I am going to go into more detail of that in a minute, but before we move on we want to explain a little about what a solidarity network is:
ii. What is a solidarity network:
a. So a basic definition could be: it is a formal group of people who use direct action to confront the forces of power that have influence over their lives. This could be landlords, bosses, cops, banks, check cashing companies, or even harassers, though usually the targets have been bosses and landlords.
b. So that’s a basic definition. We also know people do this informally, whether they take a neighbor with them to go talk to the landlord about issues they are both facing, a few co-workers go talk to the boss to tell them a grievance they are having. But with this type of model this becomes a more formal way of dealing with these issues when they arise. Whether they be small or big, we learn to fight back together.
*video of demand letter drop*
In SWATS Rising we have employed a variety of forms to attract folks. This includes postering, flyering individuals at MARTA stations and on MARTA trains, leaving flyers at every door in an apartment complex. We have gotten calls back through each of these forms.
We begin fights by issuing a demand letter to the landlord in question. These demands will have been decided upon beforehand by the contact and by SWATS organizers. The demand letter will include what we’re fight for, who it is for, and a timeframe for them to redress the specific grievance, whether it be a leaky roof, a deposit that has not been returned, or
2. How do solinets work?Solinets use a variety of tactics to in order to achieve their specific demands.
http://libcom.org/library/you-say-you-want-build-solidarity-networka. Picketing a store / restaurant / hotel.
b. Crashing events (such as open houses).
3. What is the relationship between the solinet and folks who reach out to us in order to fight against their landlord or other power figure?Because the driving force of a solidarity network is solidarity, we require that those who reach out to us are central to organizing their own fight. They will democratically participate and plan their campaign every step of the way with the solinet. We also encourage those folks to become organizers themselves, to join the network, and fight beyond their own fight though some or most may choose not to.
We understand solidarity to mean to the active material support for working people based on the notion that an attack on one section of the working class, or one individual in this case, is an attack on the class as a whole. This means those of us who organize in solinets have a vested interest since we are also workers, renters, etc. A landlord refusing to repair a unit or evicting someone can happen to any one of us.
Because of this we don’t defer only to what the individual who contacts us wants to do.
II. The Housing Crisisi. Atlanta Housing Crisis –
So, for us here in ATL it looks like the beltline, the elimination of all public housing, and high foreclosure rates:
1. “It’s just economics, get rid of the old, in with the new.”
i. These things are often talked about in terms of beautifying the city.. It doesn’t discuss in terms of gentrification – all the people who get displaced and straight up kicked out of their homes due to this beautification. We also think it is a problem that we don’t have any say in this – we don’t get to choose where we live, we have no control over “beautifying” on our own terms. It is those who own land, and landlords, and banks, and the state who get to push us around when they want to make these changes the city.
So one way this has played out is back at the 1996 Olympics – we saw an attack on homeless as they try to push all homeless folks out of the city. The beautification process takes the center of the olympics because they want to put a rush on this change before the olympics happens. One outcome is the removal of homeless, destruction of techwood homes for the olympic village** which at the time are public housing.
3. But the process of eliminating public housing doesn’t stop there. By 2010, Atlanta, becomes the first major city in the world to deliberately remove all public housing.This process takes place in order to remove poor black folks from the city in order to rid the city of these elements and attract new money.
On top of the total elimination of public housing, there was a moratorium on section 8.
What this means for poor people who rely on these programs is that they are pushed out of the city, literally, into the outskirts or further out. On top of the old projects they are building new luxury condos, and expensive apartments that these folks can’t afford. This is all part of the process of gentrification.
One project that is underway that is helping to facilitate this removal of poor black folks from the city is the Beltline. This is being built with the promise that it is going to fix this “problem” – the problem of projects and poverty – when the problem itself is the way society is built. We have no control over the housing we have access to and yet somehow we are being told we are the problem. If they could only get rid of us then the city can prosper. Because if there is no profit to be made off of public housing then they will just remove it with complete disregard of the people that live there. Out with the old, in with the new.
The Beltline takes control of public housing, making way for privatized corporations and individual landlords to take control of housing and quality of living.
So while they call it a crisis, we ask for who?
ii. banks and foreclosures.
Then Atlanta is facing some of the highest home foreclosures in the country. Many folks think that homeowners aren’t subjected to these same attacks but they definitely are.
[Taken from Dollars & Sense]
First, the wealth of blacks is more concentrated in their homes than the wealth of their white counterparts. Even though homes are typically the largest asset of most households, regardless of race, homes of black families make 59% of their net worth compared to 44% among white families. White households typically hold more of other types of assets like stocks and IRA accounts. So when the housing crisis hit, driven down the value of homes and pushing up foreclosure rates, black households lost a far greater share of their wealth than the white households.
Second, mortgage brokers and lenders marketed subprime mortgages specifically to black households. Subprime mortgages are high-interest loans that are supposed to increase access to home financing for risky borrowers–those with a shaky credit history or low income. But these high-cost loans were disproportionately peddled to black households, even on those that could qualify for conventional loans. One study estimated that in 2007 nearly double the share of upper-income black households (54%) had high-cost mortgages compared to low-income white households (28%).
