Affordable housing advocacy groups rallied downtown Tuesday, urging people to attend Wednesday’s City Council public hearing on a proposed Housing Opportunity Fund.
They marched down Penn Avenue chanting, “We want affordable housing … now” and, "From North Side to East Liberty, they’re stealing homes from you and me.” They stopped traffic at three intersections where individuals gave personal testimony of what was described as deplorable living situations and disrespect from landlords.
At the corner of Liberty Avenue and Market Street, police officers told protesters to clear the streets because they were in violation of the law. Some sat in the street, including Ronell Guy who is the executive director of the Northside Coalition for Fair Housing.
She said she doesn’t think the housing currently being built in the city will serve the residents who already live there. She questioned the demand for luxury housing when she said there is a demand for affordable housing.
“Everybody is trying to build, but we can’t build our way out of this crisis," she said. "We need to preserve what we have.”
City Councilman Daniel Lavelle’s proposed trust fund would be overseen by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
The fund was a recommendation from the affordable housing task force. Housing advocates pushed for the housing measure to be on the November ballot, but instead it’s now being presented as legislation for City Council. The fund could be used for home repairs, rental assistance and foreclosure assistance.
The rally was part of the national day of action calling for rent freezes, community control of land and housing, and the right for tenants to collectively bargain with landlords.
Guy said the housing trust is important, but it’s a small step.
“And they ask where’s the money going to come from? Quit building bike lanes and put money into building neighborhoods and communities,” she said.
Her organization is also launching a tenant union to support people dealing with landlord issues.
“To navigate the affordable housing paradigm … it’s complicated," Guy said. "And they expect for people that need it to be able to do that. Right now they just can’t.”