USA Tenants and Homeless Advocacy Groups Protest Bush Budget Cuts

In the USA, two of HIC’s member organizations, the National Alliance of HUD Tenants and the National Coalition for the Homeless, have organized a series of protests this fall against the Bush Administration’s plans to cut 600,000 families from the federal Section 8 program, which provides subsidies to allow three million low income families to stay in their homes. Although the groups have won support from the US Congress to add $1.6 billion to the Administration’s budget request to fully fund Section 8 next year, tenants are protesting the Administration’s continued assault on the program. Despite Congressional support for the program, the Administration has needlessly confronted 60,000 families with forced evictions this year, punished local housing authorities who did a good job housing tenants, slashed subsidy payments to landlords in many cities, and recently launched unannounced raids to arrest tenants for alleged underpayment of rent. As part of International Housing Rights Days of Action sponsored by HIC and International Tenants Day sponsored by the International Union of Tenants, NCH and NAHT have organized the following protests: Washington, DC. On September 8, more than 250 homeless people, tenants and disability rights activists demonstrated at the headquarters building of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which administers the Section 8 program. Participants demanded reversal of HUD’s strategy of undermining the Section 8 program and criticized HUD’s Secretary, Alphonso Jackson, for his assault on Section 8 and his stated philosophy that “poverty is not a condition, it’s a state of mind.” The protest was sponsored by the National Coalition for the Homeless and received extensive local television coverage in the Washington, DC area. NCH also coordinated Capitol Hill visits with a national call-in day with local groups calling federal legislators urging full funding of Section 8. Los Angeles, California. More than 200 tenants, homeless people and housing advocates rallied at the HUD regional office in Los Angeles, California, on September 8. The group delivered an “eviction notice” to HUD and demanded reversal of HUD’s Section 8 budget cuts. Local sponsors included the Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness, the Coalition for Economic Survival (NAHT’s Los Angeles affiliate) and many others. The rally received coverage by local TV stations and the Los Angeles Times. Dallas, Texas. On Tuesday, September 21, Dallas tenants held a “Speak Out for Housing” rally at the Dallas HUD office demanding that HUD restore full funding for Section 8 and order the Dallas Housing Authority to reverse pending evictions for 900 families, who were sent eviction letters for alleged past criminal activity prior to their tenancy, some 20 years earlier. Tenants pointed out that by this standard, President Bush should be evicted from the publically-owned White House for his prior misdemeanor convictions. The Speak Out was organized by the Texas Tenants Union, NAHT’s affiliate in Texas, and endorsed by eleven Dallas housing advocacy groups. The rally was covered by five Dallas area TV stations, a Dallas Morning News photographer, local newspapers and radio stations. The Dallas Housing Authority has since backed off most of these evictions. Boston, Massachusetts. The Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants, NAHT and other local tenant groups are organizing a rally on Saturday, October 9 to demand that the Boston Republican Campaign office send a letter to Bush demanding reversal of HUD’s draconian Section 8 budget cuts. Seattle, Washington. The Tenants Union in Seattle is organizing a protest rally the week of October 11 to demand that HUD stop the budget cuts as part of International Housing Rights Day. The event will also honor the memory of former NAHT Board member Vern Zuehlsdorff from Seattle, who spearheaded NAHT’s international housing rights work before his untimely death in August. The Tenants Union previously organized a 500 person rally at the Seattle HUD office in August protesting the Bush budget cuts. New York City. New York NAHT affiliates New York Tenants and Neighbors, the Mitchell-Lama Residents Coalition, the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, Neighbors Helping Neighbors (Brooklyn) and Good Ole Lower East Side (GOLES) are planning a major rally in mid-October to urge local passage of legislation to save at-risk subsidized housing and to protest the Bush Section 8 budget cuts. The Mitchell-Lama Residents Coalition is also organizing a rally in Harlem to add to the protest. Portland, Oregon. The Community Alliance of Tenants in Portland, NAHT’s Oregon affiliate, joined a national call-in day sponsored by the National Coalition for the Homeless on Wednesday, September 8 to urge Congress to reject the Bush budget cuts and fully fund Section 8 housing.