Don't tell me where your priorities are.

Show me where you spend your money and I'll tell you what they are.

-James W. Frick

Plan YOUR work! Work YOUR Plan!

Monday, July 18, 2011

DC’s Tenant Town Hall 2011


On July 16th, I attended the second part of my lessons into gentrification, tenant rights, and Co-Op’s. I attended the Tenant Town Hall sponsored by The Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC); featuring ONE DC, Empower DC, CARECEN, the Coalition for Non-Profit Housing and Economic Development, DC Jobs with Justice, Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Legal Aid Society of DC, Bread for the City, Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center, AARP Legal Counsel for the Elderly. As well as DC Mayor Vincent Gray, Councilmember’s Tommy Wells and Jim Graham, Department of Housing and Community Development, Office of the Tenant Advocate, Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, and DC Housing Finance Agency.

Needless to say, if you live in DC and are having issues with your housing, this was the place you needed to be. And a lot of people were there. A lot of people who have been long time DC residents who are being forced out of their affordable homes and replaced with condos and such with supposed “affordable housing”. I was home hunting in DC not too long ago and I’m not sure where this “affordable” housing is located.

Again, I was surprised by the diversity of the residents affected by these changes. I’m not sure why I was surprised because DC is a very diverse place and what affects one group, ultimately affects other groups also. I think I had blinders on to the plight of other groups in DC due to my proximity and likeness with one particular group.

I loved how the Town Hall was structured: you heard about the problem, then you heard the Elected Officials try to explain why things are and are not happening. I know one thing for sure; you get the controlled in a room where they outnumber those doing the controlling there is a shift in who holds the power. The voiceless get a chance to converse with those who have the voice. Per usual, there were a few disagreements about where funding was going, had gone, or will be going. Pretty interesting…

My man Oscar spoke about the troubles his tenant association was having with funding. Other topics such as the “Increase in Housing Tenant Association Act of 2011”, tenant association involvement in redevelopment, the Tenant task force on DCRA inspections (touchy subject), and the Housing for all Campaign.

So many places DC residents call home are unlivable because of slumlords, the lack of funding, and property owners pushing the citizens of DC out of their homes; but the residents fight for their homes. It’s really sad that property owners, like most business-mind folks, are more interested in money than the lives of the people they are suppose to be serving.

Then, like I mentioned, the Elected Officials tried to explain to a room full of worried people that everything will be ok. Some of what was said seemed to please the crowd, like the addition of 20 inspectors. Some of what was said was said with objection and doubt. But overall, I was pleased by the responses from the Elected Officials. Now if they uphold what they promised, that’s on them.

The thing that stood out the most to me about the event was, again, how people from all different backgrounds, cultures, and races are so willing to band together and fight for their homes….together. So often in society we see differences at odds with each other, simply because of their differences. I also know that poor living conditions, lack of rights, poor treatment by an oppressor will bring people together. Both those being oppressed and those who are allies in their fight.

As someone who is NOT an activist but has an activist’s heart, seeing this togetherness is inspiring beyond words. Simply knowing these issues exist and having talking sessions regarding the issues isn’t enough (one issue I have with the Sociology I studied – a lot of talking and a little doing). The People of DC are setting the example; I hope DC’s Elected Officials keep up their end of the deal.

All of this has got me thinking how importance personal finance truly is. These are hard working people, working low paying jobs just to survive and to add the pressure of a horrible living situation makes understanding and practicing the fundamentals of personal finance that much more important. Being in control of your finances allows you to control so many other aspects of your life. You don’t have to worry about someone telling you that you have to move from your home, or if that situation arises you are prepared financially. Being prepared and knowledgeable financially isn’t something we are taught, especially minorities who struggle to provide their families with the basic needs.

One suggestion I would make as a personal finance “person” is for some type of basic financial education be implemented as part of the process so many DC residents are facing. Providing this basic education will place some power in the residents’ hands and more control over their own lives. Understanding the importance of saving, budgeting, priorities, and credit are so under prioritized by those who feel they are barely surviving financially. Understanding the need for something as basic as a checking account, or how to use one properly use and maintain one. Understanding the importance of paying bills on time, or paying them at all. Understanding priorities – my mother ask to tell me in the store if what I wanted was a WANT, a NEED, or a WANT to NEED – and how prioritizing can solve portion of their financial issues. With this knowledge, DC residents become empowered to provide a positive example for their children breaking the cycle of “just making it”.

These reasons are why I started Personal Finance 4 The People. I want to use my voice, passion, and abilities to help others understand the importance of basic personal finance and to better the quality of their lives and of those in their communities. It is my passion. It is my goal to educate as many as I can in this area we should all be taught as children but life often gets in the way of how things are suppose to happen. I want to start a movement!!

“We Own This” chronicling the housing struggles of DC residents.

If you want to help or to lend your voice click on the links I provided at the beginning of this post. DC’s housing troubles aren’t DC’s alone, at some point we will all face the same situation whether through the same issues, foreclosure, or whatever the circumstance may happen to be…

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