Multiple MPHA communities band together to fight against potential housing privatization

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On Thursday, Aug. 17, at the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority meeting, Ladan Yusuf and fellow Somali public housing tenants walked to the front of the room, clenching signs in their fists: “We Defend Glendale,” “You can’t intimidate us” and “Ma Guurayno!” – we are not moving.

For the 100 or so public housing tenants there, the MPHA meeting at Cora McCorvey Health and Wellness Center was just to learn about next year’s budget and possible changes.

For many, including Yusuf – a Somali woman from the East Coast and Glendale Townhome resident – the meeting held the opportunity to make their voice heard.

Yusuf is an organizer with Defend Glendale, a group which advocated for home repairs as the better alternative to MPHA’s proposed plan to demolish and redevelop their townhomes in 2015.

Today, other public housing tenants have joined organizing efforts with Defend Glendale. They argue that MPHA intends to push the Somali community and low-income families out of their housing through partnerships with private developers.

“It’s all about displacing people,” Yusuf said of MPHA’s plans to finance the future of Minneapolis public housing. “We need to stay in our community. We’re going to fight.”

 

Confusion over MPHA’s plans for the future

Over the past several months, Minneapolis public housing tenants say they have not received timely or clear communication from MPHA about development plans. Tenants’ fears of displacement have increased, Yusuf said. As a result, tenants across multiple MPHA developments are taking a proactive position and organizing to push back against any potential privatization.

MPHA owns, manages and oversees 6,000 public housing units. According to MPHA’s website, tenants can not make more than 80 percent of the Twin Cities median income in order to be eligible for low income public housing. For example, a four-person family living in Minneapolis public housing may not make more than $68,000 annually.

Gregory Russ, Executive Director of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, said MPHA needs to renovate and repair existing public housing but the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program does not offer enough money to cover the costs associated with owning, managing and upkeep.

Russ said MPHA is exploring options for alternative funds which include: borrowing money, issuing bonds through the city government, grants or the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). Before taking the MPHA job in Minneapolis, Russ was the executive director of Cambridge Public Housing Authority in Massachusetts, where public housing experienced a budget crisis and sought private financing.

Russ said MPHA will likely pursue financing through a combination of those means.

The MPHA published a set of guiding principles for redevelopment as well as a Moving to Work budget and plan for 2018. Moving to Work is a HUD program that allows public housing authorities to design and test new strategies to create low-income housing.

Yusuf said tenants had little access to or communication about the plans from MPHA. They were not informed when those plans were published, she said, which has limited tenants’ amount of time to review.

Many of the documents are only offered online in English, limiting accessibility for the large percentage of tenants who do not speak English, speak it as a second language or do not have internet access, Yusuf said.

In addition to language and cultural barriers to accessing this information, Yusuf said the documents are long – some more than 100 pages – and difficult to understand because of the jargon used.

As one of the tenants who can decipher the documents, Yusuf said she believes MPHA is laying the groundwork to move toward privatization.

The process of moving public housing toward private financing begins by years of ignoring disrepair in public homes, Yusuf said. For example, the MPHA has continually put off much-needed repairs in Glendale Townhomes. Yusuf said this was an “intentional” step toward inviting private developers to “save” the housing, a tactic often called “demolition by neglect.”

 

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Then public housing authorities privatize through programs like the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and Section 8 vouchers.

The LIHTC allows private investors to purchase public housing and receive a federal tax credit. The reason Yusuf and other public housing tenants are concerned about displacement is because tenant rents under private market LIHTC developments are drastically higher than public housing rents. In addition, private market LIHTC developments would make fewer affordable housing units available, especially for the poorest tenants.

For public housing tenants, rent is set at 30 percent of the tenant’s monthly fixed income. If a tenant has no income at all, rent is $75.

But under private market LIHTC developments, the rent for designated affordable housing units is calculated based off a percentage of the area median income (AMI). In the Twin Cities, the AMI is $90,400 for 2017. LIHTC requires developers to set rents in low-income housing units at affordable rates for tenants making 50 or 60 percent of AMI, depending on the number of low-income units in the building.

