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November 6, 2009

Coalition for Economic Survival (CES)


CES In Action!

United Nations Investigates Affordable Housing Crisis in Los Angeles and Across the United States


The severe impact of the US housing crisis on low- and moderate-income people has become so great that even the United Nations decided the situation has warranted an investigation. As a result, the UN dispatched a Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, Raquel Rolnik, on a multi-US city fact-finding mission. The cities visited included New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Washington DC, Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota and Wilkes-Barre, Pa. On November 3 and 4, Ms. Rolnik was greeted by a broad alliance of housing/tenant activist groups, including CES, in Los Angeles.


The UN's Special Rapporteur on housing "is an independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report" on the case of adequate housing throughout the world.

Ms Rolnik began her LA tour with a briefing on the area's affordable housing crisis. This was followed by a tour of slum housing, skid row, non-profit affordable housing, a community health care facility, public, HUD subsidized and Section 8 housing, and communities fighting displacement and gentrification.

Town Hall Meeting on Affordable Housing Crisis

In the evening, 200-300 people attended a Town Hall meeting where presentations were made by several participating organizations at The California Endowment in downtown LA. Here skits, slideshow presentations and personal testimonies gave perspective not only to the effects of Los Angeles' housing crisis, but also the organizing strategies being used to fight it.


CES tenant leaders from Morton Gardens Apartments in Echo Park, in celebration of their recent US Court of Appeals victory protecting them from evictions and providing Section 8 tenant protections nationwide (see CES web site article), presented a skit reenacting their visit to their landlords' UCLA classroom to present this noted real estate professor an award of "Greediest Landlord in LA."

Ms. Rolnik acknowledged the work of various community organizations, saying, "I have seen a lot of struggle, a lot of solidarity, and a lot of mobilizing, and I am thinking that this is the way, this is the hope." Earlier in New York, she stated, "Housing is a human right. It is a constant fight, a constant struggle for people to get government to ensure their right to housing."

UN Comes to CES Organized HUD Subsidized Building

The following day Ms. Rolnik's examination of the housing crisis in LA continued with a stop at La Villa Hermosa Apartments, a HUD subsidized housing complex in South LA. La Villa Hermosa CES tenant leaders have organized to preserve their homes. CES tenants spoke about the difficulty in obtaining needed repairs, the constant harassment from management in an effort to make them move, and how they have been fighting to stop the owners' attempt to remove the complex from the federal rent subsidy program. As if on cue, as tenants were presenting their stories on the sidewalk in front of the building, the building's resident manager appeared and began taking pictures of the tenants. Ms Rolnik immediately approached the manager to identify herself and explain that she had requested the tenants to gather.



The visit ended with Ms. Rolnik being presented a CES T-shirt and button indicating that she was now an honorary CES member.  Ms. Rolnik responded that she was "very proud to be an honorary CES member."

Ms. Rolnik will provide a report on her visit by the end of November, to the US government and the UN Human Rights Council. A final report to the UN General Assembly is planned for March 2010.

The Team Responsible for the Tour's Success

In addition to CES, the other groups who worked hard in organizing the events in LA included LA Community Action Network (LACAN), Legal Aid Foundation of LA, LA Coalition to End Hunger & Homelessness, POWER, Union de Vecinos, Coalition LA, Comunidad Presente, Lamp Community, Neighborhood Legal Services of LA County, Korean Immigrant Worker Alliance, Beyond Shelter, Esperanza Community Housing, St. John's Well Child Center, Skid Row Housing Trust, LA Neighborhood Housing Services Housing Long Beach, Black Mesa Indigenous Support and Eviction Defense Network.

Special thanks go out to CES Tenant Organizer Joel Montano for his hard work in organizing CES' participation and contribution to this event, and to Becky Dennison of LACAN whose tireless work as overall coordinator of the LA tour was a key to its success.

The national tour was coordinated by the New York-based National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI), a nonprofit organization that promotes a cultural and political commitment to a human rights vision that ensures dignity and access to basic resources in the US.

Click here for more pictures from the Town Hall Meeting and CES' organized site visit at La Villa Hermosa Apartments.


Coalition for Economic Survival (CES)
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Fax: 213-252-4422 


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