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Comment today on proposed rule to evict mixed status families

Posted on 09. Jul, 2019 by in Blog

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently published a proposal that would prohibit financial assistance to persons other than United States citizens or certain categories of eligible noncitizens in HUD’s public and specified assisted housing programs. The proposed rule changes are intended to prohibit families in which at least one member is undocumented from obtaining subsidized housing. If accepted, this would mean that mixed status families would no longer be allowed in public housing, likely displacing at least 55,000 children and thousands more adults from their homes – most of whom are citizens or legally permitted to live in the US. The rule would also prevent undocumented immigrants from serving as lease holders. 

Current rules bar undocumented immigrants from receiving federal housing subsidies but allow mixed immigration status families to live in subsidized housing as long as one household member is a legal resident of the United States. According to the HUD analysis, more than 108,000 people receiving benefits are living in a household with at least one undocumented immigrant. Although members of a family who are in the US legally would be allowed to stay in their homes, it is unlikely that many would do so in an effort to avoid family separation, such as the displacement of one or both of a child’s parents or guardians.

Since subsidies are distributed based on the number of eligible members of the family, replacing households of mixed status with households with only eligible residents would cost HUD at least $193 million. It is likely that HUD would redirect resources to cover these costs, rather than congress allocating additional funds to make up for the shortfall. Doing so could affect the number of households on the waiting list to receive housing who actually get it. Cutting into the budget for maintenance of units could also further reduce the quality and safety of public housing stock. If the rule goes into effect, undocumented immigrants living in public housing would not be immediately required to vacate, a HUD official said. Those affected would be given up to 18 months, through three six-month waivers, to relocate.

Public comments on the rule are due by July 9th, 2019. For more information on how to submit comments and resources about this proposed rule, please visit the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the National Housing Law Project’s Keep Families Together campaign at https://www.keep-families-together.org/.

GNOFHAC Issues Letter Exposing Unlawful Racial Animus in Opposition to Mixed-Income Development in the Bywater

Posted on 20. May, 2019 by in Blog

Last week, GNOFHAC’s Executive Director Cashauna Hill submitted a letter to the New Orleans City Council and Mayor documenting coded racism and double standards present in the opposition to a proposed mixed-income development in the Bywater neighborhood at 4100 Royal St. Without a vote from the Council in support of a zoning change on Thursday, May 23rd, the development and the 82 affordable apartments it will bring to the gentrified neighborhood will die.

The letter suggests that failure to approve the proposed development could have the effect of further entrenching segregation in an increasingly white and exclusive neighborhood, and would possibly violate the Fair Housing Act.

The letter points out that opponents of the development, including Neighbors First for Bywater (NFB), have left a detailed record showing that at least some of the opposition to the proposed plans for the site are driven by unlawful racial animus and is driven by race-based stereotyping. At public meetings and in written comments, many opponents have suggested the development will bring drug dealing, “prostitution,” “become a ghetto,” and “destroy [the neighborhood],” while arguing to leave the site a vacant lot or turn it into a dog park.

The Architectural Review Committee (ARC) of the HDLC similarly suggested the density of the development would “foster neighborhood problems,” and “radiate dysfunction and blight.”

Despite the opposition ostensibly focusing on the density and height of the development, the letter also notes that NFB and the ARC publicly supported development of the Saxony, a luxury condominium development that is one story higher and more dense than the proposed development at the Royal Street site. The Saxony—only three blocks from the proposed mixed-income development—was built on half a city block, is five stories, and holds 75 units; while the Royal St. development contemplates four stories and 136 units spread out over an entire city block.

“The opposition to this project is clearly utilizing a double standard—supporting half million dollar condos that will disproportionately serve wealthy white people—while opposing less dense affordable housing that will create space for some of the African Americans who have been pushed out of this neighborhood to return,” said Cashauna Hill, executive director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center. You can read the full letter here.

Moms deserve fairness, not housing discrimination

Posted on 10. May, 2019 by in Blog

Mother’s Day is around the corner. Do you know your housing rights? Under the Fair Housing Act, it’s illegal for a landlord to discriminate against families with children. This type of discrimination has been illegal since 1988, but unfortunately, it still happens every day. According to the National Fair Housing Alliance’s most recent report, there were 2,675 fair housing complaints filed in 2017 by families who believed they’d been treated unfairly because they had children (https://nationalfairhousing.org/2018-fair-housing-trends-report/).

It’s likely that discrimination against families with children happens much more often than that, because often discrimination is subtle and families might not realize they are being treated unfairly. Families also might not know that what happened to them was against the law, or that there are places to go for free help, like GNOFHAC.

