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The birth of Defend Glendale & Public Housing Coalition

MINNESOTA SPOKESMAN-RECORDER — On its surface, Glendale stood as one of the highest rated public housing complexes in Minneapolis Public Housing Authority’s (MPHA) portfolio. Built in 1952, it is the city’s oldest public housing structure and is the only public housing built expressly for families, comprised of separate townhomes — instead of high rises — each with its own front porch, basement and back yard. They are also nestled within the affluent Southeast Minneapolis’ Prospect Park neighborhood and sit on prime real estate.

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By Mel Reeves

News Analysis

Last week, the MSR explored Minneapolis’ public housing rehab woes related to HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration. This week, the MSR explores the birth of its staunchest opponent: Defend Glendale & Public Housing Coalition.

For years, Glendale Townhomes have served as point of contention for residents who feared gentrification, privatization and the subsequent destruction of Minneapolis’ public housing.

On its surface, Glendale stood as one of the highest rated public housing complexes in Minneapolis Public Housing Authority’s (MPHA) portfolio. Built in 1952, it is the city’s oldest public housing structure and is the only public housing built expressly for families, comprised of separate townhomes — instead of high rises — each with its own front porch, basement and back yard. They are also nestled within the affluent Southeast Minneapolis’ Prospect Park neighborhood and sit on prime real estate.

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) inspectors had also given the townhomes high marks — a score of 98 out of 100 — according to housings inspections released in 2010.

SEE ALSO: Public housing rehab sparks fears of privatization

The first occupants were U.S. veterans and their families, then by Black families who migrated to Minneapolis looking for better employment opportunities. Now, the Townhomes include a mix of South East Asians, East Africans (Somali and Oromo) immigrants and refugees, Whites and African American descendants of slaves.

Despite glowing reports, residents were demanding repairs be made to their townhomes, including fixing faulty electrical outlets, corroded pipes, upgrading the heating system, and upgrading pest control efforts. But, according to the residents, the buildings were not in such a state of disrepair that would require demolition and reconstruction.

“We found out people were not getting enough heat in their homes — there were issues with the heating system. The homes were in good shape, just in need of minor repairs and more pest control,” said Ladan Yusuf, Glendale resident and community activist.

In 2015, the MPHA announced plans to make requested repairs.

There was one caveat. The reconstruction plan would be achieved by demolishing and reconstructing the housing, requiring residents to temporarily relocate. Repairs would also be completed using MPHA’s RAD program (Rental Assistance Demonstration) which allows the agency to secure funds through private sources.

Yusuf said MPHA’s Director of Facilities and Development, Tim Gaetz told Glendale residents that their townhomes were targeted because their repairs were the costliest.

“MPHA complained they didn’t have enough money,” explained Yusuf. “They started charging people for minor repairs. We asked, ‘Why are they charging folks for minor repairs, like replacing a doorknob?’ Later, we found out that they were sitting on millions, but had stopped putting money in Glendale.”

The MPHA plan called for tearing down the current 184 townhomes and replacing them with a mixed-income complex of 550 new apartments, some of which would be reserved for use as Section 8 housing. Residents were told they would be able to return using Section 8 vouchers. The agency also promised rents would not be raised and the private investors would alter the long-term use of the buildings.

At first glance, residents did not see much wrong with the RAD proposal, but upon further examination, it had the potential to decrease public housing stock.

While returning tenants would have a Section 8 voucher which allows residents to pay 30 percent of their income toward rent, the new project-based public housing would only guarantee a certain amount of affordable housing stock over the long term. There was no guarantee the housing that currently accepts Section 8 vouchers would remain so.

Glendale residents pushed back, forming Defend Glendale & Public Housing Coalition, a grassroots residents’ group led by Yusuf to oppose relocation and address privatization fears. Residents protested, calling the plan a “glorified privatization scheme,” which would lead to gentrification and displacement of the current residents and the elimination of Glendale as public housing. The tenants expressed grave doubts about the agency’s promises that they would be allowed to return after redevelopment was completed.