According to a July 2016 report from MPHA, about 95 percent of the agency’s tenants make less than 30 percent AMI. So when LIHTC housing unit rents are priced based off of 50 or 60 AMI, that means such units would be grossly unaffordable for the majority of MPHA tenants.

In addition, under private market LIHTC developments requirements, developers only have to make 20 to 40 percent of their units “affordable” (meaning priced to accommodate tenants making 50 to 60 percent of AMI), with the rest being set at market rate. That means even fewer low-income units would be available, and those that would be available are not affordable for everyone.

Hoda Isak lives in Elliot Twins. If the MPHA created housing across the street through the LIHTC, the same Elliot Twins tenants could not afford to live there because they would be required to pay a percentage of the median income at the edge of downtown. That’s more than any public housing tenant or family can afford, Yusuf said.

Russ acknowledged that LIHTC is a controversial form of financing public housing. But he said if a building begins as public housing, where tenants pay based off their fixed income, it would stay that way even if they partnered with private investors.

“We design the financing so it would not increase the tenant’s rent,” Russ said. “This can be done in ways that protect the families… A private investor is not necessarily like a developer.”

Russ said MPHA would draft a guarantee right-to-return as part of any agreement with a private investor.

“The displacement plans are still intact,” Yusuf said. “How are you going to have first priority when you can’t afford to get back in?”

 

Fear of displacement

When tenants hear that “redevelopment” is being discussed, it incites a fear of displacement, Yusuf said.

Historically, public housing tenants have been forced from their homes by private developers buying public housing units. For example, Heritage Park, west of downtown Minneapolis, had four public housing developments with 770 units before developers converted the housing for mixed-income, mixed-density use with 900 units. Of those 900 units, 200 are in use as low-income public housing. The total cost of that project was $225 million, funded by federal and state organizations, the City of Minneapolis, MPHA and the Metropolitan Council.

Russ said if demolition or redevelopment of a building temporarily forced tenants from their home, MPHA would mitigate displacement by moving tenants into other vacancies in the building, offer other housing within MPHA’s portfolio or offer Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV).

HCVs are a way for public housing authorities to transfer units from public to private ownership via the Section 8 voucher. Under the Section 8 voucher, people seeking housing can lease a unit in a designated complex or the private market by paying a portion of the rent.

 

 

Although MPHA has included an idea for property owner incentives to accept more HCVs in the 2018 plan, Isak said she fears even with a Section 8 voucher in hand that the rental market in Minneapolis is so tight it would be hard to find affordable units to rent. According to the second quarter 2016 Minneapolis Trend Report, the rental market vacancy rate in 2016 was 3.7 percent.

As of July, there were 1,201 people on the waiting list for Section 8 vouchers in Minneapolis, said Jeff Horwich, MPHA communications manager. The waitlist has been closed since 2008 when 15,000 people signed up over the course of just a few days. MPHA expects the list to reopen early next year, Horwich said.

“Public housing is not affordable housing,” Yusuf said. “They want affordable housing for a middle-class income.”

Fahmo Mhmo, a tenant at 1212 Eighth Street public housing, said she worries what affect a potential move could have on her family.

“Our children are American. They were born here,” she said. “We have a right to stay in these homes as tenants.”

 

Tenants organize despite intimidation

As soon as Yusuf read the MPHA document drafts this spring, she began to organize with tenants in public housing across Minneapolis.

And although Russ said the MPHA is in the planning phase of their 2018 budget and don’t know what funding will be available next year, Yusuf, Isak and other Somali tenants in public housing have reported harassment and intimidation from MPHA in an attempt to block tenant organizing.

Having felt pressure from MPHA employees, Isak worries she could lose her housing due to her organizing work and discussing MPHA’s draft plans with other residents in Elliot Twins For Isak, who pays the rent minimum because she is disabled, losing her public housing could mean homelessness.

“They didn’t have any legal grounds to evict me,” she said. “But I think if they did, they would.”

