Home » News » Inhabitants of Americas » Tenants to Send Valentine’s Day Message to Congress: “Have a Heart, Save Our Homes!”

Mostra/Nascondi il menu

Tenants to Send Valentine’s Day Message to Congress: “Have a Heart, Save Our Homes!”

Tenant leaders representing more than 1.1 million families facing homelessness if proposed House budget cuts are applied to HUD rental subsidy programs for the poor, will explain the urgent need for HUD rental programs and urge Senate and House Members to “Have a Heart, Save Our Homes” in cities across the country on Valentines Day.

House leaders have announced cuts of $100 billion in the remaining seven months of FY 2011, or $170 billion on an annualized basis.  House leaders have also proposed proportionately deeper cuts for HUD and Transportation compared to other departments.  If applied across the board, HUD programs could be cut by 35% as soon as April.  More than 850,000 Section 8 Voucher holders could lose their homes, and another 250,000 families in privately-owned, HUD subsidized low income housing could be on the street with nowhere to go, according to nonpartisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities data.

Of the five million American households receiving HUD assistance to rent their homes, all are very low income, and the overwhelming majority are seniors, disabled people and single parents with children.  Many are disabled veterans or formerly homeless people, who receive priority for federal assistance.  Low income Section 8 tenants pay 30% of their income on rent, with the federal government paying the rest to landlords.  Another 1.1 million families live in Public Housing owned by city housing agencies and would be homeless without HUD rental assistance.

“It is unacceptable for Congress to kick elderly people, people with disabilities, and children out of their homes while wealthy people can take tax deductions on their vacation homes,” says Jackie Philyaw, a working mother of two in Section 8 housing and NAHT Board member in Boston.  NAHT supports eliminating the mortgage interest deduction on second homes instead of reducing housing assistance to the most vulnerable Americans.

Congress only restored minimal funding to HUD rental programs in 2009, after a decade of underfunding.  Beyond avoiding cuts, increases are needed to pay for critical repair backlogs in Public Housing, fund expiring Section 8 contracts and provide rental vouchers to tenants facing displacement when HUD subsidy contracts expire.  Otherwise, public costs will go up as people are rendered homeless and buildings collapse. 

Rhenae Keyes of Vacaville, California, a mother of two disabled while serving in the military, became homeless with her children and moved to Public Housing for seven years.  “Last year, my public housing was scheduled for demolition because of funding cuts that were in place during the Bush era.  So we had to move again.  Now I’m a Section 8 Voucher holder.  With these cuts, my family and many others could become homeless yet again.” 

Adds Ed Democracy, a Portland, Maine Navy veteran, college graduate and resident of Public Housing, “Congress must fully fund public housing to protect the investment taxpayers have made to maintain stable housing for families.”   Democracy notes that destabilizing Section 8 subsidies to HUD insured mortgages would also strike a body blow to the mortgage and real estate industries; destabilizing municipal finances by undercutting Public Housing would have a similar effect on municipal bond markets.  Neither the tenants nor the industries that provide rental housing for the poor can sustain these shocks. 

“More than 500,000 HUD subsidized apartments have been lost to market conversions and demolitions.  We can’t afford to lose any more,” adds Lonene Crawford, a disabled former legal secretary and NAHT Board member in Harlem.  “If Voucher programs are cut, it would put me on the street.  Where are we supposed to live after age or illness have rendered us no longer middle class but low income?”

Adds Voucher holder Julie Griggs of Largo, Florida, “Having experienced homelessness myself, we must have a conscience and heart and vote no to any cuts that will harm or endanger human life.  We ask Congress to remember to “Have a Heart” on Valentines Day and every day of the year.” 

Tenants have suffered due to underfunding housing programs in the past.  In 2003, HUD told Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) they would be paid at 70% of their prior year’s budgets, causing Housing Authorities around the country to cancel vouchers, reduce the amount of subsidies they would pay per apartment, or terminate tenants from the program.  In 2007, owners of project-based Section 8 apartments didn’t receive their payments on time, causing at least one Texas landlord to go into foreclosure and HUD to try to shut down the property, and many owners to struggle to make utility payments, payroll, and provide services.

The Have a Heart campaign was initiated by the National Alliance of HUD Tenants (NAHT), a national tenant-led organization working since 1992 to preserve affordable housing, protect tenants' rights, and promote resident control and ownership in low-income housing.  NAHT is the only national tenants union in the US, affiliated with the Habitat International Coalition.  The campaign is also sponsored by the USA/Canada Alliance of Inhabitants (USACAI), the North American chapter of the International Alliance of Inhabitants; the Resident Engagement Group (REG), a network of Public Housing and Section 8 tenants coordinated by the National Housing Law Project; and other advocacy groups. 