There are lots of ways that discrimination against parents with children might look. A landlord might say flat-out that they don’t rent to people with children, or that they specifically won’t rent to pregnant applicants, parents with babies, or parents with teenagers. More often, a landlord won’t come out and say that they don’t rent to families with children, but they will discourage you from applying or give you the run-around once they find out that you have children. A landlord might also say that a property isn’t suited to families with kids – that there’s no yard, for example, or that stairs or a balcony aren’t safe – but deciding whether a property is a good fit for the family is a parent’s decision, not a housing provider’s. Landlords might also say that you have too many children for a particular apartment. While it’s reasonable for a landlord to have occupancy standards for health or safety reasons, sometimes those rules are too restrictive in a way that hurts families, and that can also be against the law. Once you’ve moved into the property, housing discrimination can still happen. For example, a landlord may ask for a higher security deposit because you have children, or have special rules that only apply to kids. Each of these things can violate the law as well.

If you think you’ve experienced housing discrimination, either because you have children or because of the number of children you have, or because of another factor such as your race, color, religion, national original, sex or gender, sexual orientation or disability, call the GNO Fair Housing Action Center at (877) 445-2100 or file a complaint online at http://www.gnofairhousing.org/file-a-complaint/. Help is free and confidential.

GNOFHAC ends Fair Housing Month with a very special story time!

Posted on 03. May, 2019 by in Blog

On April 30th, Mayor LaToya Cantrell read GNOFHAC’s original children’s book, The Fair Housing Five and the Haunted House, to children and families at the East New Orleans Regional Library. The reading was the last of a series of community events GNOFHAC hosted during April to celebrate Fair Housing Month, and it was a lot of fun!

We were so excited to have the support of the Mayor’s office. Vincenzo Pasquantonio, Director of the Office of Human Rights and Equity explained that, “Both the anniversary of the Fair Housing Act and the City’s recent tricentennial call on us to reflect on past injustices and commit to future policies that foster equity and opportunity for all New Orleanians.” Kids and parents at the event chatted with the Mayor about how to do just that.

The Fair Housing Five is an illustrated children’s book about kids who take action in their neighborhood in response to a landlord who is discriminating. It was written by GNOFHAC in collaboration with educators, parents and students and is designed to initiate conversations between parents, caregivers, teachers and children about housing discrimination, systemic inequality, and the important role that we all have in ending both. In addition to the book, GNOFHAC offers several interaction youth workshops for students of all ages. For more information about how to bring The Fair Housing Five to your school or organization, please visit www.fairhousingfive.org.

Single mom of five priced out of New Orleans

Posted on 20. Dec, 2018 by in Blog

New Orleans is a city of neighborhoods, so when Danira Ford talks about “home,” she means the Gentilly neighborhood. Ford has spent most of her life in Gentilly: growing up on Pressburg Street in a family home, attending F.W. Gregory Junior High School and graduating from John F. Kennedy Senior High School.  

“I’m from Gentilly just like my mom,” Ford says. “I’ve lived here almost my entire life, but now I’m being priced out, and I can’t afford to live here anymore.”

Ford isn’t alone. More than half of all renters in New Orleans are considered cost burdened, spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, and a high percentage of those are severely cost burdened, spending 50 percent or more of their incomes on housing.

A single mother with five children, Ford recently returned to the Pressburg home, but it’s under very unfavorable conditions. Unable to find an affordable apartment anywhere in New Orleans, much less Gentilly, she and her kids sleep in a single bedroom.

Last year, the family was forced to live in the Salvation Army Shelter until Ford managed to secure temporary rental assistance for a three-bedroom home in New Orleans East. But when the assistance ran out, she had no choice but to go back to the Pressburg house.

Ford recalls a time when Gentilly, like most New Orleans neighborhoods, was affordable, but that was long ago. She saw housing prices rising during the Hurricane Katrina recovery, and now it’s simply untenable for many working class families.

“Either you work like 80 hours a week, or you could end up under the bridge,” Ford says.

While New Orleans’ affordable housing crisis has existed for many years, 2019 could be the year that the City Council does something about it. The proposed Smart Housing Mix ordinance would mandate a percentage of all new or significantly rehabbed housing developments (10 or more units) include a percentage of affordable units. 

Ford hopes that the City Council will pass the measure. If they fail to do that, however, it’s reached a point where she thinks that the only way for her and her children to succeed is by moving out of New Orleans. What’s frustrating about leaving is that her older kids are getting a quality education from Morris Jeff Community School, and then there are the intangibles.

