her building’s management. She and other tenants experienced fines, retaliation, lease violations, threats of eviction, and the placement of their allies and supporters on a criminal trespassing list. “Our rights are violated daily, yet the constant threats of losing our homes weighed heavier than the support we received from HUD,” she explained. Miracle concluded her testimony by challenging HUD to implement a task force comprising tenants with lived experience of housing insecurity. The taskforce would work with HUD to ensure tenant’s concerns about the habitability of their homes are urgently addressed and would hold landlords accountable for violating the rights of tenants.

Two other witnesses, Latysha Odom and DeAnna Hines, described living in similarly unsafe housing conditions with their children, with little to no action by their property managers. These conditions included cockroach infestations, lack of hot water, and regular ceiling cave-ins, which caused fear and trauma among members of their families. The hearing also included as witnesses Esther Graff-Radford and Ayanna Jones, who are both attorneys in Georgia representing tenants in subsidized housing who experience poor housing conditions, retaliation by landlords, housing discrimination, and other unfair practices. They shared additional examples involving clients who live in unsafe and unhealthy conditions in HUD-subsidized properties, pointed to deficiencies with HUD’s process of reviewing and addressing complaints about substandard housing conditions, and offered suggestions for improvements. They also underscored the necessity of listening to and trusting tenants who have experienced violations, involving them in these processes, and holding landlords accountable for their actions.

NLIHC’s Collective is a cohort of tenant leaders from around the country who work closely with NLIHC and leverage their lived experience to elevate concerns, chart an advocacy path, and ensure that NLIHC effectively addresses the needs of low-income people and families. While Miracle remains active organizing with her neighbors, she hopes her participation in activities such as this hearing and the Collective will lead to more accountability and policy change at a deeper level. “My pain will not be their profit,” she writes. “Our voices raise awareness; applied knowledge creates policy. Powerfully, we apply pressure with accountability. Our fight is in Black and White!”

Watch a recording of the full hearing and read the witnesses’ testimonies here.