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This Housing Crisis Is Like Rape Culture.

July 26, 2012

Why did she

get so drunk? 

take that loan?

What was she

wearing? 

paying on her mortgage?

Why didn’t she

leave? scream? stop being a whore?

find another job? live within her means?

What did she expect would happen

when he found out she was a man?

when she couldn’t afford her payments anymore?





It’s a shame.  Some people are just irresponsible.

 



Or, just ignore.

Ignore the raping of Native women, the breeding and hoarding of slaves, the sale of young girls, assaults in prisons, assaults by la migra, assaults by soldiers on ‘enemies’ and fellows.

Ignore the hundreds of thousands of families being cheated, lied to, robbed, and pushed around by capital.

 


This Housing Crisis Is Another Katrina.

Displacement. Disaster capitalism. Clearing out the poor and the Black to make room for new money. Grabbing up land. Leaving habitable places chained and empty while people seek shelter. No right to return, no right to remain, and if you’re not fluent in English, you’re even more shit-outta-luck.

 


you see, intact neighborhoods mean something to me; mean more to me the more i reflect on my own family. i never grew up really knowing our neighbors, but my dad, now over 70 years old, is still best friends with the Jenkins brothers, from way back in the 1940s, in their stickball days. Over on Victory Drive, the Lonckes helped raise the Jenkins kids and the Jenkins helped raise the Lonckes. i’ve called them uncles all my life. and when i’m 70 i won’t have friends like that, connected to a street from childhood. but someone should.

i met some neighbors on my block this evening: just four streets north of the birthplace of the Black Panther Party.

a few have been in their houses upwards of forty years. Thelma. Verita. Denise’s mother, who has dementia. they’re the lucky ones. for every one who has stayed, many more have been pushed out. maybe a while ago, maybe recently.

this needs to end. people deserve sovereignty over our bodies, and over our homes. somehow we need to decommodify houses, and bodies, and land.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 27, 2012 8:37 am

    “somehow we need to decommodify houses, and bodies, and land.” Yes. Exactly! I have been struggling a bit with how our local Occupy Homes group is approaching the foreclosure issue. They’ve done some great work, as you’ve seen on my FB page. It’s been wonderful to seem people in different communities coming together, supporting their neighbors, people that many didn’t even know before all this started. I’m down with all that. And yet, the conversations and focus still feel “reformy” to me. “We just want to be able to make our payments. We just want the banks to work with us.” Part of me thinks this is where people are at – just give it time. Another part of me thinks this will never end until the whole works is questioned, and people stop thinking of their homes as isolated, privately owned units “controlled” by the banks. It’s hard to imagine many intact for the long term neighborhoods when so much money is involved, and it’s so easy for anyone to have a few setbacks and begin defaulting on the inflated loan payments the banks won’t even adjust based on the current value of the home. something has to shift in all of this …

  2. July 27, 2012 10:01 am

    Yes, I hear you on the uneasiness with reformism, which also can have a flavor of, like, “if I’m restored, then I’m good,” or, “it’s the nonprofit’s / organization’s job to help people, so that’s what they’ll keep doing once my situation gets rectified.” Becomes more of a service model, even if the tactics are more militant or extralegal.

    Have y’all been having any conversations about big-picture alternatives, or any political popular education? Our coalition is still kind of in its infancy (though it semi-includes groups that have been fighting foreclosures and evictions for years and sometimes winning), but we, and especially east bay solidarity network, really want to build in pop ed from the beginning, if possible. i think that would mean (1) some dialogues and teach-ins about the origins of the crisis and recession, and how it all came about because people sold sub-prime mortgages that they expected folks to default on (often straight-up deceiving them into signing paperwork), and then used those bundled loans to gamble and try to make money. and (2) envisioning alternatives where housing is collectively controlled and owned by the people, not bought and sold for major profit on the market!

    One of the possible alternatives I learned while volunteering with a neighborhood group in Roxbury, Boston (a group called DSNI) is the community land trust. Do you have some of those out where you are?

    James Tracy, an author and radical activist out here in the Bay, wrote an article about displacement and housing struggles in SF where he talks about land trusts as one piece of envisioning an alternative to commodified housing. Maybe you could use it as a discussion piece within your group?

    One should have no illusions that the housing crisis will go away without a radical restructuring of an economy that encourages property speculation and a cultural shift away from the idea of housing as a commodity. Before that day, reforms that combine practical survival with an alternate, community-based vision of urban life, are worth working toward.

    Tired of only acting defensively, many housing activists are working toward a community land trust to provide housing without landlords, therefore without the threat of evictions for profit. Under this model, community members own an interest in the building they live in, but the nonprofit land trust retains stewardship of the land. When a unit is vacated, the resident receives a return, but equity is limited in order to preserve permanent affordability. While residents maintain democratic control, safeguards exist to prevent breaking equity caps and speculation.

    Recently in New York, the city turned over dozens of buildings to squatters who had lived in them for years, using a model very similar to the land trust. Advocates see an opportunity to concretize “no displacement” demands made through the organizing process as a way of moving beyond landlording—an outdated holdover from feudalism. Similar approaches could stabilize homesteaded, or squatted, buildings. It should be no surprise that residents of two demolished public housing developments had proposed cooperative ownership of their reconstructed homes.