Relocation would also mean disruption of their livelihood, as there was no Section 8 housing in Prospect Park and very little in the adjoining neighborhoods and not much more in Minneapolis city limits, resulting in residents being scattered all over the Twin Cities metro area causing disruption and hardship, especially for elderly residents and those who rely on public transportation.

“It was obvious to me and my neighbors that they had been purposely neglecting upkeep for the last 10 years so they would have an excuse to spring this RAD plan on us,” said Yusuf.

Defend Glendale and its community allies, which include members of the Prospect Park Association the area’s neighborhood group, became a vocal and visible opponent of the changes, organizing community meetings and protests at Minneapolis City Hall and at key locations, calling for “zero displacement and zero gentrification.”

Glendale residents eventually filed a HUD complaint about lack of heat in their homes. A Minneapolis Council member pointed them to the Sustainable Resource Center, which helped weatherize the townhomes, replace old furnaces, and add insulation and other materials — without MPHA assistance.

Residents requested MPHA use its budget to make other repairs, but according to residents, the agency blocked requests for more than a year. MPHA ultimately gave in to pressure and the repairs were performed in 2018 without relocating residents.

Defend Glendale is now looking to support efforts to maintain and secure public housing at other housing sites it fears are now being targeted. It formed the Keep Public Housing Public Minneapolis Coalition, to address those ongoing concerns with the MPHA.

According to Yusuf, “In 2017, Russ said, ‘They are too organized at Glendale, let’s go after Elliot Twins.’ They said, ‘Let’s go somewhere else and maybe come back to Glendale. We realized that other brothers and sisters were under threat at Elliot Twins, we wanted to form, a solidarity so we organized with them.”

The MSR will continue to follow this affordable and public housing discussion as it unfolds.

This article originally appeared in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

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Activism

Reparations Task Force: What to Expect in the Committee’s First Report

California’s AB 3121, signed into law in 2020, created the nine-member task force to investigate the history and costs of slavery in California and around the United States. AB 3121 charges the Reparations Task Force with studying the institution of slavery and its lingering negative effects on Black Californians who are descendants of persons enslaved in the United States.

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Six of the nine members of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans. From left to right are Don Tamaki, Jovan Scott Lewis, chair Kamilah Moore, vice-chair Dr. Rev. Amos Brown, Dr. Cheryl Grills, and California State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena). CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
Six of the nine members of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans. From left to right are Don Tamaki, Jovan Scott Lewis, chair Kamilah Moore, vice-chair Dr. Rev. Amos Brown, Dr. Cheryl Grills, and California State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena). CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media

The California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans will submit its first report to the California Legislature in June.

The 13-chapter document will detail the committee’s findings so far and include recommendations related to them.

Task force member Donald K. Tamaki said the “comprehensive report connects the dots between past racism and its current consequences.” He also inferred that the report presents a “landmark opportunity” to shape the national conversation around reparations.

“I think the report will not only attract California publicity but will also be looked upon nationally,” Tamaki said before the task force approved the report. “With the report, we can go out to the people to develop an allyship and (generate) support for it.”

As prescribed in Assembly Bill (AB) 3121, the report will establish how California laws and policies have disproportionately and negatively affected African Americans. The report will be available to the public.

The California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Enforcement Section formulated the document based on hearings, expert testimonies, and evidence accumulated since the panel first convened on June 1, 2021.

One of the DOJ’s duties is to facilitate task force consultation with various experts on California history and reparations. The department also provides administrative, technical, and legal assistance to the panel.

The preliminary report opens with an introduction that leads to chapters focused on enslavement, racial terror and political disenfranchisement, among others. It also covers a range of topics documenting historical injustices Black Americans have endured, including housing segregation, separate and unequal education, environmental racism, and others.

Titles such as “Pathologizing the Black Family;” “Control over Spiritual, Creative and Cultural life;” “Stolen Labor and Hindered Opportunity;” and “An Unjust Legal System,” among others, frame the testimonies and historical accounts recorded during the task force meetings.

