Evictions

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Kushner-Linked Firm and Gig Economy Set to Reap Huge Profits as Mass Evictions Begin

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 24/09/2020 - 6:37am in

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News, Evictions

In 2014, former Blackstone and Goldman Sachs investment banker Ryan Williams got together with his “college buddy,” Joshua Kushner – Jared’s brother – to form a real estate investment platform they called Cadre. Cadre sought to disrupt the real estate industry in the wake of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis by tinderizing property deals through a tech platform that brought investors and sellers together. According to Williams, whose other investors include George Soros and Peter Theil, Cadre’s mission is “to level the playing field in an industry that is often tilted toward the biggest players” by taking an “offline” industry online and making it “transparent.”

A pre-Covid initiative to capitalize on its platform came in the form of the so-called “opportunity zones,” that Jared Kushner directly lobbied for inclusion in Trump’s 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act, billed as a funding mechanism to help poor and distressed communities, which turned into a multi-billion-dollar land heist by the wealthiest Americans, like the Kushner family. The pandemic lockdown protocols forced Cadre to downsize, laying off 25 percent of its workforce in March.

But now, the company is restarting its predatory engines as the home eviction wave forming on the horizon signals potential windfalls for companies like Cadre, that are in a position to profit. It is doing so by launching a pop-up banking operation called “Cadre Cash,” which will try to lure deposits from “investors” by offering a three percent annualized “reward” to finance a new round of land-grabs as millions of Americans teeter on the edge of homelessness and landlords look to unload un-rentable properties.

Another company, Civvl, is tackling a different side of the burgeoning housing crisis in America with its on-demand service model for eviction crews. Just like Uber, the Civvl app lets “frustrated property owners and banks secure foreclosed residential properties” by connecting haulers and the rentier class.

Civvl’s parent company, OnQall, specializes in mobile app platforms that monetize side-hustles like moving, cleaning and lawn care services. The eviction crew app has, predictably, drawn a storm of criticism since Motherboard‘s article on Civvl this past Monday.

“It’s fucked up that there will be struggling working-class people who will be drawn to gigs like furniture-hauling or process-serving,” exclaimed housing activist Helena Duncan, who also pointed out the clear dystopian contours evident in a scenario where working class people are paid to wage economic warfare on fellow working class people. Civvl puts up a disingenuous defense against the earned invectives, comparing itself to Monster.com. “They’re not evicting anyone,” a Civvl spokesperson told Motherboard, “they’re just the help.”

Both Cadre and Civvl are poised to make a killing as eviction moratoriums abate across the country and millions find themselves on one side or another of evictions – tenants forced onto the streets by small landlords who will have little choice but to sell in a depressed market. Only the CDC’s national eviction moratorium, issued three weeks ago, stands in the way of the avalanche of displacement and dispossession at our doorstep. But, even the risks of fines and jail time doesn’t seem to be discouraging companies like OnQall or landlords, in general.

 

Ridiculous loopholes

Cadre, in particular, is at the head of the pack of “disruptive” real estate tech platforms mostly due to the favor it enjoys in the halls of the Trump administration. “Jared was one of the key people early on. And his contributions were critical,” says Cadre CEO Ryan Williams of Jared Kushner, whose stake is worth over $50 Million, according to 2018 SEC filings.

Despite claims that Kushner sold a “substantial portion” of his shares in the company and that the president’s son-in-law has no role in the business endeavor, recent history surrounding the so-called “opportunity zones” of Trump’s Tax bill revealed Cadre’s and Kushner’s central role in a multi-billion dollar land heist by the wealthiest Americans, like the Kushner family.

Paying lip service to the same “diversity” principles Cadre’s African American founder asserts underlie his company’s vision, the more than 200 federally-designated “opportunity zones” for disadvantaged communities that resulted from the legislation, Cadre’s machine-learning and processed census data was simply serving to make a “ridiculous loophole” available to wealthy investors to buy up land at a serious discount.

The bulk of the opportunity zone funding, some of which was set up by William’s former employer and Cadre investor, Goldman Sachs, went to high-end real estate development projects in affluent areas, retail developments and luxury hotels, such as Richard Branson’s 225-room hotel in William’s home state of Louisiana, less than two miles away from one of the poorest parts of New Orleans. The project had been announced by Branson a year before the tax-cut legislation was signed into law, but nevertheless qualified to participate in the opportunity zone program.

 

Picking up the bodies

The housing catastrophe in the United States is barley gathering steam, and while many landlords and property owners still face legal challenges in cases where eviction moratoriums remain in place, the loose patchwork of laws governing property rights across the nation – not to mention foundational ideology – gives companies like Civvl and Cadre the chance to circumvent these and rely on naked power to drive people away from their homes or convince them to sell it to massive real estate concerns, like CBRE or Kushner’s rich buddies.

