For Immediate Release

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Lia Weintraub, lweintraub@populardemocracy.org, 202-618-2482

"A Just Society" Sets the Standard for Housing Justice

Center for Popular Democracy network celebrates Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s landmark legislation.

WASHINGTON - Today, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced “A Just Society,” a bold economic justice package of bills to address the root causes of inequality in the United States. The package contains six bills that propose: a vision of housing justice for renters, updates to the federal poverty line, expansion of the social safety net to include immigrants and people involved in the criminal legal system, just employment standards for federal contractors, and broad commitments to labor rights.

The housing justice bill, named “A Just Society Creates a Place to Prosper,” was developed in partnership with the Center for Popular Democracy and its network of grassroots organizations at the center of the growing tenants' rights movement. The organizations, including Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Detroit Action, Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) in Chicago, Make the Road New York, and New York Communities for Change, among other affiliates, have led advocacy efforts on the local and state level for tenant protections and housing justice. Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s bill builds upon these local and state victories on the national level.

The bill includes tenant protections like rent control, right to counsel for people facing eviction and just cause eviction standards. It also includes measures to rein in corporate landlords, like disclosure requirements of leasing terms, annual eviction rates and median rent. Lastly, the legislation allocates additional resources to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and stipulations on how Federal Housing Authority and Highway Trust Fund dollars should be spent.

Viewed together, the legislation would take significant steps to address the worst affordable housing crisis in a generation. During the financial crisis of 2008, American households lost $16 trillion in wealth. Many lost their homes and saw their savings and retirement funds depleted. More than half of all renters, over 21 million households, were rent-burdened in 2015, meaning that they spent thirty percent or more of their income on rent in 2015.

In a report released earlier this year, the Center for Popular Democracy, PolicyLink and Right to the City Alliance found that if rent control was adopted across the country, 42 million households would be stabilized.

"In this country, too many people are without a home, and too many of us are living every second terrified that we’ll lose the struggle to keep a roof over our heads. A just society is built on everyone having a safe, affordable and stable place to call home," said Jennifer Epps-Addison, Network President and Co-Executive Director of the Center for Popular Democracy. "Through deep investment in affordable housing, tenant protections like rent control, and reining in corporate landlords, this bill builds toward an economically, socially and civically healthy country. We were proud to work with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on this visionary housing bill and economic justice package that center the priorities of tenant leaders and low-income homeowners with the solutions they need to have a home to thrive."

"After receiving a 200% rent increase followed by a no-cause eviction, my son and I became homeless for three years. No one should ever have to go through the pain that what we went through. It is inhumane as a society that we allow landlords to throw families onto the streets all for the sake of profit,” said Sasha Graham, a member of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment in Richmond, California. “AOC's bill moves towards a just society by putting the power back in the hands of tenants by improving the quality of housing stock, reining in corporate landlords, and ensuring that housing is available for those in need."

"I am a renter in Arkansas and have been harassed and threatened with eviction by my landlord. Many of my neighbors are having problems with mold and unsafe conditions in their apartments,” said Ely Frankley, a member of the Arkansas Community Organization. “In a just society, we should all have access to safe and healthy housing. And when we do not, we should be able to speak up and organize without facing the threat of eviction and losing our homes. We should live in a country where we all can thrive and realize our full potential." 

The ‘A Just Society’ bill package is crucial to people like me who do have a steady income but just can’t afford to live in a city like Detroit anymore. Billionaire developers and the rising rents that come with them have pushed out so many Detroiters. I have looked for apartments all over the city but it seems there are none that I can afford with my income and that’s just not right,” said Donna Price, member of Detroit Action. “We need rent control now seeing that the problem we have is people in this country who work every single day and strive to make a living are forced to couch-hop and sleep at shelters. In America, we used to have a working-class -- now we just have the working homeless. This is my experience and it is the same for millions across America. It’s about time Congress stood up to fight for people like me.”

“My family and I call the beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada home, but when the glitz and glamour fade, we face the real threat of homelessness,” said Anthony Giron, Make the Road Nevada member leader. “One emergency could put us on the streets like it did last year when our family of eight could no longer afford our rent. This forced us to live in a motel room with two queen beds and one restroom until we found the home we are at now. But Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez’s plan would address these very economic justice issues that families like mine face today. Every family deserves a just society that empowers them to thrive.”

"I am a senior. I've raised my three children, my five grandchildren, and I even returned to school. Now I'm retired and I'm worried about paying my bills and my rent,” said Alice Moore, a retiree and a member of Organize Florida. “A lot of seniors who are making $30,000 or more don't qualify for anything. It's frightening to think that at this time next year, I'll be giving over half of my retirement to pay my rent. In a just society, after working over 30 years, sometimes two and three jobs, I should be able to relax and enjoy my retirement without worrying about where I'm going to live and whether I will be homeless."

"As elected officials in localities across the country, Local Progress members are leading a municipal agenda that prioritizes an essential right to housing," said Philadelphia Councilmember Helen Gym, the Vice Chair of Local Progress. "We are winning real victories in our local governments, like our eviction defense fund here in Philadelphia and right to counsel. But we can’t do it alone. We need a transformative federal policy with the money to back it up, and that's why we applaud Rep. Ocasio-Cortez's 'Just Society' plan. It’s a visionary plan that makes moral and economic sense, and most importantly, is informed by what’s moving in communities all around the nation.”

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The Center for Popular Democracy works to create equity, opportunity and a dynamic democracy in partnership with high-impact base-building organizations, organizing alliances, and progressive unions. CPD strengthens our collective capacity to envision and win an innovative pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial and economic justice agenda.

 

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