Task Force Chair Kamilah Moore wrote the foreword. Her introduction is an overview of the task force’s activities over the last year.

“This interim report will catalog all those harms we’ve discussed throughout those two-day virtual meetings since June of last year,” Moore said in an online Blk TLK Platform discussion in April. “It will also have some preliminary recommendations for the legislation to adopt.”

The first report was supervised by Michael Newman, the California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Senior Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Enforcement Section (DOJCRE).

The task force voted to describe the first presentation, the “Interim Report.”

Tamaki said about 10 DOJCRE attorneys — including Deputy Attorney General Xiyun Yang, DOJCRE Legal Assistant Francisco Balderrama and additional DOJ staff members created the report.

In a collaborative effort, the diverse DOJCRE team, Newman added, consulted with the task force to determine edits, make clarifications in terminology, modify corrections, and implement recommendations.

“It was a labor of love for everyone who worked on it,” Newman said during the task force meeting held in San Francisco on April 14. “I also want to thank all of the (task force) members and the community’s input in producing an incredible record.”

California’s AB 3121, signed into law in 2020, created the nine-member task force to investigate the history and costs of slavery in California and around the United States. AB 3121 charges the Reparations Task Force with studying the institution of slavery and its lingering negative effects on Black Californians who are descendants of persons enslaved in the United States.

The group is tasked with studying and developing reparation proposals for African Americans and recommending appropriate ways to educate Californians about the task force’s findings.

After the task force decided on March 30 that lineage will determine who will be eligible for compensation, the panel approved a framework for calculating how much should be paid — and for which offenses — to individuals who are Black descendants of enslaved people in the United States.

An expert team of economists identified 13 categories that would be the basis of the method used to calculate damages and determine what constitutes harms and atrocities. A second report is due by July 2023 when the task force two-year charge is expected to end.

Members of the task force include Moore, a Los Angeles-based attorney, reparations scholar and activist; vice-chair Dr. Amos Brown, a civil rights leader and respected Bay Area pastor whose journey to leadership started under the tutelage of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s; Cheryl Grills, a professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles; and Lisa Holder, a nationally recognized trial attorney.

Rounding out the panel are Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena); Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles); San Diego Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe; Dr. Jovan Scott Lewis, chair of the Department of Geography at the University of California Berkeley; and Donald Tamaki, Esq. is an attorney best known for his role in the reopening of the Supreme Court case Korematsu v. the United States, which led to the conviction being overturned of Fred Korematsu who refused to be taken into custody during the imprisonment of Japanese Americans in World War II.

For more information, visit https://oag.ca.gov/ab3121#

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Business

Oakland City Council Considers Proposal to Limit City’s Highest Annual Rent Hike in History

In Oakland, landlords can raise rents up to 100% of the inflation rate. So, a 6.7% increase in inflation this year means that landlords can raise rents the same percentage. For an apartment rented for $2,000 a month, the 6.7% rent increase would mean that a tenant’s rent would increase more than $100 to $2,134 a month.

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District 3 Councilmember Carroll Fife introduced a bill to bring Oakland’s calculator more in line with other cities. The law is scheduled for a vote on May 31. If it passes before the current allowable rent hike goes into effect on July 1, then the lower allowable increase will take effect instead.

By Brandon Patterson

Last month, Oakland housing regulators announced that starting in July, landlords would be permitted to raise rents by up to 6.7% — the highest annual increase in the city’s history. The announcement prompted an outcry from renters at City Council meetings and hearings in recent weeks – and calls to local councilmembers.

Now, City Council is considering a proposal to limit the rent increase and give renters, many of whom are already struggling, some needed relief.

In many Bay Area cities, where housing has been an issue for decades, the amount landlords are allowed to raise rents every year is tied to inflation. This stabilizes rents by limiting increases, ensuring more security for renters’ households.

