A Letter from A Starving Artist

Okay. The world has gone tits up. Noted. Many of us may feel as though our tiny pocket of the universe has just been shaken like a snow globe. We’ve lost our jobs, some of us have lost our health, our loved ones, our sense of security, the future we’d counted on.
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A Fair Chance at Housing For Those With Records

Last year, Cook County—our nation’s second most populous county, which includes Chicago—took a historic step forward by passing a law that protects people who have an arrest or conviction record from housing discrimination. It’s estimated that the Just Housing Amendment, which went into effect at the beginning of the year, will give more than 1 million residents and their families a fair chance at securing a home.

The Coronavirus Will Explode Achievement Gaps in Education

The COVID-19 pandemic will take existing academic achievement differences between middle-class and low-income students and explode them. The academic achievement gap has bedeviled educators for years. In math and reading, children of college-educated parents score on average at about the 60th percentile, while children whose parents have only a high school degree score, on average, at the 35th percentile.* The academic advantages of children whose parents have master’s degrees and beyond are even greater.

High-Risk, Essential, and Illegally Evicted

[4/10/20: This story has been updated with further developments]. In late March, just as New Orleans became one of the epicenters of the nation’s fight against the novel coronavirus, sanitation worker Bobby Parker, 56, found himself locked out of his apartment for paying his rent four days late.

Art that Amplifies the Stories of Formerly Incarcerated People

The People’s Paper Co-op (PPC) is a women-led and women-focused art and advocacy project at the Village of Arts and Humanities based in Philadelphia. The PPC looks to women in reentry as the leading criminal justice experts the city needs to hear from and uses art to amplify their stories, dreams, and visions for a more just and free world. Twice a year, PPC provides paid fellowships to an inspiring group of formerly incarcerated women to organize creative campaigns to support and expand legal services, bailouts, and advocacy efforts.

Expanding Housing Choice Vouchers Would Strengthen the Safety Net

It’s time to mend the housing safety net. The COVID-19 crisis has thrown light on the fragility of millions of American families for whom a missed paycheck forces a decision between paying rent and buying food. An eviction moratorium will help temporarily but will not solve the long-term housing problems associated with COVID-19. Temporary rent subsidies, similarly, would help only for a short time. The economic disruption of COVID-19 cannot be reversed overnight; there will likely be high levels of unemployment for some time – at least months and potentially years. Even after people get back to work, low wages compared with rents will likely persist. This is what happened during the Great Recession; incomes fell faster than rents, leading to larger numbers of people with severe housing cost burdens. Rents generally cannot fall to the level needed to allow the lowest-income people to afford them. Landlords need enough rent to cover their mortgages and keep the housing in adequate condition.

Housers: Now Is the Time to Buy Land

The coronavirus did not end the urban affordability crisis. To the contrary, it is only a matter of time before urban America’s restaurants, bars, hotels, and entertainment venues are filled and pre-pandemic housing demand returns. No major urban population drop is projected, so the acute jobs/housing imbalance will resume. More families than ever will need affordable homes.

How Rent Control Promotes Racial Equity

Universal rent control is gaining traction and popular support in urban centers, suburbs, and even rural parts of the United States, where mobile and manufactured home residents are experiencing the pressures of real estate speculation and have been organizing for stronger protections. Last year, this growing tenants movement achieved several landmark wins: New York passed historic protections closing loopholes and enabling rent control across the state; California and Oregon passed statewide “rent caps,” extending basic protections against rent gouging to millions.

Help for Small Businesses

A radio host recently compared the situation in which some small businesses are compelled to stay open to a wartime draft—the global COVID-19 pandemic has separated the “essential” from the “non,” and many small businesses nationwide other than pharmacies, restaurants (for take-out only), and grocery stores have had to close abruptly. The uncertainty that goes hand-in-hand with this fluid health crisis is only amplified for small-business owners, whose issues must be triaged with a multitude of others. It is especially amplified for immigrant-owned businesses, business owners of color, and businesses operating in low-income communities, all of which were still on weakened footing from the 2008 recession.

We Need a Rural New Deal

COVID-19 is a combined health and economic crisis poised to further devastate rural communities already suffering severe economic stress. Already, rural health care systems are strained by the outbreak, and workers across the country are facing increasing precarity as the crisis unfolds.

Community Development Is Crucial in This Moment

One month ago, when I began the first draft of this article, the world was drastically different. Well before we became part of this new reality, I felt an urgency to reflect and speak up about the future to make sure the value of our work doesn’t get lost. Now that urgency has grown.

Deciding Not to Rebuild After Climate-Related Disasters

There is an extreme, persistent lack of affordable housing in the U.S. There is also an accelerating host of climate-related changes to our landscape—severe heat and drought, increased violent storms, rising sea levels, and worsening flooding. Each is a significant challenge on its own, but the lack of affordable housing and the increase in climate-related changes are related in many ways.