Civvl is confident that they can take advantage of people’s lack of knowledge about their rights to make money as the eviction middle man. Indeed, the company is betting that municipal and federal authorities will see things their way. “This is something that has to be done,” says a company spokesman. “Listen,” he continued, “if someone is killed on the street, someone needs to go pick their body up.”

Feature photo | File photo | Jessie Wardarski | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

The post Kushner-Linked Firm and Gig Economy Set to Reap Huge Profits as Mass Evictions Begin appeared first on MintPress News.

Lee Camp: A Dozen Reasons Now is the Time for Housing as a Human Right

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/08/2020 - 1:13am in

Congress’s inability to actually represent the real-live human beings of America, combined with an economic system that rewards lack of empathy and an excess of greed, has brought us to a dark time when an oncoming tsunami of financial ruin, destitution and evictions towers over our heads, blocking out the sunlight.

The impending evictions may soon kick 28 million people/families out of their homes. To put that in perspective, only ten million people lost their homes during the 2008 economic crisis, and that was considered by anyone paying attention to be the craziest thing to ever happen.

What we’re facing now could be three times crazier, getting to Charlie Sheen levels. (I almost wrote “Kanye West levels” but everything he does is in hopes of being mentioned in the media, and I’m not falling for it. …Shit. This parenthetical has betrayed me!)

To talk about the impending homelessness tsunami, we have to first get past the fact that our government could totally bail people out and keep them in their homes. Not only have they already bailed out big banks and Wall Street to the tune of $4.25 trillion but on top of that the Pentagon has over $21 Trillion of unaccounted-for adjustments on their books over the past 20 years. This is to say – there’s plenty of money.

Money is an idea, a concept, an imaginary metaphysical belief, and it’s high time we faced the fact that the U.S. government has an unlimited imagination. As philosopher Alan Watts once put it: Money is not a thing, it’s a measurement. Saying there’s not enough money to do something is like a builder saying there are not enough inches to build a house. He has the wood, nails, and hammers. He’s just out of inches.

The U.S. government could easily give every American $2,000 a month for the foreseeable future, which would keep almost everybody in their homes and apartments. In fact, Canada has opted to give $2,000 a month to those who lost work because of the pandemic.

But ignore the fact that there’s enough money. That’s not what we’re here to discuss.

There are also enough empty homes. As of 2018, there were nearly 1.5 million vacant homes in the country. Compare that to the estimated 553,742 people homeless on any given night. So even before the pandemic, there were three empty houses for every homeless person. Three. That’s not even accounting for empty apartments, yachts, sheds, extra bedrooms, garages, condos, cubbyholes, attic spaces, basements, barns, pool houses, and walk-in refrigerators.

If those vacant locations were used to house the houseless, those of us lucky enough to have our own abodes wouldn’t hardly notice a difference except that homelessness would have vanished. It would be something we talk about in a “remember when” fashion like VHS tapes, game shows about grocery shopping, and dating that didn’t involve blood tests and an Instagram audit.

No more people on the street, no more fear that a little bad luck would result in you or your family under a bridge giving a guy your underwear in exchange for a sandwich. All that utter madness would cease to exist.

And the impending number of evictions—28 million—isn’t even accounting for how many people stay in horrible relationships because they can’t afford a place of their own, both horrible marriages and other living arrangements. (Like a 25-year-old who has to live with his mom who cleans her feet on the couch every night while watching Wheel of Fortune and eating soup that smells of rotting raccoon carcass. Call me crazy, but in our post-scarcity world, that 25-year-old should be given an apartment.)

But let’s back up even further and question the brain parasites we were given from our social engineering. Why should someone be homeless just because they don’t have enough money? Some would say indignantly, “Because they didn’t work hard enough, so they deserve to be homeless. That’s called ‘work ethic’ – and it’s what this country’s founded on! George Washington something something Ford Motor Company. Meh!”

Okay, that’s a great point except—No, it’s not. How hard someone works hardly matters in our society. Think for a moment about all the filthy rich trust-fund kids who sit around on their asses all day smoking weed out of the skull of an exotic lemur. Yet they’re still rich. How many trophy wives or trophy husbands lounge by the pool eternally caressing their junk in the sunshine? They don’t work hard. How many superfluous “board members” get paid hundreds of thousands to sit on a board and attend one conference call a month?

Plus, consider people that actually do work for their fortunes—like a CEO—do you honestly believe they work a thousand times harder than a janitor or a dishwasher or a coal miner? Of course not. What’s the hardest job in the world? Probably ripping asbestos out of a dilapidated sewage treatment plant in Phoenix, Arizona in 110-degree heat with improper safety equipment.