    Such a program should not give governments cover to slash spending on housing and human services, asking residents to manage their own austerity. In an ideal situation, as displacement ended, preserved communities could turn their attention toward building innovative institutions of resistance, and of course, spend a little more time on things that high housing costs steal from us all: creative pursuits and time with each other. By experimenting with forms of cooperative social relationships we can provide a real challenge to the notion that private profits are sacred and that the marketplace is the only way to distribute housing and other vital goods. To paraphrase the turn-of-the-century radical union the Industrial Workers of the World, “building a new world inside the shell of the old.” We can at least get a glimpse.

    A city worth living in cannot be won solely at the ballot box or City Hall. It requires a constant push from below, on community, not corporate terms. As San Franciscans confront the next wave of displacement, most likely fueled by demolitions to skirt the rent ordinance or the looming biotech boom, we would do well to remember that entering into a fight for survival without direct action is the same as tying one’s arm behind one’s back.

    Given some amount of involvement by members of AIM, I wonder how discussions about land trusts and ‘take back the land’ struggles would intersect specifically with indigenous sovereignty struggles.

    Anyway, I know you are doing a good job of meeting people where they’re at, and hopefully at the same time can be honest in your opinions that more radical change is needed to keep us, or future generations, from fighting the same old battles over and over and over again.

    much love! thanks for sharing your work, nathan, it’s super inspiring.

  3. July 27, 2012 3:07 pm

    In terms of pop ed, I think our folks have been doing a decent job on #1. People seem more informed and able to talk about the origins of the crisis, and the predatory nature of it all. One beautiful thing I have witnessed is how homeowners themselves are often educating the rest of us and the media people willing to listen. Some of them have done incredible research, originally to try and save their homes, but now that is benefiting others like them. Still, I wonder a lot about the degrading into a non-profit, service model issue you mention. And/or the idea that a lot of the home owners will simply disappear back into their homes once their cases are settled, and they feel they can “move on.”

    Which leads me to your #2 – this is a major missing element. At least some of the members of Occupy that help lead our Homes group are, in my view, all about reform and not really interested in moving beyond that. Others are more radical, and I do believe some of the homeowners could become more radicalized if conditions are right. Given my focus on the Whealthy Human Village project, I am on the edge of the Homes group, not much of an influence right now. Now that Troy is involved with Anita Reyes’ house, though, perhaps members of the Village team – as well as AIM – will become more involved and bring a different spin to it all. It will be interesting to see what unfolds.

    “Given some amount of involvement by members of AIM, I wonder how discussions about land trusts and ‘take back the land’ struggles would intersect specifically with indigenous sovereignty struggles.”

    We have a few land trust organizations that I can think of offhand, but I don’t know if any are really active in the cities – with collectively owned housing/buildings and urban land as a focus. I’d need to do some more research on that point.

    Overall, the relationship between Occupy and the local Native community has been uneasy at best. Understandably, many in the Native community wonder what to make of Occupy, question the name and intentions, and have stayed a good distance away. But the Village work, as well as now the work on Anita Reyes’ house seem to be having some positive impact. More education about the real history of Minnesota needs to happen amongst Non-Native folks, as well as a greater understanding of treaties, land rights, and the commons. AIM itself is undergoing a major transition. There are some ugly skeletons amongst the old leadership being exposed right now, and new groups are being formed to move in different directions.

    Are there active land trusts in the Bay area that your groups can connect with? Or has there been any community-based ownership models developed out there with actual success, even if on a small scale (like a handful of buildings/houses)?

    What kinds of obstacles are you facing out there in terms of coalition building?

    I learned about the efforts of this group over the winter. http://commonfire.org/community/index.html

    I like what they are doing, but they also fall into that non-profit category. And the group here in Minnesota, anyway, doesn’t seem big enough to do larger scale education events. I honestly don’t think too many people have even heard of them, and while I love the green building focus, it’s also way cost prohibitive and probably not necessarily the only way to go. I keep thinking, how can the public get control over some of these vacant buildings and homes and help get more folks basic needs met? What’s more environmentally sound, a smaller number of really quality green buildings, or a larger number of collectively owned and/or shared spaces with active, plentiful gardens full of sharable produce? Or even just more shared spaces in general filled with sharable produce, like the food forest they’re building in Seattle? It’s not either/or really, just something I’ve been thinking about lately.

  4. July 28, 2012 11:49 am

    Sent out the article from James Tracy to some of the Occupy Homes folks. Have gotten a few positive responses so far. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. July 31, 2012 8:00 pm

    cool, nathan! hope it can be helpful.

    I keep thinking, how can the public get control over some of these vacant buildings and homes and help get more folks basic needs met?

    yeah, it does seem like some of these vacant houses could be a huge opportunity for reclaiming material resources and co-constructing more collective living arrangements while avoiding the whole off-to-the-woods-to-build-our-sweet-commune thing that neither you nor i get down with. my group was internet-talking with a group from atlanta called Take Back The Block last night, and they made a really interesting point about having reservations about focusing on fighting foreclosures because it reifies a belief in private property rights and atomized homeownership; so now, instead, they’re doing more to focus on re-occupying empty houses. this makes sense to me in a certain way politically, though i also think hope the approaches can be integrated, to keep folks from losing their homes while at the same time building neighborhood-based movements that welcome people seeking shelter and envision long-term community ownership of the land.

    it’s all very complex! happy to be hearing the news from your spot.

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