In Oakland, landlords can raise rents up to 100% of the inflation rate. So, a 6.7% increase in inflation this year means that landlords can raise rents the same percentage. For an apartment rented for $2,000 a month, the 6.7% rent increase would mean that a tenant’s rent would increase more than $100 to $2,134 a month.

This deviates from other cities like Berkeley and San Francisco, however, where the annual allowable rent increase is capped at 65% and 60% of inflation, respectively, according to Oaklandside. That means that for the same $2,000 apartment, rents would increase to about $2,087 in Berkeley or $2084 in San Francisco — about $50 less.

Housing justice and tenants’ rights groups have long criticized how differently Oakland calculates its rent hikes from other cities, and earlier this month, District 3 Councilmember Carroll Fife introduced a bill to bring Oakland’s calculator more in line with other cities. The bill would reduce the allowable annual rent increase to just 60% of inflation. It would also cap the allowable rent increase to 3% of the current rent, even if the inflation rate would allow for a higher one.

“I do want to create some security for renters,” Fife told NBC Bay Area in a recent interview. “Oakland is a majority renter city: Over 60% of the residents of the city of Oakland are renters, and it doesn’t make sense to put them in this type of jeopardy.”

“It’s not like we’re coming out of COVID—it’s all around us,” Mark Dias, co-chair of the Oakland Tenants Union, told Oaklandside. “If tenants weren’t able to financially recover from that period of time, they’re also going to be hit with an increase that is legal,” adding that he was “astonished” by the pending rent hike this year.

But some property owners are pushing back, arguing that increases in the cost of operating housing necessitates the higher rent hike. “There has also been an extraordinary increase in everything: water, gas, electric, sewer, repair services, equipment, appliances, plumbing,” Derek Barnes, CEO of the East Bay Rental Housing Association, told NBC Bay Area. “You also have a housing stock that’s older, that really needs a lot of maintenance.”

The law is scheduled for a vote on May 31. If it passes before the current allowable rent hike goes into effect on July 1, then the lower allowable increase will take effect instead.

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Bay Area

Bay Area Health Officers Urge Public to Take Precautions as COVID-19 Levels Rise

The Bay Area now has California’s highest COVID-19 infection rates, fueled by highly contagious Omicron subvariants. Bay Area counties are seeing increases in reported cases, levels of virus in wastewater, and hospitalizations. Actual case rates are higher than those reported because of widespread use of home tests.

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Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County Public Health Officer.
Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County Public Health Officer.

Courtesy of Marin County

Twelve Bay Area health officers are emphasizing the importance of taking safety precautions, including continued masking indoors, as the region experiences a new swell of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

The Bay Area now has California’s highest COVID-19 infection rates, fueled by highly contagious Omicron subvariants. Bay Area counties are seeing increases in reported cases, levels of virus in wastewater, and hospitalizations. Actual case rates are higher than those reported because of widespread use of home tests.

The health officers reiterate their continued, strong support for people to mask up indoors, keep tests handy, and ensure they are up to date on vaccinations by getting boosters when eligible.

“As cases rise around us, it’s important to understand that more people around you are likely infected or have been exposed,” said Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis. “Masks are an easy tool you can use to protect yourself and lower your risk of infection.”

The grim milestone of 1 million deaths from COVID-19 in the United States, reached earlier this week, underscores the need for continued vigilance against the virus.

Although not required, masking is strongly recommended by the California Department of Public Health for most public indoor settings, and health officials say wearing higher-quality masks (N95/KN95 or snug-fitting surgical masks) indoors is a wise choice. Vaccines remain the best protection against severe disease and death from COVID-19.

Health officials say people should also stay home and get tested right away if they feel sick. Officials also encourage getting tested after potential exposure and limiting large gatherings to well ventilated spaces or outdoors. For those more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 infection, medications are available that can reduce chances of severe illness and death. Talk with a health care provider right away if a test comes back positive.

This statement has been endorsed by health officers from the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma as well as the City of Berkeley.

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