Important Struggle in RVA- ALERT!!!

1 Dec

Check out this super important organizing happenin in Richmond right now around Public Housing:

http://www.rephrame.blogspot.com

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2009

Print & Distribute! RePHRAME Propaganda!

We understand that everyone who cares about any given cause can’t always take to the streets and be directly involved with the many many campaigns going on through out their community, but one quick and easy thing we can all do is print out a couple fliers and place them in strategic locations. ie. the office, coffee shop, bulletin board, or even in their own home. Please print and distribute freely any fliers, posters, pamphlets, leaflets, etc found on this site.


Download Printable [8.5×11] Version: HERE


Download Printable [11×17] Version: HERE





POSTED BY REPHRAME AT 10:12 AM

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THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2009

An Unnatural Disaster RTD Op-Ed 03.06.08

An Unnatural Disaster

BY ALEX GULOTTA AND CORA HAYES

We’ve all read the recent headlines indicating families across the country are struggling to keep their homes. Yet while the nation’s foreclosure crisis looms large, an entirely different crisis threatens housing for Richmond’s poorest families.

These families live in public housing owned by the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, which is planning to demolish hundreds of homes without a clearly expressed plan for the many families who will be displaced in the process. While we in Richmond may long for the day when surrounding counties help meet the community’s housing needs, until this day comes City officials must act responsibly.

Public housing exists because the private market does not provide sufficient housing to accommodate the elderly, poor and disabled who survive on fixed incomes and low wages. Today Richmond has roughly 4,100 public housing units, nearly 60% of the 7,064 considered “affordable” for families earning less than a third of the area’s median income (less than $13,624 per year). According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), more than 18,000 such families reside in Richmond—meaning that nearly 11,000 families must live in housing they cannot afford.

Clearly, public housing fills a critical need. In fact, a 2007 report by the City stated that the “major housing demand … is for public and assisted housing.”

While recognizing that the greatest housing shortage occurs among our poorest residents is a key first step toward developing sound public policy, unfortunately for Richmond’s poorest residents RRHA has actually reduced public housing options in recent years. Starting in 1999, RRHA razed 440 units in the Blackwell community. Only 75 of the 540 replacement units were affordable to the families whose homes were destroyed. Delays, strict re-qualification restrictions, and other complications contributed to only 27 of the original families returning, while the rest were scattered across the evaporating pool of assisted housing. For hundreds of displaced families, Blackwell was an unnatural disaster.

Nearly 10 years later, another such disaster looms. RRHA recently gained HUD’s approval to sell 120 single-family homes sheltering poor families—with no plans for replacement. RRHA also plans to demolish the 60-unit Dove Court community to make way for mixed-income development, with no commitment regarding the number of public housing units included in the new development. And RRHA has indicated that Gilpin Court in Jackson Ward, home to 783 families, will be its next major redevelopment project. We cannot afford to let Gilpin Court become another Blackwell.

Housing advocates recommend de-concentrating poor families and instead creating mixed-income communities on the theory that families living among others from diverse backgrounds learn from one another, break down barriers, and gain opportunities. Indeed, these arguments often justify the demolition of public housing. But these benefits accrue only to the select few lucky enough to live in the redeveloped communities. Without careful planning, mixed-income communities are a hollow promise for the many families who are not allowed to return after their homes are destroyed.

RRHA may argue that public housing replacement options include “housing choice” vouchers. In theory, these vouchers allow a family to secure housing on the open market using a combination of their own income and a rental subsidy. In reality, vouchers are a poor solution. Private landlords do not have to accept the vouchers. Most do not. In fact, within the last 10 years the City has returned millions of dollars in vouchers to HUD simply because needy families in Richmond were unable to use them.

We must recognize that for all its challenges, public housing satisfies a crucial need for which there is no feasible substitute. Public housing is not perfect, but displacing hundreds of poor families, including the elderly and disabled, who call public housing home is no solution. Before we start bulldozing, we need a workable plan to build affordable replacement housing for the families whose homes will be destroyed.