Yusuf said she has also experienced intimidation tactics and harassment as a result of organizing residents across public housing buildings. An MPHA employee verbally told her she couldn’t enter certain buildings and she has been asked to leave. Yusuf said property managers have tried to keep Defend Glendale organizers and residents who speak out against MPHA from organizing meetings in public housing buildings.

Russ said MPHA has tried to clear up any misunderstandings with tenants but “there’s some folks that just don’t believe us.” During a phone interview, Horwich referred to the tenants’ belief of MPHA privatization as a “conspiracy theory.”

“Everything we do, they try to come after us,” Yusuf said. “This is like a little club of developers and their allies at City Hall that want to destroy poor people here.”

 

 

For public housing tenants, the fear of displacement does not just stem from private developers or conversions of public housing to the private sector. It’s also tied to the citywide disinvestment in long-term public housing for low-income people of color in favor of other developments that largely benefit white, middle- to upper-class Minneapolis residents.

Since Isak lives in Elliot Twins, she lives just a stone’s throw from U.S. Bank Stadium. Isak has watched her neighborhood shift as Minneapolis prepares for the Super Bowl. The city is “cleaning the area up,” she said, by making upgrades such as investing money in better lighting. While the neighborhood’s crime rate is nearly double the city’s average at about 5.5 percent, the cheap-but-rising property values make it a prime location for development.

Isak has watched the city – both public and private entities – invest in making the Elliot Park neighborhood a safer and more attractive area for the Super Bowl when they could have invested in renovations for places like Elliot Twins, and the homes of people who are already living there.

“But they won’t save our houses,” Isak said. “As poor people, we know that [these investments are] not for us.”

[Editor’s Note Aug. 25, 2017: This article has been clarified to bring further context around what documents have been translated by MPHA, housing availability at Heritage Park and private vs. public use of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.]

10 thoughts on “Multiple MPHA communities band together to fight against potential housing privatization

  1. I witnessed firsthand the silencing of Somali residents at the MPHA resident meeting on August 17.
    MPHA must do better to work with non-English speakers and English language learners, and must stop silencing organizers who speak out against plans for privatization of much-needed public housing in Minneapolis.

  2. Glad this is being covered, but I don’t get why directly contradictory quotes are allowed to stand. If there is a 100 page jargon filled document with mpha’s plans, what’s actually in it? I’d like to see some digging and conclusions about who’s telling the truth.

    • Hello, Joe. The initial draft of the MTW Plan has been posted since we announced it on July 10, and you can find it here, as well as a slide presentation that breaks things down: http://mphaonline.org/2018mtwplan/ Please pardon a few typos, which will be cleaned up in any final version.

      The plan itself is somewhat long because it is a required report that we file annually with HUD. The purpose of the plan–and what is in it–has been greatly distorted this year, but I would encourage anyone to read it. While the plan does contain a certain amount of technical information, the heart of the plan is the exciting initiatives we have planned for 2018, which begin on page 36 (and page 13 of the slide deck). Given the unusual amount of general public interest in the plan this year, we are also working on a shorter summary, which we hope to have available near the start of September.

      You question on contradictory quotes is a good one. Our answer would be that the quotes from the Defend Glendale group are in many cases simply wrong. Presenting knowingly false information and true information side-by-side does not equal balance–and that is the great error of this story. This story does not dig to determine what is accurate, but takes false statements as faith and includes a few accurate quotes from the housing authority as an insufficient counterpoint. Please see our longer responses elsewhere in these comments.

      • Thank you for providing information on the Moving to Work Plan. As reported in the story above, this document has not been translated into any non-English languages.

        With regard to the claim that we are “Presenting knowingly false information and true information side-by-side does not equal balance–and that is the great error of this story,” the Twin Cities Daily Planet has reported true information side-by-side with reporting of the concerns from the residents. These concerns persist, due to issues like improper translation and for their concerns not being taken seriously. We have clarified some statements for better understanding and context (as noted above), but overall we stand by the sentiments of this piece: tenants are organizing, there is concern and confusion over privatization, and that what is considered affordable is debatable.

