Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc.

The Project

Adam helped San Francisco residents preserve their affordable Section 8 housing that is at risk of converting to market rate through community outreach and education, and by providing technical assistance to tenants and tenant associations.

Lower income individuals and families are at risk of losing their homes and being forced out of San Francisco as affordability restrictions on many Project-Based Section 8 housing developments throughout the Bay Area begin to expire. This public investment in low-income housing is threatened by conversion to market rate units by real estate speculators and for-profit developers. Strong and active tenants and tenants associations with access to technical support can exercise their legal rights, preserve their homes, and strengthen their communities.

Fellowship Highlights

During Adam’s Fellowship, Adam:

  • Assisted tenants in holding tenant association elections and in creating or updating the association’s foundational documents
  • Developed informational material on HUD programs, tenants’ rights, and organizational best practices
  • Continued to provide tenants’ rights trainings on topics including preservation, habitability, and governance

The Project

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.

Fellowship Highlights

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.

The Project

Bradley works alongside residents of project-based Section 8 properties in Washington, D.C. to preserve these properties’ long-term affordability. He also helps tenants of HUD-subsidized properties organize and advocate to ensure that their homes are safe, sanitary, and healthy.

In the last 15 years the District of Columbia lost almost half of its affordable housing units. Currently, 25% of renters in the District are severely rent-burdened, meaning they spend over half of their income on rent and utilities. Low-income residents have it even worse—64% of the lowest-income residents are severely rent-burdened. As rents continue to rise while incomes remain stagnant, the District’s residents are finding it increasingly difficult to pay for housing while also paying for other necessities. Indeed, many D.C. residents can no longer pay for housing at all, which has led to a major homelessness crisis in the District. The federal government has not created any new project-based Section 8 housing in decades. Thus, it is vital to preserve D.C.’s remaining HUD-subsidized housing. It is also important for tenants of subsidized properties to know and understand their rights so that they can advocate for the safe, sanitary, and healthy homes that everyone deserves.

Fellowship Highlights

During Bradley’s Fellowship, Bradley:

  • Represented tenant organizations that are negotiating with management and ownership to ensure that their homes are safe, sanitary, and in good repair
  • Worked with tenants and owners on HUD-subsidized properties to ensure that these properties remain affordable for low-income residents
  • Organized tenants so that they can gain the knowledge and skills to advocate for themselves
  • Engaged in capacity-building at his host site so that Bread for the City can continue fighting to preserve affordable housing in Washington, D.C.

The Project

Through the VISTA Affordable Housing Preservation Project Damainique provided both legal and community strengthening services to low-income individuals and families living in Project-based Section 8 HUD subsidized housing in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties. The project focused on the preservation of affordable housing by educating clients about their legal rights, the creation of tenant associations, and advocacy by the fellow in landlord/tenant disputes.

Project-based Section 8 is one of the last available affordable housing options for low-income households in the United States. When these contracts expire, the owners can opt out of renewing their contract which permits owners to increase their rent to full market-rate. Through the project, tenants are educated about the contract expiration process so that they can work with the owner, HUD, and Legal Services towards building preservation, and their options post contract expiration

The Project

David Landau is providing legal support to tenant organizers and tenant associations to help them save and improve at-risk project-based Section 8 communities.

As Housing Assistance Payments are expiring, many owners of project-based developments are electing to opt-out of the program. Tenants of these developments need help with organizing to exercise their rights and options for preserving their homes. Additionally, other project-based Section 8 developments are at-risk due to serious conditions problems. Tenants in these developments need help to improve their communities.

 

The Project

Evan provided legal training and aid to tenant associations in Section 8 properties throughout metropolitan Detroit with the goal of preserving their homes and improving their communities.

With plans to redevelop Detroit fueling gentrification, there is anticipation of a significant threat to a large number of senior and family Section 8 buildings. With the increase in real estate prices, owners of buildings in gentrified areas have an incentive to opt out of resigning their contracts and sell to developers, who would then turn the properties into market rate apartments or condos, thus displacing the Section 8 residents. These residents would then be forced to move to another property in an already decreasing affordable housing market. This puts the low-income residents at risk of not finding housing and being pushed not only out of the gentrified areas but also possibly out of the city of Detroit altogether. This project will encourage the incorporation of tenant associations with the goal of providing a strong, knowledgeable community who are able to stand up and fight displacement from their homes.

Fellowship Highlights

During Evan’s Fellowship, Evan:

  • Identified Section 8 properties with expiring contracts
  • Assisted in the formation of tenant councils in those properties
  • Held training sessions with residents advising them of their rights

The Project

Emily Coffey engages in community lawyering in partnership with community organizers and tenant leaders to preserve, maintain, and improve federally assisted housing in Illinois. She works to build the capacity of tenant associations and community organizations by educating and engaging leaders on their rights, responsibilities, and options in preserving and improving their communities.

Every year, project-based Section 8 contracts expire and HUD mortgages mature or are prepaid, placing thousands of units of affordable housing at risk. Additional units may be lost as a result of poor conditions. The project provides legal support to tenants and community organizers to preserve and improve these homes and ensures that tenants have a seat at the table when decisions about the future of their homes and communities are made.

The Project

Emilee Gaebler worked with tenants residing in subsidized housing that is at risk of losing affordability. She assisted tenants in working to preserve their homes as affordable now and into the future.

Fellowships Highlights

During her Fellowship, Emilee:

  • Built strong tenant communities
  • Shared information about tenant’s rights in buildings that are at risk of losing affordability
  • Advocated on behalf of tenants to protect and preserve their affordable homes

The Project

Grace builds the capacity of tenant associations in Project-based Section 8 properties to increase tenants’ knowledge of their rights, responsibilities, and options for preserving their homes and improving their communities. Grace works in tandem with community organizers and HOME Line Minnesota to preserve affordable housing in the state.

It is estimated that over the next five years 650,000 units covered by project based section 8 contracts will expire. The VISTA Affordable Housing Preservation Project aims to give residents the tools to save their homes.

Grace is the right person for this project because of her belief in the necessity of security in housing and her introduction to housing issues at the University of Minnesota’s Housing Clinic. In clinic, Grace represented low income clients seeking expungements and repairs making her acutely aware of the importance of safe and affordable housing and leading her to VISTA.

Fellowship Highlights

During Grace’s Fellowship, Grace:

  • Preserve more section 8 contracts in my community
  • Work with residents to enforce their rights
  • Teach fellow Minnesotans about the importance of preserving these subsidized housing programs in Minnesota and throughout the country