RRHA has not clearly enumerated how many public housing units will replace those tagged for demolition. Engaging the community in theoretical conversations about the benefits of mixed-income living while ignoring the hard realities is at best an honest mistake, and at worst a travesty.

The City of Richmond and RRHA should commit to at least one-for-one replacement of any public housing units lost—and to a redevelopment planning process that is open and transparent. Richmond’s poorest families must have a seat at the table. Only by taking these steps can our community address Richmond’s most urgent housing needs.

This Op-Ed was originally published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on March 6, 2008. Alex Gulotta is executive director of the Legal Aid Justice Center, and may be contacted at alex@justice4all.org. Cora Hayes is a public housing resident and serves on the Client Advisory Council of the Legal Aid Justice Center.

POSTED BY REPHRAME AT 9:04 AM SECTIONS: , ,

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MONDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2009

Residents’ Bill of Rights for Redevelopment

We, the following residents of Richmond, call upon RRHA and the City of Richmond to commit to the following principles to govern the process of redeveloping public housing:

  1. A meaningful and enforceable resident participation process will guide all substantive decisions about redevelopment;
  2. There will be at least one-for-one replacement of all affected units with newly-built or renovated public housing units (“replacement units”);
  3. Replacement units will be of like kind (1 bedroom for 1 bedroom, 5 bedroom for 5 bedroom, elderly for elderly, family for family, etc.), subject to an analysis of needs of current and future public housing-eligible residents;
  4. Those replacement units will be reserved for very low-income and extremely low-income households, as under current public housing admissions rules;
  5. The opportunity to live in the replacement units will be offered firstto those households living in RRHA units, without having to re-apply or re-qualify;
  6. Residents who are displaced by redevelopment, and who wish to stay in public housing, will be guaranteed replacement housing in the following order of preference:
    1. Replacement units at their current site.
    2. Replacement units in another area that has equal or greater advantages as their current site.
    3. As a last resort, and only when required by space or necessity, temporary housing of an equal or greater quality to their existing housing, with a duration not to exceed 12 months.
  1. Each displaced household will have the right to choose to return to the redeveloped site or to relocate permanently to another replacement unit;
  2. The redevelopment process will support a system of economic justice in which residents have priority access to jobs, homeownership and contracting opportunities created by redevelopment, and in which the redeveloped communities feature improved amenities and enhanced access to services, employment and transportation for residents.

POSTED BY REPHRAME AT 6:00 PM SECTIONS:

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RESPONSE: 7th District City Council Person Candidate Deanna Lewis

Dear Andrew,

Thanks for the opportunity to address your concerns. Much appreciated. My response below:

1. There should be 1-for-1 replacement of any public housing units lost through public housing redevelopment. In other words, there should be no net loss of public housing units. In addition, location of newly created public housing units, and other aspects of the redevelopment process, should increase the employment, education, and other opportunities of public housing residents.

I agree.

Improving conditions in and around Public Housing is on the top of my list as a Council member. Also, I strongly believe that new development should include a mix of low income and public housing units. The idea that a piece of land “is too valuable” to include PH is wrong. Consider the proposed sale of the GRTC land to RHHA. If it were to be decided that the parcel would NOT be sold to RHHA I’d be a very vocal advocate for a development with a mix of high-end, affordable and Public Housing units. Such a development would create a community where people of all income levels would be exposed to the same education, public services and better access to employment opportunities and the chance to prosper.

The 7th District is home to a large number of the family housing developments in the city. I’ll also work hard to insure that the need for PH is shared equally by all of Richmond’s 9 districts if not physically, then financially to create a better environment for all of the residents.

2. Current residents should have the right to return to newly developed public housing without any additional screening or requalification process. In the past, additional credit checks and other screenings (above and beyond those to which public housing residents are routinely subjected) have been used to effectively prevent previous residents from coming back to the newly developed housing. We believe redevelopment should not be used to get rid of residents who have done nothing to warrant eviction.