        For a public agency to call people’s concerns, especially when those people come from historically marginalized groups, a conspiracy theory is not a reflection on this story but a reflection on the level of communication with residents. The residents who are quoted in this story spoke out because they have felt they have not been heard, that their concerns have not been addressed. The Daily Planet’s mission is to amplify and connect marginalized voices, and that is what we have done.

  3. The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority would like readers of this story to know that it does not represent a factual depiction of recent events, the intentions of MPHA, or the possible tools for reinvesting in public housing. The story does an enormous disservice to anyone hoping to understand the challenges and the opportunity that define public housing in Minneapolis at this moment.

    It is difficult to determine where to begin critiquing this piece, which repeats misperceptions and plainly false information throughout. The premise rests upon convictions that are no doubt deeply felt, but are entirely wrong—a conspiracy theory indeed: that the public housing authority—which exists for no reason other than to provide housing for the very low-income—harbors a secret plan to destroy that housing. As with all conspiracy theories, some may never believe us. To everyone else, we can point to the reality of our words and actions.

    Perhaps the simplest way to counter the overall thrust of this article is to repeat five clear, basic promises we have published (in multiple languages) and offered to public housing residents at every opportunity:

    1. You will not lose your housing.
    2. Your rent will not go up because of redevelopment.
    3. You will have the first right to return to your property if you need to move temporarily while we make improvements.
    4. MPHA will continue to manage and maintain the properties.
    5. MPHA is committed to preserving—and where possible adding to—our number of low-income housing units.

    There it is, in black and white. We expect residents and the public to hold us to this. One can look to our record—of never losing units over the decades, of keeping our housing full, of service to refugee communities, the elderly, and people of color—to know that we mean it. In the coming months, we will in fact be breaking ground on new family public housing in South Minneapolis.

    One major error underlying this piece is a fundamental misunderstanding of the role low-income tax credits play when partnered with public housing. The Defend Glendale group distributes a fabricated scenario claiming that by partnering with an investor who can claim a tax credit, the property will function exactly as tax credits do in the private market. This story repeats this as truth.

    But this is not the private market—this is public housing. Residents qualify for federal benefits that cannot be revoked, nor can the essential terms be changed. The investor—who injects millions of dollars we do not need to pay back—does not own the property outright at any point, but shares ownership with the housing authority only for a limited period of time. And the housing authority will always own the land—and with it, the power to preserve the kind of deeply subsidized, very low-income housing that the private market ignores. The kind that it is our one-and-only mission to provide.

    We truly respect the fears of public housing residents we serve, who worry for their homes. But the best antidote to fear is accurate information, and in this way your piece does a severe disservice to public housing residents in the city. If we are going to save the public housing in Minneapolis—preserving these vital properties against gentrification—the community and progressive media like the TC Daily Planet need to come together with MPHA to push for the resources, political will, and investment that will make it a reality. Coverage like this sows division and confusion that sadly move us all further from that goal.

  4. As the editor of the Twin Cities Daily Planet and in the interest of transparency we are responding to claims of false statements. MPHA’s Communications Manager Jeff Horwich are below sent the following claims to the Daily Planet via email and as a post to this comment section. The Daily Planet’s responses to the claims are denoted by the “>>” symbols.

    The following are points the piece reports either as outright facts, or as provocative assertions by Ms. Yusuf and others that do not include a necessary counterpoint.

    “to MPHA’s proposed plan to demolish and redevelop their townhomes in 2015.”

    Despite what you may have heard, there was never any proposed plan—no financing, no preliminary designs, no partners, no notices to or actions of any kind required of residents. Nothing. Two years later, there is still no plan—nothing even close. There were initial discussions with residents to talk about what they might like to see if there were changes at Glendale. Defend Glendale has decided to refer to this early floating of the mere notion of possible redevelopment as a plan. This is wrong by any definition of the term. The only major change at Glendale has been the piloting of a weatherization program with Department of Energy grants we worked extremely hard over the past year to obtain. But there is no mention of this in the piece.

