Its gratifying when you’re recognized by your colleagues for hard work, and that happened this past weekend when The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) presented their annual Media, State and Organizing, and Resident Organizing awards. NLIHC is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, and honors people for their advocacy and organizing efforts in these three categories as part of their Housing Legislative Forum.
Their Annual Housing Media Award recognizes reporting that shines a light on housing inequity in America and its effect on low-income earning people. Awardees Mikel Livingston and Steven Porter wrote “The Great Chicago Migration Myth,” an article series that focused on a longstanding belief, which the reporters proved meritless, that beginning in 1999, thousands of low-income black families descended on Lafayette, IN, after receiving housing vouchers with the demolition of public housing in Chicago. The myth perpetuated that with them, these thousands of people brought drugs, crime, and great burden on local social services. Livingston and Porter’s research found that there was no mass migration, as most residents stayed in Chicago (and even if there was, other research shows there is no correlation between vouchers and crime) and ultimately the myth stemmed from and was perpetuated by prejudice and fear.
The State and Local Organizing Award was given to The Campaign to Take Back Vacant Land of Philadelphia, PA, for its success in creating the nation’s largest land bank, which was signed into law in January 2014. This effort is a coalition of 47 community organizations (The Women’s Community Revitalization Project was one of the leaders of this broad coalition, and the group’s organizing coordinator, Jill Feldstein, wrote about the group’s journey to this historic victory in Shelterforce). The Philadelphia Land Bank now controls more than 40,000 abandoned properties throughout Philadelphia, and will allocate them to organizations and developers to create affordable housing, as well as agriculture and economic development projects.
NLIHC also presented its Resident Organizing Award for “exceptional organizing by local residents,” to Community Housing Partnership (CHP) in San Francisco, for their successful organizing effort to get the Fair Chance Ordinance passed. The Ordinance is a new law that seeks to prevent discrimination against ex-offenders on job and affordable housing applications. Three CHP staff organizers, including Rooflines blogger James Tracy, worked on behalf of more than 50 formerly incarcerated CHP property residents to bring the issue to the city’s legislature. So-called “ban the box” laws are gaining support throughout the country, and help level the playing field for potential applicants by enabling them to get further along in an application process before divulging the nature and details of their conviction.
Photo credit: 2015 Resident Organizing awardees, courtesy of The National Low Income Housing Coalition).