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History of cities – Heritage
Right to Housing
The Right to Housing is not in the US Constitution !
American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man Article XI (Right to the preservation of health and to well-being) «Every person has the right to the preservation of his health through sanitary and social measures relating to food, clothing, housing and medical care, to the extent permitted by public and community resources.»
How have housing rights evolved in the United States?
Some specific, although quite limited, rights / entitlements exist in the housing area. Local housing codes (varying enormously with respect to coverage and standards) provide something of a right to decent physical conditions. But enforcement is a problem and market realities limit the benefits these regulations offer.
A warranty of habitability and rent-withholding provisions exist in some jurisdictions. While this levels the playing field somewhat between landlord and tenant, it falls short of guaranteeing decent housing conditions and, as is true of housing codes, does not deal with the key issue of affordability. In those few areas that still have rent control, limits are placed on rent increases. (…) (2)
According to USA Canada Alliance of Inhabitants (1), Evictions happen in the US for a number of reasons. Renters in ability to keep up with rapidly rising rents, homeowners falling behind on mortgage payments and a few other reasons. Acts of civil disobedience to protect renters from evictions. These acts include eviction defenses and interference with court processes.
A special focus on Detroit (4)
In Detroit, more than 200,000 residents have had their residential water shut turned off (approximately 1/3 of the city), and approximately 10% of these households have had their water bills placed on home property taxes. The number of homes that were foreclosed on because of a household’s inability to pay the property taxes in 2015 was approximately 28,000, affecting nearly 80,000 people. This year there are about 18,000 tax foreclosures that affect about 51,000 residents.
Most affected people = women, children, the elderly, people of color.
WHY ? Residents are unable to pay for the cost of public and private goods and services, including resources needed for basic human needs (like water), because of capitalism’s devastation of local economies, the exportation of living wage jobs by corporations, and the destruction of the welfare state safety net. Big responsability of the Banks.
CONSEQUENCES OF MASSIVE EVICTIONS ?
- Criminalization of homeless and squatters
- Gentrification of the City of Detroit (= actual cause)
- 150,000 owners have already lost their property titles
- Family Relocation = loss of neighbors, the community, schools
- Loss of custody of her children
No. Land in the US is a market commodity.
According to USA Canada Alliance of Inhabitants, Land grabbing happens a number of ways (1) :
- by the state using a process called eminent domain
- private owners deciding to sell out to high bidders
- by the state exposing public land/property to the private market.
To face to land grabbing, they propose : Squatting, eviction defenses, encampments.
Some Interesting Practices
- TAKE BACK THE LAND = grassroots communities reclaiming vacant and foreclosed homes and moving in homeless families. They use international human rights law to defend the families rights to be there.
The COMMUNITY LAND TRUST : this device was born in 1969 in Georgia (USA). To cope with the difficulties of some people to buy a home, a “TRUST” is created which will hold the ownership of the land while the people themselves are the owners of the buildings. Anti-speculative mechanisms and shared governance are also part of the device. This model is seducing many other regions in the world. Learn more : our key-words-concept on CLT – Network of CLT in the United States, the National Community Land Trust Network. A pioneering example of CLT is that of Burlington Champlain Housing Trust. Read about it on Urbamonde folder on the Social Production of Habitat: http://urbamonde.org/site/sites/urbamonde.org/files/Brochure%20PSH%2002_WEB.pdf
- PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING : In Chicago, Participatory Budgeting started in 2010 in the 49th Ward, which, according to its alderman, is ‘one of the most racially, ethnically and economically diverse communities in the nation’. This pioneer process in the USA devotes 50 per cent of its PB resources to street resurfacing and the other half to a variety of community projects. To know more about the Participatory Budgeting concept or to read the report from Prof. Y. Cabannes about this (IIED 2014) : http://pubs.iied.org/pdfs/10713IIED.pdf
- SIMAGINES : The Staten Island Planning for Recovery program (New York) : the American Institute of Architects (AIA) andthe Hunter College’s Department of Urban Affairs & Planning have calledfor Staten Island residents to help devise a plan for redevelopment of Sandy-devastated neighborhoods. “We are trying to bring [residents] together with professional guidance and expert input from people in our CUNY system to come up with a planning vision for their own neighborhoods” : https://vimeo.com/67309150
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC ASPECTS
In 2014, the national homeownership rate slid for 10th consecutive year to 64.5%, reaching lowest homeownership in 20 years, according to a report released by Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. 50% of American household are rent burdened. That means over 50% of household income goes to rent or mortgages. (1)
Quality of Housing
There are no statistics on squatters. It is usually a practice that is not public.