    >>In September 2015, MPHA ordered private consultant Sherman Associates to create potential plans for the development of Glendale Townhomes. Of the four options proposed in January 2016 to MPHA, one was for rehabilitation, three featured different versions of demolition and new construction. As was reported last year by multiple news agencies, including the Daily Planet, Minnesota Spokeman-Recorder and the Star Tribune, “The agency argues that it’s more cost-effective to replace Glendale units as part of a larger development that combines many sources of financing.” You can see the plan proposals here: http://www.mphaonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/MPHA_Sherman-Presentation_01.27.16FINAL.pdf

    “The MPHA published a set of guiding principles for redevelopment as well as a Moving to Work budget and plan for 2018…Yusuf said tenants had little access to or communication about the plans from MPHA. They were not informed when those plans were published, she said, which has limited tenants’ amount of time to review.”

    Not true. The Guiding Principles were delivered to every single resident household within days after they were approved by our Board in May. The MTW Plan was posted to our web site on July 10th, and announced on social media. (Given that Defend Glendale watches our social media accounts like a hawk, the idea that they were uninformed is particularly disingenuous.) And in the next available rent statement near the end of July—the only reliable way to reach all residents directly—all residents received a notice that the plan was available, comment was welcome, and the dates of our meetings to learn more information.

    >>MPHA extended the deadline to Sept. 30, 2017 for public comment – after residents have discussed that they did not have enough time to properly respond.

    “Many of the documents are only offered online in English, limiting accessibility for the large percentage of tenants who do not speak English…”

    Since the piece is still clearly referring to the Guiding Principles at this point, the statement is inaccurate. That critical document was provided in Somali, Oromo, Hmong, and Spanish, along with a short introductory note from our Executive Director. As for the Moving to Work Plan, there is critical context that this piece does not share with readers. The plan is not a document drafted for or directed at residents or the general public; it is an annual report we file with HUD. Neither we, nor any housing authority we are aware of nationwide, translate this document. However, we hold meetings (none of which are required by HUD, the law, or our own policies) with interpreters in Somali, Oromo, Hmong, and ASL (or other languages, if requested) to present and answer questions for anyone who needs this assistance.

    >> We have clarified the story to note that the Guiding Principles are available in multiple languages. The Moving to Work document has not been translated, and as the following video shows, residents have taken issue with how translation has been provided. https://www.facebook.com/DefendGlendale/videos/944552789043912/

    “…a tactic often called ‘demolition by neglect.’”

    This is a serious and specious charge that deserves a serious response—the piece offers nothing, and we refute it unequivocally. Among other things, a critical component of the “demolition by neglect” pattern in other cities has been high vacancy rates—allowing units to be uninhabited and uninhabitable. MPHA has no record of this—we run at near 100% occupancy, and have for as long as anyone can remember. We will show you pages upon pages of records, if you ask, demonstrating our response to every work order and repair at Glendale and anywhere else. We do our utmost given our resources to maintain the quality of every single living unit, and suggesting otherwise—without any support and any response—is reckless.

    >>In a 2014 report from Miller Hanson Partners, it was estimated that Glendale Townhomes needed $15 million in repairs. In 2016, Sherman Associates estimated Glendale would require $24 million for rehabilitation. While work orders and repairs have been completed, those do not speak to the overall need for rehabilitation. As quoted above, MPHA has historically stated that it would be more cost effective to redevelop Glendale rather than rehabilitate.

    “The reason Yusuf and other public housing tenants are concerned about displacement is because tenant rents under LIHTC are drastically higher than public housing rents.”

    These statements by Ms. Yusuf are phrased as if she is stating an established fact, rather than her (unfortunately uninformed) opinion. And no matter how you slice it, this is wrong—as is the discussion that follows in the succeeding paragraphs. Even if LIHTC becomes a component of a package to preserve a public housing complex—which is the only scenario we are talking about here—tenant rents are absolutely not higher than public housing rents. They are exactly the same—we don’t even have an option: public housing residents are accepted in this program of federal benefits, and those are the terms. Using LIHTC in the public housing context is not the same as LIHTC used by a private developer on his own. The fact that the piece later includes a short quote from our Executive Director making this point, after the whole discussion is presented—and then bookending it with another unsupported and unanswered quote from Ms. Yusuf—does not undo the damage of devoting so much space to information that a reporter could easily establish is false.