Planned for Valentine’s Day 2011

Portland, ME.   On Valentines Day, tenants and allies organized by the Portland Tenants Union will rally at 12:00 noon on Canal Plaza, Temple and Spring Streets in Portland, to deliver Housing Valentines to Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), newly named Ranking Member of the Sen. Appropriations Subcommittee for Housing and Transportation, and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME).  Contact:   Ed Democracy (207-775-0270, 207-210-7253 cell, Ed@PortlandTenants.org  ).

Boston, MA .  On Valentines Day, more than 150 tenants will gather at a Boston City Council hearing on a Resolution urging the Massachusetts Congressional delegation to support full funding for vital HUD programs.  Tenants will then march across City Hall Plaza and rally at 12:30 at the JFK Federal Building to deliver Valentines to Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), urging him to oppose HUD budget cuts and support new vouchers for currently ineligible tenants to save their homes.  More than 13 tenant organizations and allies have joined the Save Our Homes Coalition initiated by the Mass Alliance of HUD TenantsContact:  Hannah Weinstein, MAHT  617-312-0875, maht@saveourhomes.org  )

Newark, NJ .  On Valentines Day, tenants mobilized by the Greater Newark HUD Tenants Coalition will rally at 10 a.m. on the steps of Newark City Hall and march to the offices of Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a former resident of public housing, at One Gateway Center on Market Street for a rally at noon, joined by supporters from Amnesty International, The Peoples Organization for Progress, Ironbound Community Corporation and others.  The Municipal Council is preparing a resolution opposing the cuts and will participate.  Contact:   Victor Monterrosa, GNHTC (973-589-3353x208, tenantorganizer@gmail.com  )

Staten Island, NY.   Section 8 tenants from Staten Island will visit the office of newly elected Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) on Valentines Day with a “Have a Heart” message, urging him to break ranks with the House majority and support tenants in his District instead.  Contact:  Judy Montanez, NAHT Board Secretary (917-232-0279, region2naht@gmail.com  ).

Washington, DC.   Tenants mobilized by Empower DC,  One DC, homeless advocates and supporters will demonstrate at 1:00 p.m. on Valentines Day at the Russell Senate Office Building, Constitution Avenue and 2nd  Street, NE to urge the Congress,  the Senate in particular, to “have a Heart—Don’t Take Our Homes” and fully fund subsidized housing programs.  They will deliver Valentine Cards to several key Senators telling stories of how families will be harmed by proposed cuts.  Contact:   Linda Leaks at Empower DC (202-234-9119x101, lleaks1@juno.com ).

Houma, LA.   Tenants from the Senator Circle resident group, a public housing development owned by the Houma Terrebonne HA, will rally in the local Bingo Hall on Valentines Day and demonstrate along the Interstate Highway in Houma, urging Senator David Vitter (R-LA) and former Rep. Charlie Melancom (D-LA).  The action is supported by local high school students and the Parish Council.  Tenants have also contacted their state elected officials.  Contact:   Telisa Clark, tenant member of the Resident Engagement Group (REG) coordinated by the National Housing Law Project, (985-360-6555, telissad@msn.com ).

New Orleans, LA.   Tenants from C3/Hands Off Iberville and May Day New Orleans will rally at 11 am on Valentines Day at the entrance to Christopher Park Homes, 2000 Murl St. in Algiers, LA to oppose budget cuts and the local Housing Authority’s scheme to eliminate 530 Public Housing units at Iberville and displace tenants to an isolated site across the river.  Contact:   Mike Howells (504-587-0080).

Raleigh, NC.   The North Carolina Housing Coalition has sent an action alert to over 3,000 statewide contacts urging low income tenants and advocates to send a Valentines Day message to Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Kay Hagan (D-NC) urging full funding for HUD programs.  Contact:   Regina Greene (919-827-4494, 919-673-5030 cell, rgreen@nchousing.org  )

Chattanooga, TN .  On Valentines Day, tenants organized by Chattanooga Organize for Action will gather to learn about drastic cuts threatening Tennessee tenants at a local Community Center and contact Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing,  to “Have a Heart, Save Our Homes.”  On Tuesday, February 15, tenants will ask the Chattanooga City Council to enlist their support to help tenants stay in their homes.  Contact:   Landon Howard, Chattaction@gmail.com

