For the fourth Sunday in a row, a small group of individuals gathered outside Trinity Church at 89 Broadway and Wall Street to protest the United for Housing from Ground Up 2021 report.
Theo Chino and Deborah Elliott-Bloodman stood on the curb directly in front of Trinity Church’s nativity scene where they brandished a banner with the hashtag #SlumlordReport. Although the rally was silent, the pair gestured with the laminated sign at passing vehicles and pedestrians hoping to garner attention for their cause. This “slumlord report” Chino references is a 77-page proposal outlined by a coalition of housing groups called The United for Housing from the Ground Up.
This $4 billion housing budget plan was developed for the next mayor to take into consideration upon entering office. This diagram details ways to intervene, prevent, or at least decrease homelessness for New Yorkers earning an extremely low income. Some suggestions outlined in the proposition consist of converting hotels that are on the cusp of closure and illegal basement apartments into permanent affordable housing residences as well as rezoning affluent neighborhoods.
The pandemic has escalated the housing crisis more than ever. Many are advocating for rent to be canceled since they can’t afford food, let alone New York City’s skyrocketing rent prices in the middle of this unprecedented crisis.
While there are some relief programs and even an extension of the residential moratorium—preventing evictions until May 1st for those experiencing hardships due to the pandemic—the United for Housing from the Ground Up proposal offers an extensive blueprint of how to resuscitate housing before it completely falls apart in 2021.
Chino and several others gathered at Trinity Church to protest this proposal, deeming it a “Slumlord Report.” Chino says that there are discrepancies as to where funds are being allocated, even going as far to allege corruption.
“All we want is some transparency,” Chino told amNewYork Metro. He also claims that as a resident of public housing, he is a victim of the city gifting housing complexes to non-profit organizations, which he then claims inherit debt for renovating the buildings.
“We ask that Trinity Church repudiate the #SlumlordReport or the ‘United for Housing from the Ground Up.’ We are asking for transparency regarding the billions of dollars in subsidy for low income. We ask that the non-profit Wall Street Corporations show us the books as per state law,” he writes on his protest event page.
Chino adds, “We ask for a federal, state, and city investigation that would open the books for a real investigation into all HPD private, public partnerships with Neighborhood Restore (and nonprofits), including the Third-Party Transfer program, TIL-ANCP, and Inclusionary Zoning.”
The protesters claim that non-profit Wall Street corporations purchase buildings for extremely cheap prices (Chino states for $1) and in return these organizations rack up millions of dollars in repair costs, but there is no budgetary transparency to ensure the funds are being allocated properly. Chino likewise claims that the repairs are actually damaging the buildings instead of fixing them and tenants are not protected since these nonprofits cannot be taken to court amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chino along with the protesters say they are raising corruption awareness, and they believe the United for Housing from the Ground Up report will simply be redlining in 2021 rather than providing solutions to the housing crisis.
“The landlord sent me a cease-and-desist letter saying I am not supposed to talk, they are trying to kick me out. I am not going anywhere, I was born in that building,” Chino added.