    >>This was clearly stated in the paragraphs that read as follows: Russ acknowledged that LIHTC is a controversial form of financing public housing. But he said if a building begins as public housing, where tenants pay based off their fixed income, it would stay that way even if they partnered with private investors.

    “We design the financing so it would not increase the tenant’s rent,” Russ said. “This can be done in ways that protect the families… A private investor is not necessarily like a developer.”

    Russ said MPHA would draft a guarantee right-to-return as part of any agreement with a private investor.

    As for leaving Yusuf’s quote ‘unanswered,’ the Daily Planet is an independent nonprofit media organization, we do not have a duty to give MPHA the last word on this topic.

    “In addition, LIHTC would make fewer affordable housing units available, especially for the poorest tenants.”

    Again, this is not true—and the piece doesn’t even clarify what mechanics, exactly, even lead to this outcome. In fact, the investment from an LIHTC investor would likely be a critical component that helps us create more housing for those on very low incomes (30% of AMI, which are the large majority of the people we serve).

    >>This is a commentary on how LIHTC works with a private developer when only 20-40 percent of units have to be considered “affordable,” which is explained in the article. The article has been clarified to further illustrate the point.

    “For example, Heritage Park…”

    This discussion of Heritage Park is hugely problematic—and again, entirely unanswered. It omits a number of essential facts. First, it fails to mention that there are 200 units of public housing at Heritage Park, where residents pay 30% of their income just like all other public housing. Second, no discussion of Heritage Park makes sense without reference to the Hollman lawsuit that created it. The lawsuit against HUD, MPHA, and the City was premised upon the very notion that the public housing there created an illegal concentration of poverty and race. The settlement required the dispersal of that concentration—whatever we think of it today, the mixed income nature of the Heritage Park today was the whole point, and was not optional or the result of any choice by the housing authority. Third, not a single unit of public housing was lost in the creation of Heritage Park. Every single unit that was there was either retained in the 200 that are there today, or established as new family public housing elsewhere around the west Metro.

    >>Heritage Park has 200 units of public housing where residents pay 30 percent of their income, but the development has 900 units total of mixed-income units, including rent-to-own programs. It formerly had 770 public housing units. Granted, those 770 were (as reported in Minnpost) substandard living quarters, but as City Pages reported in a July 6, 2016 article, some qualified tenants like Ethrophic Burnett were not able to find housing in Minneapolis after Heritage Park was redeveloped. This section of our article raises concerns about displacement and availability, and has been clarified as such.

    “MPHA would mitigate displacement by moving tenants into other vacancies in the building, offer other housing within MPHA’s portfolio or offer Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV).”

    This leaves out an essential fact that should inform the discussion that follows: residents would always have a choice of these options. The paragraphs after this assert that families would be forced to take a voucher and move. This is not true, and suggesting so is irresponsible.

    >>This is an unfair critique and a matter of opinion. In the article, we have stated these are the things MPHA would offer and then went through why tenants are concerned about it.

    “…property managers have tried to keep Defend Glendale organizers and residents who speak out against MPHA from organizing meetings in public housing buildings.”

    This is not true—and there’s no attempt to allow MPHA a response in the piece. We have not prevented any such meetings. We have simply asked organizers to follow our established policies for booking common areas, requiring an invitation from a building resident and booking rooms with the required two-week advance notice if they want sole use of the space. Our common areas are for residents who live in the building. Now, residents who disagree with Defend Glendale have often expressed to us that they do not want these meetings in their buildings; they feel they are platforms for a great amount of misinformation, which spreads unnecessary fear to residents. However, we respond that the meetings are fine as long as they meet the guidelines. And of course, residents are welcome to invite anyone into their homes that the wish.