Daytona Beach, FL.   Central Florida tenants from several cities will coordinate a Valentine’s Day “call-in” to Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL), as well as House Appropriations Committee leader C.W. Bill Young (R-FL), urging them to “Have a Heart” and save peoples’ homes.  Tenants will also call Florida Governor Rick Scott, who grew up in public housing, opposing related state housing budget cuts.  The group will sponsor an areawide “Conversation with Section 8 Tenants” on February 23 to follow up.  Contact:  Organizer Rachel Johnson (954-549-5010,  igotsomethin2say@yahoo.com  ); Section 8 Voucher tenant leader Julie Grigg (727-581-3052, juwelsbythesea@earthlink.net  );  Section 8 tenant leader Ericka Sipp (386-675-3075; sippericka@yahoo.com  ). 

Chicago, IL.   Tenants organized by NAHT Board President Herman Bonner will send a “phone in” Valentine’s Day message to Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Richard Durbin (D-IL), both members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Housing and Transportation, urging them to oppose cuts and fight for full funding for Section 8 and Public Housing.  Contact:  Herman Bonner  (773-615-8329, Region5naht@gmail.com )

Dallas, TX.   Tenants organized by the Texas Tenants Union and their allies have met with the office of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX), a member of both the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing and the Senate Banking Committee.  They will also deliver a surprise Valentine’s Day greeting to a local Congressional office urging a particularly cold-hearted Representative to “Have a Heart.”  Contact:   Sandy Rollins, TTU (214-823-2733, ttu@ont.com  ).

San Francisco, CA.   Tenants mobilized by several Bay Area groups will rally Valentines Day at San Francisco Civic Center at 2 pm, then march to the nearby Federal Building to urge Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to do all in their power to fight for full funding for HUD programs.  The rally and march will feature creative Valentine-themed street theater and visuals.  The coalition includes the Western Regional Advocacy Project, the San Francisco Housing Rights Committee, the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, Causa Justa: Just Cause, Planning for Elders, AIDS Housing Alliance/SF, Council of Community Housing Organizations, and many other housing rights groups.  Contact:   Paul Boden, WRAP (415-621-2533, wrap@wraphome.org  )

Palo Alto, CA.   On Valentine’s Day, tenants mobilized by the Affordable Housing Network, InnVision and the Opportunity Center Tenants Council have invited elected officials to join them in speaking out against proposed cuts at 11:30 a.m. at the Opportunity Center, 33 Encina Avenue, Palo Alto.  Contact:   Joyce Osegiede, Co-President Opportunity Center Tenants Council (650-995-0599) or Sandy Perry, Affordable Housing Network (408-691-6153, perrysandy@aol.com  ). 

Roseville, CA.   On Valentine’s Day, tenant leaders from Rocklin and Auburn will take Valentine’s Day letters to Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) urging opposition to housing budget cuts.  Tenants will also send letters to Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein (D-CA).   Contact:   Annette Smith (916-315-8139, annetteinca@earthlink.net  ).

Rancho Cordova, CA.   Tenants from the Rancho 44 Tenant Association will deliver letters to Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) on Valentines Day urging him to “Have a Heart, Save Our Homes!”  Tenants will also send letters to Senators Boxer and Feinstein (D-CA).   Contact:   Sherry Lautsbaugh (866-584-0061, sherryl43x@aol.com  ).

Sacramento, CA .  Tenants from Public and Multifamily HUD housing in Sacramento will deliver Valentines Day letters to the Sacramento offices of Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) urging them to fight for full funding for HUD rental housing programs.  Contact:  Charlotte Delgado, NAHT Board Vice President/West, 916-769-3472, celticcat000@gmail.com  ). 

Portland, OR.   Homeless people and advocates organized by Sisters of the Road will collect Valentines cards and contact Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden (D-OR) on Monday during a Statehouse Lobby Day to urge them to fight to fully fund HUD rental housing programs.  Contact:   Julie McCurdy, 503-449-5073, Julie@sistersoftheroad.org  ). 

Seattle, WA.   Tenants from “expiring use” HUD housing will visit the office of Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Housing and Transportation, urging full funding for HUD rental housing programs and extension of vouchers to currently unprotected families facing displacement.  Hundreds more are mailing Valentine postcards to Congressmembers.  Contact:   Jonathan Grant, The Tenants Union of Washington (206-722-6848x112, jonathang@tenantsunion.org  )

Contact:   Michael Kane, NAHT  617-233-1885(c)  michaelkane@saveourhomes.org  for background and referrals to local actions

National Alliance of HUD Tenants



Log in or create a user account to comment.