Communist Party USA

  “No one in the wealthiest country in the world should be forced to sleep on the streets.” Congressperson Ilhan Omar tweeted this statement in 2019 when she introduced the Homes for All Act. The bill, HR 5244, came at a critical time as the cases of homelessness nationally were on the rise, but Rep. Omar’s effort was hardly the first attempt to counter more than a generation of anti–public housing policy. According to Rep. Omar’s press release at the time, the bill would “authorize construction of 12 million new public housing and private, permanently affordable rental units, driving down costs throughout the market and creating a new vision of what public housing looks like in the U.S.” With a $1.2 trillion price tag spent over 10 years, the bill would have been “a new mile marker in the progressive left’s efforts to stake out a national housing agenda,” according to CityLab. Housing justice experts and activists fervently praised the bill. The Center for American Progress said that it would be  “life-changing for millions of families.” “Every American deserves access to a safe and stable place to live, but unfortunately, our current free-market housing system is not meeting the needs of working families,” said Rep. Omar. Nevertheless, HR 5244 fizzled into obscurity, joining the graveyard of a few substantive and many rhetorical plans to address the homelessness crisis. Ultimately, the bill gained only six cosponsors, including Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Pramila Jayapal. Why do efforts like this, despite a growing crisis none of us can ignore, continue to fail? Recall that, back in 2005, Rep. Julia Carson (D-IN) introduced the Bringing America Home Act, which was quickly cosponsored by other progressive, left-leaning Democrats, including Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, Barbara Lee of California, and John Conyers of Michigan. It was also cosponsored by the Independent representative Bernie Sanders of Vermont, then chair of the Progressive Caucus. Like Omar’s 2019 bill, Carson’s bill did not make it out of committee and received no vote. While a lot of angst from all quarters is stirred over the homeless crisis — from homeless advocates who demand remedies, the homeless themselves who need homes, local business owners, realtors anxious about property values, and state and local politicians — very little is achieved to end the crisis. In fact, the crisis of homelessness continues to be foreshadowed by the rising Housing Insecurity Index, a tool developed to measure things like food insecurity and delinquent rent payments. The less-discussed precariousness of many renters puts them on a direct path to sleeping on the streets, in shelters, and in their cars. Shamefully, we live in a “market system” that continues to normalize the depths we fall to by addressing none of the things that create this precariousness but often attributing this crisis to drug abuse or mental health issues, when some activists on the ground push back on this assertion. A report from Street Roots in Portland, Oregon, sounds the alarm and takes aim even at the Biden Administration’s developing policies. Street Roots finds the new administration’s efforts sorely wanting: The data . . . suggests that the scale of the country’s affordable housing crisis is much greater. . . . 7.7 million families in 2017 had “worst-case needs.” Worst-case needs are defined as renters making less than 50% of the Area Median Income without housing assistance and living in “severely inadequate housing,” renters paying more than half of their income in rent, or those doing both. The Street Roots report concludes: “Almost all households with worst-case needs (98%) pay more than half their…

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A case for the homeless