    >>We have reported the lived experiences of Ladan Yusuf, Hoda Isak as well as several other Somali residents, as well as Gregory Russ’ comments that there have been attempts to communicate.

    “…citywide disinvestment in long-term public housing for low-income people of color…”

    This is hard to argue when we have not lost public housing units (we have an extraordinary, nation-leading record in this regard) and we serve a population that is 87 percent people of color. We provide as much housing as we ever have, and we intend to continue to do so.

    >>By “disinvestment” we are not referring to any policy or announcement, but simply a general lack or withdrawing of investment, for example the lack of rehabilitation for aging infrastructure like at Glendale Townhomes. We say “citywide” in reference to public housing being less of a priority on a cultural level, compared to other investments in Minneapolis like the Super Bowl (as described in a following paragraph). We also provide context to this lack of investment by stating clearly in the story that HUD does not give MPHA enough money to cover costs of upkeep. If MPHA provides as much housing as it ever has, clearly there has not been a sufficient investment in housing when the agency’s waitlist has been closed since 2008.

  5. Pingback: In response to claims of inaccuracy for story on MPHA and tenant organizing - kallacha.com

  6. To MPHA: What Vacant Units? What “informed discussion”?

    In his response to the Daily Planet article “Multiple MPHA communities band together to fight against potential housing privatization,” MPHA Communications Manager Jeff Horowich is irate that Defend Glendale & Public Housing Coalition expressed concern that tenants may be given a voucher and forced to move. He indignantly asserts that tenants will (but of course!) have the option to be transferred to vacancies within the site. He states:

    “This [the Daily Planet article] leaves out an essential fact that should inform the discussion that follows: residents would always have a choice of these options.
    [Note: “these options” refers to 1) moving tenants into other vacancies in the building, 2) offer other housing within MPHA’s portfolio or 3) offer Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV).” ] The paragraphs after this assert that families would be forced to take a voucher and move. This is not true, and suggesting so is irresponsible.”

    First, in what document legally binding on the MPHA and enforceable against the MPHA by public housing tenants are these options, along with Horowich’s assertion that “residents would always have a choice of these options,” stated? Answer: None.

    Secondly, where are the vacant units assumed to exist at Glendale or “other housing within MPHA’s portfolio?” MPHA has a long waiting list and no vacant units. But we’ve seen this sort of promise before.

    Horowich’s talking points about relocating residents to other units within their current building or neighborhood harken back to plans drawn up by private developer Sherman Associates, which have now become the blueprint MPHA wants to use to displace residents. In 2015 and 2016, George Sherman, owner of Sherman Associates – one of the largest private developers in Minneapolis – wrote a report for MPHA detailing plans to purchase and subsequently demolish Glendale Townhomes.
    The plans indicated to residents and to public housing allies at that time that Sherman wanted to redevelop public housing in Glendale and build privately owned condos. His report was called the Sherman Plans. Defend Glendale wrote a response called The Defend Glendale Option: A Response to Sherman http://tinyurl.com/DGC-Response-to-Sherman-Report.
    It is also worthwhile to note that, as published in the City Pages in July 2016, the current chairman of the MPHA Board of Commissioners, F. Clayton Tyler, has a law firm that lobbies for Sherman Associates at the state and city levels. It is concerning that a lawyer with a vested interest in the success of a company which has had its eye on privately redeveloping public housing sits at the head of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority.

    It was clear then, both to public housing residents and non-residents, that developers like Sherman were trying to make money off of, and thereby destroy, public housing. Now residents and citizens of Minneapolis are fighting the same battle again, in 2017. This time, it is not just Glendale, but all of Minneapolis Public Housing at stake.

