Rick Tingling-Clemmons, candidate for Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, DC Statehood Green Party, calls for an immediate moratorium on housing foreclosures and categorically opposes PETRA. PETRA, short for “Preservation Enhancement and Transforming Rental Assistance,” is an Obama Administration proposal to effectively “privatize public housing” by converting public housing to private owners, offering the buyers 20-30 year contracts. The owner can then go to the private financial market to borrow money, using public assets as collateral. There is currently a $30 billion backlog through holding back funding for renovations in public housing.
What would happen to the public housing units as collateral if the property is foreclosed on? Suppose the private owner cannot pay the money back? If it is a private entity owning the property, tenants will lose their rights currently enjoyed under law; especially their right to organize and have any substantive input in the future of the property. Also, when a tenant lives in a PETRA property for two years, he/she can get a voucher to move anywhere they want into HUD-designated ‘opportunity neighborhoods’, thereby allowing them to jump over the thousands of people on the waiting list for either public housing units or vouchers – which today number about 26,000 people in DC alone. But with the current state of the economy and double-digit inflation accompanied by double-digit unemployment on the horizon, the situation that created this problem will persist.
Housing advocates urge the government to put money into public housing as it has previously committed to but has not, which Tingling-Clemmons supports, that the $30 billlion which the federal government has withheld be immediately put back into public housing, and that tenant control be immediately reinstated. Currently, the government puts 80% of its housing supports into supporting higher-income sectors in the form or abatements, tax credits, mortgage income deductions versus 20% to the low income population.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters had introduced promising legislation to preserve public housing, including: a one to one replacement for any Public Housing unit torn down; allowing Public Housing Authorities to go to the public finance market with units insured by the Federal government; and proposes home-care training for Public Housing tenants.
‘Housing is a Right,’ declared Tingling-Clemmons, further stating, “We should stop the policy and practice of denying people public housing, jobs and training opportunities based on their criminal convictions and/or records (i.e., Ban the Box!), and Public Housing tenants should never pay more than 25% of their income for rent. He is also demanding an end to predatory lending practices and more federal support to keep people in their homes and support for first-time buyers, to be paid for by increasing taxes on persons earning over $250,000 per year; and by ending U.S. support for wars, thus returning badly needed revenue to housing, job creation, education and health care for all. When any of these human needs is affected, it has an impact on all the others.