With this assessment on how the housing crisis benefits the ruling class, we have explained the banks benefit from this and how they are contributing to the attack on housing for the poor, but we also have an understanding of how landlords contribute to this.
We don’t look at them as “good” or “bad” landlords. It is just a fact that they are there to make money off of us.
The relationship is social, it is a social process. While they want to invest as little as possible and make as much as possible, they want to have total control over how we live and not the other way around. We want to live in good conditions and have more control over our lives.
It is an on-going tension but at times it will become more apparent. Like when the rents are being raised and we can’t afford them. Landlords have a stake in gentrification because it means they can make more of a profit. For us it means displacement, losing our homes and our communities.
We are on opposing sides of the tension but they have power on their side in the form of the state and the police. If you don’t pay rent cause you can’t afford it, or because they are refusing to make repairs, they get the courts involved and the police come to remove you.
But we do have power in numbers. And that’s how the solidarity network functions. We confront landlords together, we make demands together, and if they refuse, we fight back together.
III. outro, also why you should join our networkConclusion. I know we weren’t sure how much to include here and ended up just wrapping things up and giving a pitch for why people should join, so I don’t know if I should include more of what’s in the other sections but we can talk about this tomorrow.
So as we said earlier, SR! is a group that works using direct action. For us this has meant deliberately sidestepping official institutions to take care of our needs. It also means we work together, building up community resistance to the attack on housing that is taking place in Atlanta. We are not a non-profit so we are not bound by rules and regulations, but we also do not work for a profit. We are a group of community members who do this work in our free time.
That is why y’all’s involvement is key. If this strategy of home defense is going to work we will need to develop a network of folks who can come out to actions. Because we rely on direct action, having this network is how we will be able to put enough pressure on landlords to make them give in to our demands.
What it would mean for y’all to be part of the network as of now would just be if we need a call to action we can hit y’all up to come out to a[n action for an ongoing] campaign. As of now we don’t have a campaign so the urgency is low, but as soon as we get one we want to be prepared to act immediately. The other thing is that the solidarity network is a loose grouping, meaning people can decide on what level they would like to get involved. We go out to flyer every week, we will have more events, if we have a campaign we will have different level of tactics we will employ. Anywhere from delivering a demand letter to door knocking at an apartment complex, to having pickets. There are many ways people can plug into the organization, but at the very least y’all can join the email list to be invited out to actions [and events] when they happen.
http://www.ajc.com/news/news/housing-still-a-crisis-in-southwest-atlanta/nSqK9/ (need access)
http://thegrio.com/2010/08/12/housing-voucher-hysteria-in-atlanta-highlights-national-crisis/ (housing vouchers in E. Point)
http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterferrara/2012/10/11/obamas-real-unemployment-rate-is-14-7-and-a-recessions-on-the-way/ (real umemployment rates)
http://www.gainesville.com/article/20100624/ARTICLES/100629675?tc=ar race and housing crisis
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/11/national/11atlanta.html?_r=2&pagewanted=print gentrification in atlanta and demise of “black power”
http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2012/0112wicks-lim.html Great Recession in Black Wealth
http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/unsafe-streets-stifle-housing-rebound-in-southwest/nSqj9/ Really reactionary piece on how squatters are slow renovation
http://saportareport.com/blog/2012/02/judge-orders-the-closing-of-peachtree-pine-homeless-shelter-by-aug-31/ The closing of a homeless shelter which has been an ongoing struggle for a few years
Second, mortgage brokers and lenders marketed subprime mortgages specifically to black households. Subprime mortgages are high-interest loans that are supposed to increase access to home financing for risky borrowers—those with a shaky credit history or low income. But these high-cost loans were disproportionately peddled to black households, even to those that could qualify for conventional loans. One study estimated that in 2007 nearly double the share of upper-income black households (54%) had high-cost mortgages compared to low-income white households (28%).”“While about 4.5 percent of white borrowers lost their homes to foreclosure during that period, black and Latino borrowers had a 7.9 percent and 7.7 percent foreclosure rate, respectively.
That means that blacks and Latinos were more than 70 percent more likely to lose their homes to foreclosure during that period, the study found.” (http://www.gainesville.com/article/20100624/ARTICLES/100629675?tc=ar)a snapshot of housing situation in East Point from August, 2010
“An estimated 30,000 people came over the course of three days to receive applications for the slim chance of obtaining one of the 62 [Section 8 housing] vouchers. The East Point Housing Authority was prepared for 10,000 people. East Point’s current population is estimated at just over 41,000.” (http://thegrio.com/2010/08/12/housing-voucher-hysteria-in-atlanta-highlights-national-crisis/)“the Pittsburgh neighborhood that has borne the brunt of the city’s housing woes. At just under 50 percent, the neighborhood’s vacancy rate is among the highest in the nation.” (http://www.emory.edu/EMORY_MAGAZINE/issues/2012/spring/features/housing.html)“Georgia posted the nation’s highest foreclosure rate in May, with one in 300 housing units subject to a notice or repossession, data released Thursday by a real estate firm showed.” (http://www.ajc.com/news/business/firm-georgia-foreclosure-rate-tops-in-us-for-may/nQWXc/)