I agree. A good tenant is a good tenant regardless and should be welcomed back. Such action should also warrant an investigation as to why those practices were adopted and permitted.

3. Public housing residents should have a meaningful voice in decisions regarding their housing and communities. Currently only 1 out of 7 RRHA commissioners is a public housing resident. RePHRAME proposes adding 2 additional seats to the RRHA Board of Commissioners which would be filled with RRHA residents.

I agree.

I would also go further and recommend that each PH community be encouraged to be engaged and form their own regularly scheduled tenant association meetings attended by a local Police Office noting their concerns, complaints and reporting on incidences in the neighborhood that the residents should watch out for as is done in the majority of all the civic associations. When you empower people to take ownership in their community it does make a difference.

As a private citizen I was engaged in my community long before I considered running for CIty Council. I’ve attended all of the major association/civic and tenant meetings in all parts of the 7th several times over. Each area they represent has needs specific to those areas. What is a concern in Fulton Hills may not apply to Whitcomb Court, Union Hill, Chimborazo etc. As Council Woman, I will continue to be on the ground and maintain an active part if these meetings. I will be encouraging them to appoint one member from each group to a new 7th District Council Community Task Force to give a greater voice to their neighborhoods and speak to the varied needs of the 7th. My intent is to be connected, available and present. It’s my neighborhood, I live here and I intend for it to flourish.

Best regards,

Deanna

www.DeannaLewis4Council.com

My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of Earth.
– Abraham LincolnPOSTED BY REPHRAME AT 10:15 AM SECTIONS:

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Request for City Council Candidates of the 7th District Council Person’s Response to RePHRAMES Three Major Concerns

Dear Candidates for the 7th District:

RePHRAME requests your responses to our three major concerns regarding public housing redevelopment (explained in detail below).

RePHRAME is an alliance of public housing residents, partner organizations, and individual allies committed to housing justice for all in Richmond. Our partner organizations include the following:

Center for Neighborhood Enterprise and Economic Development (CNEED)
Fay Towers Tenant Council
Legal Aid Client Advisory Council
Legal Aid Justice Center
Richmond Crusade for Voters
Richmond Jobs With Justice
Richmond NAACP
Richmond Peace Education Center (RPEC)
Richmond Tenant Organization (RTO)
Virginia Organizing Project (VOP)

RePHRAME recently held our 2nd Annual Community Forum on Public Housing Redevelopment, held at Fay Towers and attended by 175 RePHRAME members and supporters. Five members of City Council and Mayor Jones attended as well. Over the summer RePHRAME members met with all nine members of Council individually to discuss our major concerns regarding public housing redevelopment. These concerns are as follows:

1. There should be 1-for-1 replacement of any public housing units lost through public housing redevelopment. In other words, there should be no net loss of public housing units. In addition, location of newly created public housing units, and other aspects of the redevelopment process, should increase the employment, education, and other opportunities of public housing residents.

2. Current residents should have the right to return to newly developed public housing without any additional screening or requalification process. In the past, additional credit checks and other screenings (above and beyond those to which public housing residents are routinely subjected) have been used to effectively prevent previous residents from coming back to the newly developed housing. We believe redevelopment should not be used to get rid of residents who have done nothing to warrant eviction.

3. Public housing residents should have a meaningful voice in decisions regarding their housing and communities. Currently only 1 out of 7 RRHA commissioners is a public housing resident. RePHRAME proposes adding 2 additional seats to the RRHA Board of Commissioners which would be filled with RRHA residents.

Please reply to this message with your responses to the above three concerns. We ask that your responses include a clear “yes” or “no” for each of the three issues. Additional explanation is welcome as well.

RePHRAME will circulate any responses received before next week’s election.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Andrew Schoeneman (on behalf of RePHRAME)POSTED BY REPHRAME AT 10:08 AM SECTIONS: , , ,, ,

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RePHRAME: 2nd Annual Community Forum on Public Housing in Richmond Sempter 15th, 2009

RePHRAME – 2nd Annual Community Forum on Public Housing – September 15, 2009 from Silver Persinger on Vimeo.POSTED BY REPHRAME AT 9:40 AM SECTIONS: ,

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RRHA Freezes Rent Subsidy Program

By David Ress
Published: September 5, 2009

Richmond’s housing authority is freezing its rent-subsidy program because of a financial jam.

The Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s move means that 130 families who received vouchers for subsidies within the past two months won’t be able to get the help.

“We’re telling them, unfortunately, we don’t have the funding,” said Shawn Williams, director of the authority’s federally funded rent-subsidy program.

“It just wouldn’t be right. Their name would be on the lease. If we didn’t have the money to pay the subsidy, the landlord could ask them for the full amount,” she said.

But the freeze caught Shellette Williams, who uses a wheelchair, just as she thought she and her four children finally had come to the end of a five-year wait for the rent subsidy that would allow her family to move from her mother’s house.

There had been some back and forth over the rent, but she negotiated a reduction and tried for days to get word to the RRHA.

The authority “finally calls me back today . . . and guess what?” Williams said. “I have been packing for over two weeks. . . . Now we have nowhere to go.”

The subsidies, often known as Section 8, or the Housing Choice Voucher Program, involve a three-way agreement. Once a low-income family qualifies for the program and finds an apartment, they sign a lease with the landlord and pay 30 percent of their income as rent. The authority then pays the landlord any difference between the family’s payment and the actual rent for the apartment.

Because of its new financial squeeze, the authority is asking the city for nearly $420,000 of funding in December.

RRHA needs the money to cover rent subsidies for 84 families, separate from the 130. This group already had found a place to live and, unlike Williams, either have moved or are about to move.
“The mayor didn’t hesitate for a minute,” said Anthony Scott, RRHA’s chief executive officer. “We felt it was wrong to disrupt people’s lives by canceling those.”

But paying those vouchers will leave the authority walking a financial tightrope for a while — a tightrope that other housing authorities, including those in Winston-Salem, N.C., Boise, Idaho, and Birmingham, Ala., have managed by stopping subsidy payments to some families who already were receiving them.

“Everybody’s being affected,” said Virginia Supportive Housing spokeswoman Candice Streett. “In the program, you’re supposed to contribute 30 percent of your income towards rent. As people lose their jobs, the amount housing authorities have to subsidize is going up . . . but there’s only so many dollars coming out of the federal spigot.”

At RRHA, for instance, the monthly cost of rent subsidies has climbed from about $1.4 million or $1.5 million earlier this year to $1.9 million for September, Scott said. The money all comes from the federal government.
Scott is hoping that Congress will approve funding increases for rent subsidies when it considers the issue next month, and that U.S. Housing and Urban Development officials will increase the department’s payments to RRHA when they next review the authority’s program, in January.

Those payments reflect the amount of use by an authority. In the past, that was a problem for RRHA, which was blasted by federal auditors last year because it managed its waiting list so poorly that nearly 675 families didn’t get housing even though funds were available.

Since then, RRHA has ramped up the rent-subsidy program, spending about $1 million a month out of a $7 million surplus that it had built up over years of mismanaging the waiting list.

The result is that it has cut the waiting list from several thousand to 1,200, and that nearly 3,000 Richmond families now receive rent subsidies, up from fewer than 2,500 two years ago.

Now, the authority has to wait for HUD’s review to recognize its stepped-up activity.

If HUD does not increase payments to RRHA, the authority could end up with a $6 million deficit by next September. It would have to cut more than 1,000 families from the program to break even financially, according to internal RRHA financial projections.

“This is serious,” said Richmond City Councilman E. Martin Jewell, a longtime housing activist. “It sounds like they’ve gotten into financial trouble again . . . but for many people, RRHA is housing of last resort.”
HUD Richmond office spokeswoman Toni Schmiegelow said it is up to agencies such as RRHA to take steps to stay within the budgets HUD sets for them.