“When it comes to moving, I’m afraid of the unknown—what can happen to us without family and no roots?” Ford asks. 

We need to take action now to stop our neighbors like Ms. Ford and her children from being priced out. Please call your City Councilmember and both At-Large Councilmembers today to tell them to vote YES on the Smart Housing Mix. Find Councilmembers’ phone numbers here: https://council.nola.gov/councilmembers/.

 

An attack on New Orleans affordability

Posted on 21. Mar, 2018 by in Actions, Blog

Our food, music, and architecture make New Orleans unlike any other place on earth and we would defend it against anyone. Now, state legislators and lobbying groups from outside of New Orleans are trying to squash efforts to keep the city affordable for the musicians, culture bearers, and hospitality workers who make New Orleans special. Please take a moment and ask Mayor Landrieu and Mayor-elect Cantrell to stand strong for a city where we can all afford to stay.

Last November, voters in New Orleans were very clear that they wanted elected officials who would keep New Orleans affordable for New Orleanians. One of the key tools the Mayor and City Council have available is the Smart Housing Mix policy, which would ensure a percentage of new units are affordable for the average worker.

For the second year in a row, the real estate developer lobby and Jefferson Parish legislators are trying to ban policies like the Smart Housing Mix. Their bill, SB 462, would strip important zoning power from local governments, sabotaging attempts to keep New Orleans affordable.

Our Mayor and Mayor-elect have both advocated for more housing that is affordable and we need them to stand up against these attempts to control New Orleans. Join us in asking them to defend New Orleanians’ ability to stay and thrive in our great city.

Still no guarantee of safe, healthy homes for Louisiana’s renters

Posted on 15. Mar, 2018 by in Blog, Participate (for sidebar), Policy Updates

Yesterday, GNOFHAC learned of a Gretna mother whose ceiling collapsed on her young son. He suffered an injury to his arm and now she’s worried about his safety as well as that of her two other children. The apartment not only has issues with the ceiling, but there are significant leaks and mold as well.  You can see more about this story here

Your home is where you’re supposed to feel safe. It’s where you can relax after a long day, where your children play and do their homework, and where you make memories with your family.

Local and state politicians have failed to protect families who rent from leaks, mold, rats, and even collapsed ceilings. Louisiana is a free-for-all for landlords with few rules and no enforcement. GNOFHAC receives calls every week from renters looking for help. Often, families who rent put themselves at risk for eviction when they ask for a repair.

Families who rent deserve safe and healthy homes, and our city leaders need to do more to ensure that before a landlord rents a property, they should have to show that it’s the kind of place they’d be willing to live.

Until then, document all of your conversations with your landlord or property manager – ideally using email or text rather than phone calls – and call GNOFHAC at (504) 596-2100 or our partner Southeast Louisiana Legal Services at (504) 529-1000 to learn more about your rights.

Attention Housing Providers: Have You Been a Victim of Insurance Discrimination?

Posted on 06. Jul, 2017 by in Blog

The Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP), also known as “Section 8”, helps low-income residents across the United States pay for rental housing. Many families and individuals rely on this federal program to subsidize rent in the private housing market (learn more).

Unfortunately, there have been reports of discrimination by insurance companies against housing providers who rent to tenants using the HCVP, or who rent to a high proportion of such tenants.  How do you know if you’ve been a victim of this type of insurance discrimination?  Your insurance company or agent may have asked if you rent to tenants who use vouchers, or what proportion of your tenants use vouchers.  They may have raised your rates, canceled your policy, refused to renew, or even refused to write you a policy in the first place. Read More…

Finance Authority of New Orleans Announces Down Payment Assistance Program

Posted on 03. Jul, 2017 by in Blog

Have you been thinking about buying a home in New Orleans?  The Finance Authority of New Orleans has just announced a new down payment assistance program.  Qualifying buyers can chose between an interest-free down payment loan of up to 10% of the purchase price, or a grant of up to 5% of the purchase price.  Read more here, then sign up for a Homebuyer Education Class.  You’ll learn all about the home buying process, including your fair housing rights.

Fair Housing & LGBTQIA+ Communities: Know Your Rights!

Posted on 30. Jun, 2017 by in Blog

Many people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, or asexual (LGBTQIA+) don’t realize that they have the legal right to fair housing access. It’s true that the federal Fair Housing Act only explicitly outlaws discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, and familial status and does not directly include sexual orientation or gender identity. However, in many cases, there are still protections for queer and trans people in place. Let’s look at some examples: Read More…