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April 14, 2010

Tenant Groups Demand that the LA City Council Adopt Human Right to Housing Policy


Tenants fill theater demanding a right to housing as Council Member Wesson presides.
Hundreds of tenants streamed in, filling the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center to overflow capacity, as a special meeting of the LA City Council Housing, Community and Economic Development Committee (HCED) was held to discuss the Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing.

The over 400 tenants turning out on the evening of April 14 for this hearing were members of the organizations that make up the Los Angeles Housing as a Human Right Collective, which in addition to CES, includes LA CAN, Union de Vecinos, POWER, Inquilinos Unidos, Coalition LA, and Comunidad Presente.

The hearing was agreed to by LA Council Member Herb Wesson, Chair of the HCED Committee, after hundreds of tenants from these groups turned up at a LA City Council meeting to demand a hearing to respond to a recently released United Nations report which documented human rights violations that exist in L.A. and throughout the U.S. due to the affordable housing crisis.

CES Tenant Leaders Sandra Lozano & Ilda Jimenez their children from Coronado Apartments in the Westlake area attend the hearing to help ensure action against slumlords and protection from the health dangers of substandard housing that could impact their children are addressed.
Last November, the UN dispatched Raquel Rolnik, a Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, on a multi-US city fact-finding mission.
She visited Los Angeles and toured 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.

Ms Rolnik presented her report on March 5, 2010 to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. The report documented the lack of affordable housing and the impact of foreclosures, homelessness, and discrimination in the United States. It also provided recommendations to address these human rights violations.

The HCED hearing began with a presentation of the policy recommendations of Los Angeles People’s Declaration on the Human Right to Housing, developed by the tenant groups, which include:

1. Oppose the plans for the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles to dispose of three large public housing projects in 2010
2. Amend the City’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance to remove the annual minimum rent increase and prohibit the extra increase for utilities that unjustly burdens the poorest Angelinos
3. Enact a policy in Los Angeles that utilizes neighborhood-specific area median incomes that is caped at the city-wide AMI when developing affordable housing and rent levels
4. Immediate cessation of all local “Safer Cities Initiatives,” especially the longest-standing and most resource intensive program in downtown Los Angeles
5. Divest from banks that illegally displace tenants
6. Prosecute landlords who expose tenants to unhealthy, unsafe conditions that impact their physical and mental health
7. Implement participatory planning policies that go beyond focus groups that entail transparency and real decision-making authority for community residents
8. Enact anti-speculation regulations that limit the use of housing as a commodity such as predatory buying or flipping as well as landlords who divest and dump affordable buildings for profit

CES Tenant Leader Brandon De Hart from Park Norton Apartment in the Arlington Heights area testifies.

Tenants representing the various organizations provided powerful and poignant testimony to Council Member Wesson, describing their struggling experiences of survival in Los Angeles and why it is essential for the city to support the recommendations. Stories included tenants receiving massive rent increases, tenants losing jobs and having to move from their home, constant harassment and eviction attempts from landlords, criminalization against the homeless, and the benefits of public housing.

Throughout the night a “Housing is a Human Right!” chant was echoed throughout the hall.

Council Member Wesson ended the hearing by agreeing to consider the information and provide a response in two weeks.

CES HUD Tenant Leader James (Doc) Bethard from Van Nuys Apartment in Downtown LA testifies. CES Tenant Leader David Chavarria from Oakwood Apartments in East Hollywood rallies at LA City Hall to demand hearing on the Right to Housing.

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