HUD is Trying to Privatize and Mortgage Off All of America's Public Housing

The Obama Administration's move to
the right is about to give conservatives a victory they could not have
anticipated, even under Bush. HUD, under Obama, submitted legislation
called PETRA to Congress that would result in the privatization of all
public housing in America.

The new owners would charge ten percent
market rates to impoverished tenants, money that would be
mostly paid by the US government (you and me, the taxpayers). To maintain
the property, the new owners would take out a mortgage for building
repair and maintenance (like a home equity loan), with no cap on interest

With rents set above market rates,
the mortgage risk would be attractive to banks. Either they make a huge
profit on the mortgages paid for by the government. Or if the government
lowers what it will pay for rents, the property goes into foreclosure.
The banks get it and can sell it off to developers.

Sooner or later, the housing budget
will be cut back and such foreclosures will happen. The structure of
the proposal and the realities of Washington make it a virtual certainty.

The banks and developers make a fortune,
with the taxpayers paying for it. The public loses its public housing
property. The impoverished tenants lose their apartments, or have their
rents go way up if they are forced into the private market. Homelessness
increases. Government gets smaller. The banks and developers win. It
is a Bank Bonanza! The poor and the public lose.

And a precedent is set. The government
can privatize any public property: Schools, libraries, national parks,
federal buildings - just as has begun to happen in California, where
the right-wing governor has started to auction off state property and
has even suggested selling off the Supreme Court building.

The rich will get richer, the poor
and public get poorer. And the very idea of the public good withers.

This is central to the conservative
dream, in which there is no public good - only private goods. And
it is a nightmare for democracy.

The irony is that it is happening under
the Obama administration. Barack Obama, running for office, gave perhaps
the best and clearest characterization of what democracy is about. Democracy,
he has said, is based on empathy - on citizens caring about and for
each other. That is why we have principles like freedom and fairness
for everyone. It is why social responsibility is necessary. The monstrous
alternative is having a society where no one cares about or for anyone

HUD, under the Obama administration,
is about to take a giant step toward that monstrous society.

Here is a quote from the PETRA bill.
It's intent is to:

    provide the opportunity for public
    housing agencies and private owners to convert from current forms of rental assistance
    under a variety of programs to long-term, property-based contracts that will enhance
    market-based discipline and enable owners to sustain operations and
    leverage private financing to address immediate and long-term capital
    needs and implement energy-efficiency improvements.

Along the way, tenants' rights will
be trampled, since tenants could not longer seek redress from the government
through their public officials - because the government would no longer
own the buildings.

Stop PETRA. This is urgent. There is
a hearing next Tuesday, May 25, before the House Financial Services
Committee and the Subcommittee on Housing, organized by Rep. Maxine
Waters. Phone: 202-225-2201. Fax: 202-225-7854.

To write to the committee:

Write to your Congressperson now.

If you want to sign a petition, go

Here is a letter from the National
Association of HUD Tenants:

Here is an informational website, with
letters, background information, and alternative proposals:

And do what you can to get the word
out. This requires a national discussion.

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