Overcrowding is a big problem in urban areas like NYC. There are families living double and tripled together. (1)
The governments most recent survey says 565,000. 83,000 Chronically homeless. This number does not include people in shelters (NYC 58,000) (1)
Informal Housing / Slum / Homeless
According to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, since the ’80s, the number of homeless has increased dramatically. Each year, more than 3 million Americans, including 1.3 million children experience homelessness! According to national studies, millions of Americans living with low incomes spend more than half their income on housing (although it is recommended not devoted only 30%). Today, one third of homeless families and is composed of racial and ethnic minorities are particularly affected. the face of homelessness is increasingly diverse.
Homeless are criminalized
As the American prison population grew rapidly from the 1980s, from around 500,000 people in 1980 to 1,150,000 by 1990 and to over 2.3 million at the end of 2005, some observers concluded that the [US] penal system was a key instrument in «governing social marginality». One element of this “culture of control” is the increased State regulation and criminal prosecution of street beggars. Thus, some of the observed increase in the prison population could be accounted for by the increasing incarceration of individuals convicted of begging, persons who in many cases were homeless and utilizing begging as a humiliating strategy of survival. (3)
ROLE OF PUBLIC AUTHORITIES
Social – Public Housing
There has been a systemic disinvestment in public housing by the US govt. Allowing housing to fall into a state of disrepair. Cutback in funding by the govt.
Refusing to build any new public housing since 1976. (1)
Bibliography & Sitography
- USA Canada Alliance of Inhabitants
- Chester Hartman Director of research at the Poverty & Race Research Action Council in Washington, DC
- Habitat International Coalition
- Michigan Welfare Rights Organisation, (MWRO) Detroit, USA
HABITAT AND CIVIL SOCIETY
According to the NATIONAL LAW CENTER ON POVERTY & HOMELESSNESS, the major factors that cause homelessness are:
The lack of affordable housing. Nearly half of the homeless have jobs, but it does not allow them to stay;
Subsidized housing is not available to them or they may have to wait up to 6 years to get there.
Minimum lagging income: low wage increases are well below increases in the housing market;
Insufficient government assistance: the revenue collected with the poorest being down, aid programs they have been severely reduced.
Therefore services inadequate health care: millions of Americans receive no health insurance – a significant number of people with mental health problems are found in the street.
Therefore access to education increases social inequalities, especially for children who are homeless dropouts despite federal law.
According to USA Canada Alliance of Inhabitants
- Lack of truly affordable options
According to USA Canada Alliance of Inhabitants
- Take Back the Land, Occupy Our Homes and Community Land Trusts (social movements). Tax incentives to build affordable housing to developers and land banks (state/govt)
- Housing is a Human Right but getting the US govt to agree has been a challenge.
Civil Society Actors
DEPAUL USA = A non profit organization that primarily assists homeless men. Their goal is to address homelessness holistically to end the cycle of homelessness by providing, in addition to accommodation, social support, taking into account the various aspects of assistance to the person (Finance – physical and mental health – employment – education – education – parenting – Legal support – spirituality). The cooperation of residents is essential. The goal is to feel well again in the community. They recently created a shared garden. Video of the residents speak of the project – website DEPAUL USA – contact via their website.
DORCHERTER BAY EDC = association is to create a lifestyle thrives in deprived neighborhoods of Boston, following the crisis and unemployment. It offers, among other things, to create affordable housing, achieve “urban villages.” These “villages” take into account the mobility needs of people, the use of green energy, green spaces, learning spaces. website – The contact via their website.
NATIONAL LAW CENTER ON POVERTY & HOMELESSNESS – NLCHP = Founded in 1989, the association is trying to end homelessness homelessness across the country. Specifically, it is a human rights center composed of lawyers working on the causes and consequences of homelessness, including through the collection of information, political advocacy and public education. website
DELAWARE HOUSING COALITION = organization for the right to housing in the State of Delaware. They argue for access to housing “affordable” and “permanent”. Website