Draft GPUS Platform Amendment Housing Homelessness

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Section title: Housing

Section subtitle: Providing affordable housing for all Americans

Our position: Housing is a human right.

People have a right to a home and to be secure in their tenancy. However the supply of affordable housing is not meeting the need, while in an era of increasing deregulation, many tenants are losing important legal protections.

Instead of enacting zoning laws to increase affordable housing, the trend has too often been to increase the proportion of land zoned for commercial property at the expense of residential property. Instead of providing funding to increase affordable housing, amount of funds dedicated to this purpose is decreasing . At the same time, rent control and tenant eviction protections do not exist in most jurisdictions, and where they do, they are often inadequate and under attack. State governments continue to weaken or preempt local rent control laws, while landlords who violate housing code requirements by failing to keep their property in habitable condition, are often tolerated or given lenient penalties. Housing discrimination also remains rampant against people of color, immigrants, disabled, single people, gays and lesbians, and families with children.

Compounding these concerns is the long-term stagnation of workers' real wages, which further exacerbates the housing availability and affordability crisis. At the same time those who are not housed - i.e. the homeless -- are often hounded, threatened, and often cannot obtain badly needed services. While increased affordable housing can help alleviate the problem of homelessness, the homeless have additional needs that go far beyond housing.

Green Solutions

Renters/Tenants' Rights

1. Guarantee tenant's rights, including: freedom from harassment and evictions without just cause; well-enforced habitability standards; strong anti-discrimination enforcement, including family protection laws and domestic partnerships; continuation of established services and amenities; the right to reasonable guest visitation; maintenance of roommate privileges; and the right to communicate with other tenants about conditions or circumstances in their buildings.

2. Enact and enforce strong penalties for landlords who violate these rights.

3. Fund public and non-profit tenant-related counseling and legal assistance for renters.

Rent Control

4. Defend and expand cities' right to enact local rent control laws, including vacancy control/recontrol, that fit the needs of their communities.

5. Provide for publicly elected Rent Control/Stabilization Boards for communities with local rent control laws.

Preserve and Increase Affordable Housing Supply

6. Defend and expand cities' ability to enact affordable housing inclusionary ordinances that fit the needs of their communities, so that the private sector will contribute its share of affordable housing construction.

7. Provide funding for publicly-built affordable housing, including funding for non-profit corporations that build affordable housing.

8. Enact zoning to promote mixed-use development along transit corridors to locate housing next to jobs and public transportation. Lower parking requirements for new multi-family development to lower cost of construction to enable greater affordability.

9. Regulate and limit the legal conversion of existing affordable housing into hotels, motels and short-term vacation rentals and establish and enforce laws to prevent illegal conversions.

Fair Housing

10. Enforce and strengthen the federal Fair Housing Act and other federal and state fair-housing laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, familial status and national origin.

11. Increase funding to assist people who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination and support and fund fair housing enforcement and education across the nation. Consider establishment of an independent Fair Housing Enforcement Agency outside of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in order to improve enforcement and restore public confidence in the implementation of federal fair housing policies.

12. Require that communities that receive federal housing funds provide evidence that their housing policies are affirmatively furthering fair housing.

13. Amend the federal Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program to increase access of eligible families to high opportunity communities, by including higher rents where necessary, improving administrative portability of vouchers across jurisdictional lines, re-establishing housing mobility programs to assist voucher-holders seeking to move to higher opportunity areas, creating strong incentives and performance goals for administering agencies, and providing incentives to recruit new landlords into the program.

14. Amend the The Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program to include fair housing requirements for site selection, affirmative marketing, and reporting of racial/ethnic data to ensure that this program works to further fair housing goals.

15. Ensure that fair housing principles are emphasized in programs addressing the mortgage and financial crisis.

16. Revive the President’s Fair Housing Council to coordinate federal activities across agencies to support fair housing.

Measures to Address Homelessness

17. Prevent homelessness before it occurs by addressing its structural causes, through raising the income floor under the working poor, creating living-wage jobs, providing job training and education that will enable low-wage workers to obtain living-wage jobs, preserving and expanding affordable housing, providing affordable health care, ensuring sufficient mental health care and substance abuse services, availability of healthy food and providing effective, holistic assistance that connects vulnerable individuals with sources of income and essential services.