“The authority appears to have made an assessment that it needs to manage its program differently in order to control and reduce expenses to otherwise operate within the budget,” she said.

http://www2.timesdispatch.com/rtd/news/local/article/RRHA05_20090904-215807/290822/POSTED BY REPHRAME AT 9:22 AM SECTIONS: , , , , ,

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Write Your City Officials!

Please take a moment and write your city officials and declare your support for the three concerns and demands as presented by RePHRAME (Residents of Public Housing in Richmond Against Mass Eviction. Contact information is below, and the three concerns and demands are:

1. There should be 1-for-1 replacement of any public housing units lost through public housing redevelopment. In other words, there should be no net loss of public housing units. In addition, location of newly created public housing units, and other aspects of the redevelopment process, should increase the employment, education, and other opportunities of public housing residents.

2. Current residents should have the right to return to newly developed public housing without any additional screening or requalification process. In the past, additional credit checks and other screenings (above and beyond those to which public housing residents are routinely subjected) have been used to effectively prevent previous residents from coming back to the newly developed housing. We believe redevelopment should not be used to get rid of residents who have done nothing to warrant eviction.

3. Public housing residents should have a meaningful voice in decisions regarding their housing and communities. Currently only 1 out of 7 RRHA commissioners is a public housing resident. RePHRAME proposes adding 2 additional seats to the RRHA Board of Commissioners which would be filled with RRHA residents.

:::: Richmond City Council

Kathy C. Graziano (President) – 4th District,
kathy.graziano@richmondgov.com
Ellen F. Robertson (VP) – 6th Dist.,
Ellen.robertson@richmondgov.com
Bruce W. Tyler – 1st Dist.,
bruce.tyler@richmondgov.com
Charles R. Samuels – 2nd Dist.,
Charles.samuels@richmondgov.com
Chris A. Hilbert – 3rd Dist.,
chris.hilbert@richmondgov.com
E. Martin Jewell – 5th Dist.,
marty.jewell@richmondgov.com
Betty L. Squire – 7th Dist.,
betty.squire@richmondgov.com
Reva M. Trammell – 8th Dist.,
reva.trammell@richmondgov.com
Doug G. Conner – 9th Dist.,
doug.conner@richmondgov.com

City Hall, 3rd Floor
900 East Broad St.
Richmond, VA 23219

:::: Mayor of Richmond

Dwight C. Jones,
askthemayor@richmondgov.com

City Hall, Suite 201
900 East Broad St.
Richmond, VA 23219


:::: Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority (RRHA)


Anthony Scott (CEO),
dpjackso@rrha.state.va.us (recipent: Asst. Doris Jackson-Crocker)

Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority
901 Chamberlayne Parkway
Richmond, VA 23220

POSTED BY REPHRAME AT 9:03 AM SECTIONS: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 1, 2009

Evicting the Poor

Evicting the Poor

We agree that doing something to help improve the lives of Gilpin Court and Fay Tower residents is a moral imperative.

by Thad Williamson and Adria Scharf

File photo by Scott Elmquist

Concentrated poverty and crime — those are the words most Richmonders instinctively think of when they hear the phrase “Gilpin Court.”

It’s not difficult to find data to support the popular image of Richmond’s oldest and largest public housing development as a distressing exhibit of the city’s racial and economic segregation. Census data from 2000 shows the Gilpin Court area has a median household income of just $8,429, and a poverty rate of 73 percent. Ninety-seven percent of neighborhood residents are black. The neighborhood is widely regarded as unsafe.

Consequently, it’s not difficult to find well-meaning Richmonders who say “We really ought to do something about Gilpin Court.” We agree that doing something to help improve the lives of Gilpin Court and Fay Tower residents is a moral imperative. But the first thing we as a community must do in considering the neighborhood’s future is assure that future redevelopment leaves no public housing residents worse off than they are now. Second, we must recognize public housing residents as fellow citizens who have a right to play an active role in shaping the area’s future.

