Addrana Montgomery works with tenant bodies and community-based organizations in the advocacy to preserve the affordability of project-based section 8 housing in New York City. By helping to build and strengthen tenant and other grassroots groups’ organizational capacity through tenant rights empowerment and education, her work endeavors to promote the sustainability of decent and affordable communities in New York City.
Project-based Section 8 buildings remain to be one of the last stocks of affordable housing in New York City. With many of these buildings’ HUD contracts due to expire in the next few years, it is imperative that tenant groups and community stakeholders mobilize to preserve the affordability of these neighborhoods by developing strategies to encourage landlords from opting out of the program. Through this fellowship, community attorneys provide the support for tenant organizations and activists to empower themselves in their fight for decent and affordable housing in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods throughout New York City.
As a native New Yorker raised in a single parent household, Addrana would accompany her mother to Brooklyn housing court where she would, at the mercy of a landlord’s attorney, plea for more time to pay her rent. The court captured the city’s racial and class inequities as Addrana witnessed African-American and Latino tenants, most of them hard-working New Yorkers, who could not afford legal help have to acquiesce to the pressure of landlord attorneys’ demands for rent payment. This early exposure to Brooklyn’s housing court left an indelible impression on Addrana—one that would ultimately shape the course of her career as a human and civil rights activist in the United States and abroad. In the ensuing years, she would champion social justice movements, from local to global, including in South Africa, where she served as one of the youngest overseas election monitors for that country’s first democratic election. During her clerkship at the Constitutional Court of South Africa, she worked on critical housing and land use cases in a country that recognizes housing as a human right. This work continues to inform her advocacy for affordable and decent housing, especially for those New Yorkers living in project-based section 8 buildings.
As an Americorps VISTA Equal Justice Works fellow, Addrana is achieving her dream of becoming a community lawyer focused on housing access and tenant rights. Her work on the preservation of project-based Section 8 buildings in New York city presents her with rewarding professional and personal challenges and growth as she gains a richer understanding of the varied and diverse communities in which she serves. For the next 6 months she looks forward to working further with tenant groups and community activists in building tenant capacity and power, both in their buildings as well as the surrounding neighborhoods. Through creative problem solving with our partner organizers, printed material, tenant and neighborhood workshops, and strategic media coverage, she hopes that she and her team can further engage all community stakeholders in the value and benefit in preserving these buildings and affordable communities in New York.
Rina will work to preserve Project Based Section 8 properties in New York City through collaboration with tenant advocacy organizations, training of tenant organizers and leaders, and advocating for tenants associations.
Project Based Section 8 properties throughout New York City are privately owned and managed, and are at risk of conversion to market rate rent due to maturity or prepayment of Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secured mortgage or insurance. Upon expiration of the contract between owners and HUD, tenants who live in these properties with rent subsidy are vulnerable because the owners do not have obligation to renew the contract. As a result, tenants could be displaced, and New York City could lose its stock of affordable housing. This project will enforce the rights of tenants and empower them to save their homes and community.
During Rina’s Fellowship, Rina:
- Developed education materials and conduct a series of training workshops for HUD tenant groups and tenant organizers
- Continued to develop and strengthen relationships with stakeholders, government agencies and elected officials in order to assist tenants
- Advocated for preservation of Project Based Section 8 properties