18. Recognize that there are multiple, related and individualized causes of homelessness, and develop solutions that address them. Maintain and expand the social services necessary to address the varied aspects of homelessness.

19. Move people rapidly into stable living arrangements, where they are under constant threat of displacement or worrying about untreated health problems or other personal difficulties. Support and encourage service integration at all levels and move beyond the shelter approach to provide supportive housing that combines accommodation and an array of necessary services, to transition people out of homelessness.

20. Responding creatively to provide additional transitional housing through master leasing of private apartment blocks; purchase for-profit single room occupancy hotels; and where feasible, conversion of short-term emergency shelter facilities into permanent supportive housing.

21. Provide the resources necessary to advocate, develop and monitor discharge practices of local hospitals, jails and foster care through a zero-tolerance policy for discharging people to the streets.

22. Increase employment for homeless people. Set aside a share of public-sector jobs for homeless people who are able to work. Ensure that public agencies devoted to job creation are active in providing job training and work opportunities for homeless residents. Support non-profit agencies that do the same.

23. Ensure that public assistance is enough to allow recipients to afford a roof over their head. Help homeless who are entitled to federal Social Security benefits and veterans’ disability payments to obtain them.

24. Repeal laws that criminalize homelessness.

25. Involve homeless people in decision-making about short and long-term solutions to homelessness.

26. Educate homeless people about their right to vote. Encourage voter registration and voter participation among homeless people.


Renter’s Rights

1. Grant cities the ability to enact local rent control lawsProtect tenants with rent control laws, including vacancy control.

2. Prevent evictions without just cause. Restrict owner move-in evictions of long-term tenants, the elderly, and disabled persons.

3. Crack down on landlords who refuse to maintain their properties in habitable condition, or who engage in illegal evictions, with hefty fines and, in extreme cases, jail terms.

Preserve and Increase Affordable Housing Supply

4. Enforce laws against illegal hotel conversions.

5. Use vacant housing – whether at closed military bases, housing kept off the market by speculators, or landlords delinquent in taxes – to shelter homeless persons.

6. Build human-scale, low income housing (as does Habitat for Humanity).

7. Pursue more efficient use of our existing housing supply, such as home-sharing and cooperative conversions of existing dwellings.

8. Subsidies, trade-offs with developers, and the creative use of city and county zoning ordinances should be used to increase affordable housing.

'Measures to Help Homeless Persons

9. Expand community-based services for homeless persons and make them more readily available.

10. Repeal all laws that criminalize any facet of homelessness or helping homeless persons.

11. Abolish anti-sleeping laws, especially in areas which don’t have adequate open space, shelter and sleeping areas for homeless persons.

12. Strictly enforce all laws designed to provide for the homeless, such as the laws that require opening National Guard armories to homeless persons during inclement weather.

13. Allow homeless people to take part in decisions about long- and short-term solutions to their situation.

14. Strengthen and increase funding of mental health and drug rehabilitation systems.

Strong Fair-Housing Laws

15. Strengthen and enforce fair-housing laws against discrimination based on race, sex, familial status (children), marital status, disability, or sexual orientation.

16. Fully fund the Fair Employment and Housing Commission and provide generous government funding to non-profit organizations engaged in fair housing monitoring and enforcement.

17. Insist that architectural review boards and planning commissions represent the concerns of citizens, rather than the concerns of economic segments of the community.

'Reform Zoning and Building Codes

18. Implement low-impact, site-specific designs that encourage human-scale development and environmentally sensitive planning. Promote development that encourages urban density – with green spaces – and that discourages urban sprawl.

19. Remove restrictions on converting large, single family homes to multi-family use. Families of today are smaller and there are more single-parent households.

20. Allow industrial and commercial developers to provide housing instead of parking spaces in new developments, and permit housing development in existing industrial and commercial zones.

21. Reform zoning, occupancy, and building ordinances so that residential needs can exist in balance with commercial and industrial needs, and so that alternative approaches are encouraged rather than restricted.