During the 1990s the idea of breaking up concentrated poverty in urban centers came to dominate federal housing policy. The federal government instituted what became known as the HOPE VI program, which actively supported demolishing older housing projects and replacing them with mixed-income neighborhoods with newer, more attractive public housing options. The catch is that in city after city where HOPE VI redevelopment was implemented, the total number of public housing units declined. In the rush to redevelop, the federal government dropped its longstanding one-for-one replacement rule requiring local public authorities to replace any units demolished with the same number of newly built housing units.

A decade later, evidence suggests that while the HOPE VI developments often did succeed in creating more attractive communities, their impact on poverty reduction was minimal. Some residents were displaced by the program and ended up in other high poverty neighborhoods. Those who were able to move back into the new developments didn’t automatically see improvements in their economic prospects.

Simply put, deconcentrating poverty isn’t the same thing as ending poverty. You cannot end poverty by reshuffling low-income households around like pieces on a chess board. The way to end poverty is to expand the economic opportunities — jobs, training and education — available to poor people.

If a redevelopment plan truly expands the economic opportunities available to public-housing residents then it might make for a morally justifiable policy. But removing people from their homes without their consent and without a clear plan about where they should go does little to end poverty. It’s possible to make Gilpin Court a nicer place without actually helping the people who live there.

That’s why it’s worrisome that the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority has not guaranteed one-for-one unit replacement as part of its ambitious plans to redevelop the area. The authority’s plan, unveiled last winter, calls for transforming the area into a mixed-income neighborhood to be renamed North Jackson Ward. While the plan calls for increasing the number of housing units in the neighborhood, at most 30 percent would be set aside for public-housing residents. That means a maximum of 600 public housing units will be part of the new development, compared with 983 units today — and the housing authority plans to rescreen current residents, which advocates argue will serve to prevent many households from returning.

Where will the other people go? That’s the essential question the housing authority must answer before plans go any further. The relevant moral principle in this case is that no public housing resident should be made worse off by a redevelopment plan; and the only way to guarantee that outcome is to commit to one-for-one replacement.

The housing authority plans to offer housing vouchers to those residents who won’t be able to return to the redeveloped North Jackson Ward. The problem with that idea is that not all landlords accept vouchers; those that do are also usually in high-poverty neighborhoods and vouchers do not provide housing security. Moreover, such vouchers are contingent on funding from the federal government. The housing authority’s recent recall of 163 vouchers it had promised to families underscores that such promises are not a reliable lifeline.

To be sure, Anthony Scott, the housing authority’s director, has pledged that there will not be another Blackwell — the now infamous redevelopment of the Blackwell housing project in Manchester that kicked out hundreds of families. The agency has repeatedly said that all displaced residents will end up with a safe and affordable place to live, although there is no specific plan about how this will be accomplished. The agency’s Web site promises that displaced residents will receive assistance from a relocation specialist.

Based on the history of housing redevelopment in Richmond and across the country, Gilpin Court residents can be excused for being skeptical of such promises.

At a Sept. 15 community housing forum sponsored by Residents of Public Housing in Richmond Against Mass Eviction (RePHRAME), 175 residents from Gilpin and Fay Towers called on the housing authority to adhere to the following principles: one-for-one housing replacement, giving residents the right to return without having to be rescreened, and greater involvement in the planning, including increased resident representation on the housing authority’s board.

Mayor Dwight Jones attended the meeting and says he supports the principle of one-to-one replacement. Five members of City Council were also present. Unfortunately, neither Scott nor any other decision-maker from the housing authority attended. Scott did meet with RePHRAME on Sept. 28, as this article was going to press.

Our city has a history of displacing low-income black communities in the name of redevelopment. We continue to live with the legacies, and the trauma, of previous planning decisions that did just that. Given this history, we as a city have an obligation to learn from our past and to make sure that we do things differently this time. S

Thad Williamson is an assistant professor of leadership studies at the University of Richmond. Adria Scharf is executive director of the Richmond Peace Education Center.



Evicting the Poor | Articles/Archives | Style Weekly Richmond’s alternative for news, arts, culture and opinionPOSTED BY REPHRAME AT 8:18 PM SECTIONS: , , ,

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