    There are 17,000 people currently on a waiting list to be placed in Minneapolis Public Housing. The waiting list has been closed since 2008, and Minneapolis has no more properties to place residents – and yet MPHA and Horowich seem certain that vacant units are just lying around, waiting to be filled by residents being displaced by private development. Horowich’s assumed vacancies in MPHA’s family public housing (and in Glendale in particular) fly in the face of housing reality, high occupancy retention, and the MPHA’s extensive waiting list. The monthly usage reports prepared for all MPHA properties (including Glendale) and presented to the MPHA Board at every Board Meeting shows a near 100% occupancy level every month at every MPHA property including Glendale. Again, there are 17,000 people on a wait list from high rises to family housing.
    So where are these vacant units that the MPHA and Horowich assume to exist? The only way MPHA can possibly have vacant units in their properties is to block folks on the waiting list from accessing housing. Is the Public Housing Authority planning on keeping people on their waiting list living in shelters, or on the street, in order to move forward with their partnerships with private developers?

    Alternatively, when push comes to shove and MPHA’s properties do not have the number of vacancies to “relocate” residents and pave the way for demolition or redevelopment, as described in the Sherman report and again here by Horowich, is it not likely that the MPHA will say “Oops! Well, we can still give them a voucher and send them on their way.”
    And the resident’s “choice of options” so blithely assured by MPHA’s Horowich (but not legally binding on the MPHA, of course) will go up in smoke. “Too bad. Well, we meant well.” No, this was premeditated. Extensive research has been done at how similar the MPHA’s plans are to similar plans that have destroyed public housing in other cities. These are well-researched and documented published facts about the trends of destruction of public housing, displacements of poor families and the role of MPHA.

    Beyond these incredibly troubling and, yes, “irresponsible” lacks of proof of any of the statements Horowich and MPHA are making about residents’ guarantee of housing, it is disturbing to see that the response of a government entity to concerns being raised by low-income communities about something as fundamental as the security of their housing is one of glibness bordering on hostility, rather than legitimate engagement with the communities raising these concerns.

    It is disturbing to watch MPHA and Horowich fall all over themselves trying to prove that low-income residents and people of color are nothing but a bunch of crazies who don’t have their facts straight, rather than finding themselves concerned at the supposed “misunderstanding” of their plans. Nothing is being misunderstood, but plenty is being exposed.
    For months now, I have personally witnessed the hostility of MPHA towards organizers and residents speaking truth to power, and their latest attacks on the Daily Planet’s reporting indicate just how far they are willing to go to preserve the web of lies they are building.
    The fact is that these plans are not at all about protecting and promoting housing for vulnerable communities, as MPHA’s vague and misleading language would have citizens believe, but instead about destroying and privatizing public housing and thereby displacing public housing residents.

    Sincerely,
    Natalie Goodwin
    Deeply concerned citizen of Minneapolis and public housing ally

    Sherman’s study entitled “Glendale Townhomes: A Rehabilitation
    And Redevelopment Study (a presentation to the MPHA Board of Directors George E. Sherman January 27, 2016) states:

    http://tinyurl.com/DGC-Response-to-Sherman-Report

    http://tinyurl.com/MPHA-Displacement-8-26-17
    http://righttothecity.org/cause/we-call-these-projects-home/
    http://tinyurl.com/GAO-Audits-LIHTC
    https://popularresistance.org/how-a-federal-program-is-destroying-public-housing/

  7. Privatization of public resources is an old trick.
    There were plans “floated” by MPHA to demolish Glendale, first to triple the units to about 500 in a concentration of poverty, then a flurry of different options including for profit market rate housing.

    All had these things in common: giving away about 14 acres of public land to private developers, financing the development with public money and public loan backing as well as tax breaks to any profit of the developers. The developers would end up with all the public resources to sell off in the future.

    Glendale is not in a distressed area that lacks development. As a citizen I question all the public land, finance and tax breaks to developers in the hottest development districts on the Green Line where thousands of market rate housing units have been created in the last 10 years but few public housing options planned in other parts of the area except Glendale.

    We saw this before when the MPLS school district tried to close and sell off Pratt School to private developers, another prime piece of land next to a park in the hottest development districts in the city, just a few blocks away from Glendale.

    This is the same old story.

  8. MPHA has one goal in all the “floated” plans: Privatize the hundreds of millions of dollars of public resources(land, housing units) it controls and give them away to crony developers. The board is riddled with insider plants, lawyers and bankers.
    Get rid of these parasites.

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