Dispatch #63 March 16th/April 10th 2020
I prepared this 63rd installment of Dispatches from the War on Women in mid-March just as the pandemic became a reality in America. That so many people will suffer so much in the richest country in the world reveals once again the stunning institutional inequities driven by white supremacy, misogyny, and unfettered capitalism. Movement leaders and public health activists are organizing to demand that this moment be wielded to tear down these structural intentional injustices and to call out these inequities as human rights violations.
Day 1221 Post-Ascendency of White Supremacy & Misogyny
Day 1149 Post-Installation of White-Supremacist-Misogynist-Pussy-Grabbing-Self-Aggrandizing-Demagogic-Bully-Illegitimate-PeeeOTUS & his White-Nationalist-Fascistic-Christian-Supremacist-Quislings
Public hand-wringing and pundit-opining often portray shocking levels of homelessness and lack of affordable housing as something that just happened, perhaps by accident or perhaps by lack of attention.
In reality, homelessness in America is the predictable result of intentional policies informed by institutionalized racism, misogyny, and classism along with economic strategies awarding unfettered capitalism absolute precedence over public good. The 500,000+ persons experiencing homelessness on any given night, 35% of whom are families, represent just the most visible consequence. To wit:
America lacks more than 7 million affordable homes for our 11 million plus extremely low-income families. Consequently, seventy-five percent of all extremely low-income families are severely cost-burdened, paying more than half their income on rent and living one unexpected expense away from eviction. The hourly wage needed for renters hoping to afford a two-bedroom rental home is $13.96 higher than the national minimum wage of $7.25. In no state or county can a renter working full-time at minimum wage afford a two-bedroom apartment. http://National Low-Income Housing Coalition https://nlihc.org/
Yes, the dynamics of evictions play an essential and pivotal role in our housing crises. Richmond Virginia, the state capital, has the second-highest eviction rate in America. Advocates say the eviction tradition in Richmond and other Southern cities dates back generations, and has affected black communities the most.
“There has been a housing crisis, an eviction crisis and a displacement crisis for several decades,” said Benjamin Teresa, co-director of the RVA Eviction Lab at Virginia Commonwealth University. He points to laws favoring landlords like “pay or quit,” which allows property owners to launch eviction proceedings five days after the payment grace period (other states provide up to 30 days). Minority communities in Richmond are subjected to predatory lending and discrimination, especially renters who use federal housing vouchers. Landlords can refuse to accept vouchers, and he said landlords who do accept them often steer tenants to housing in poor neighborhoods. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/homeless-in-richmond-va-capital-has-one-of-the-countrys-highest-eviction-rates/2020/02/13/a87a8848-4922-11ea-bdbf-1dfb23249293_story.html
In June 2019, On The Media (OTM) collaborated with Matt Desmond — Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City and founder of the Eviction Lab at Princeton University — to produce a 4-part podcast titled “The Scarlet E: Unmasking America’s Eviction Crisis.” http://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/otm/scarlet-e-unmasking-americas-eviction-crisis I urge you to dedicate just 3 hours to essential listening-learning about the deep structural roots of homelessness.
Eviction isn’t without its own historical context. In vulnerable communities of people of color, in particular, displacement and denial of housing are phenomena centuries in the making. Of the 10 U.S. cities identified by the Eviction Lab with the highest eviction rates five are in Virginia: Richmond, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Chesapeake. Episode 2 maps the persistent line between racist housing policies, localized profiteering, and the devastating plunder of generations of wealth. Episode 3 considers the practicalities and pitfalls of housing America’s poor families in the private rental market.
Policymakers and public officials continue to promote tax breaks for developers, zoning exemptions, and opportunity zones even though these strategies – premised on economic incentives for private business — have failed over and over and over.
Housing Justice National Platform demands that housing be recognized as human right instead of a commodity to be bought and sold for profit. Principled strategies spell out the way forward for this richest country with her shameful disregard for millions of people living with toxic uncertainty every day.
Create Affordable, Community-Controlled, Social Housing with guarantees that people can cover their housing costs, including utilities, and still meet their other basic needs.
Protect Renters and Mortgage Holders from Displacement and Eviction that are devastating events with ripple effects on health, education, employment and future access to housing
Provide Reparations for Centuries of Racist Housing and Land Policy, as well as Indigenous Land Theft; Strengthen and Enforce Fair Housing Law
De-commodify Housing and Regulate Wall Street with strong financial regulations that disincentivize securitization and profit-driven speculation in our housing. https://www.housingjusticeplatform.org/
Shocked and revolted by the ascension of white supremacy and misogyny, growing numbers in America are beginning to see the consequences of personal/private gain overriding the public/common good. Will we also understand how centuries of structural inequities have ensured our arrival at this moment of reckoning? We are polarized by our failures in this regard…can such woke-ness create/nurture collective reconciliation and restoration?