Draft GPUS Platform Amendment Housing Homelessness

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Section title: Housing

Section subtitle: ???

Our position: Housing is a human right. Greens work toward eliminating economic and other forms of discrimination in the construction and use of housing.

Rents have soared due to real estate speculation. One out of five renters pays more than fifty percent of their income for housing. Fewer than one in ten renters can afford to buy a median-priced house in the area where they live. In an era of deregulation, tenants have had few legal protections, and those that exist have begun to erode. Rent control and eviction protection for tenants does not exist in most jurisdictions, and where it does, it is usually inadequate and under attack. Landlords who, in violation of housing code requirements, fail to keep their property in habitable condition are tolerated, or at most given lenient penalties. Housing discrimination remains rampant against people of color, immigrants, disabled, single people, gays and lesbians, and families with children.

It is conservatively estimated that one million people are homeless. Today, homeless people are hounded, threatened, and often can not obtain badly needed services. Though affordable housing could help alleviate the problem of homelessness, the homeless have needs that go beyond housing.

The twenty-year decline in real wages for workers is also a major contribution to the current crisis in housing availability and affordability. Certain laws have also contributed to the problems of housing supply and cost, and are in some cases consciously used to exclude households with lower incomes from higher income communities.

Areas of local law that should be revisited include: ordinances that prohibit a shift toward co-housing; land use plans that provide excessive amounts of land for industrial and commercial use; and inflexible building codes that prevent alternative (often less expensive) construction approaches that still meet health and safety requirements.

Green Solutions

Renter’s Rights

1. Protect 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.

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 the laws that are 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.