Do you think those guys get paid the highest salary in the world because they work the hardest? No! They’re lucky if they get dental. They’re lucky if their lunch break is long enough for a sandwich and a piss.

America is not based on hard work. Get it out of your head that this society is at all set up to be fair. Fair would be everyone with a roof over their head. Fair would be every kid getting a solid education. Fair would be every person drinking delicious clean water. Fair is the opposite of whatever the hell we’re doing here.

But very little of this discussion exists in our culture. Instead, the banks and landlords are preparing to kick 28 million families out. And it’s not like the bank will resell all those homes during the impending depression lathered in a pandemic. Nope. Those homes will sit empty, just like the 10 million foreclosed homes during the 2008 Great Recession sat empty for months if not years. So the reason for kicking people out is simply to… um… make sure they’re homeless? How can that make sense?

If the goal is to have a good, functioning society, it’s completely illogical to kick people out of their shelters. The families will be devastated. The kids will be traumatized. Divorces will occur. Suicides. Addiction. Overdoses. None of that is good for society. None of that helps America even slightly. So the truly patriotic thing to do is demand housing for all.

What’s good for society is to have people comfortable in their homes, able to get educated and grow as humans. Whatever happened to the pursuit of human growth for every individual?

Some may argue, “We can’t let people stay in their homes because we need to teach them personal responsibility.” That’s the argument every vomit-brained Fox News guest spits out reflexively. Yet it’s impossible to be responsible for something no one saw coming. Did anyone see this pandemic coming? Did anyone including the government prepare for it?

No. In fact, we’ve bailed out whole industries, the airline industry for one. Billions of dollars just handed to them. How are the heads of the airlines any different from a homeowner who lost her job in the pandemic? There’s no difference. Shouldn’t the airline CEOs be the ones evicted—left out on the street sleeping in a box?

On top of all this—and this point is really going to blow a hole through your pants—it’s cheaper to keep people in their homes. For example, according to The Washington Post, “Utah was spending on average $20,000 on each chronically homeless person. So, to in part cut those costs — but also to ‘save lives,’ …the state started setting up each chronically homeless person with his or her own house.”

It worked. By 2015, they cut homelessness by 91 percent and saved the state money. However, since then, homelessness has gone back up. It’s tough to say why, but one director of a Utah food pantry said, “The mistake we made was stopping [the program].”

Yeah, that may have been the reason. Utah lawmakers found out how to end homelessness…. and then they stopped doing that! (Why in this country do we run screaming from every great idea like it’s a hive of angry bees that all want to talk to us about life insurance??)

So here, alas, are the solutions. Housing should be a human right. We have enough homes. We have enough materials. We have enough dollars and enough inches. It doesn’t need to be a goddamn mansion, but everyone should have a roof over their heads and four good walls. Hell, I’ll even compromise—two and a half good walls.

Even if we didn’t have enough homes, which we do, we can now 3D print a house in a matter of hours. (Although it must suck when the printer jams. All those houses stuck together in the tray.)

Point is, don’t tell me we don’t have enough houses and apartments for everyone. Paris Hilton’s dogs have a fucking $325,000 mansion! I’m not kidding. Just for the dogs. That’s, shall we say, mildly upsetting. (Let me guess – those dogs worked hard to get where they are.)

The next solution is to fight the impending evictions. Don’t let the authorities kick your friends and neighbors onto the street. We have a strong (suppressed) history in this country of fighting against landlords and the cruelty of evictions, such as the great Rent Strike War of 1932 in the Bronx, and the Chicago Eviction Riots of 1931.

Fighting back is not just an option, it’s an obligation. If you’re strong enough to resist the profit-centered social engineering we are fed every day of our lives, then you will soon realize housing should be a human right.

Feature photo | This Sept. 25, 2019 photo shows an eviction notice on the front door of Apartment 17, the home of Ed Buck in West Hollywood, Calif. Brian Melley | AP

Lee Camp is the host of the hit comedy news show “Redacted Tonight.” His new book “Bullet Points and Punch Lines” is available at LeeCampBook.com and his stand-up comedy special can be streamed for free at LeeCampAmerican.com.

This article was published with special permission from the author. It originally appeared at Consortium News.

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The Milestone that Nobody Wanted to Reach

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 31/07/2020 - 2:51am in

For all that Trump seems eager to win reelection, he appears to have little interest in governing. Continue reading

The post The Milestone that Nobody Wanted to Reach appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Just Like With Healthcare, Democrats Offer Half-Hearted Measures to Impending Eviction Crisis

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/07/2020 - 2:23am in

The best defense against a raging pandemic that has already claimed over 152,000 American lives is simply to stay home. But even this could soon become impossible for millions, as the United States is facing an impending eviction crisis of “biblical proportions,” according to the Housing Rights Initiative. Earlier this week, the federal moratorium on evictions expired, meaning the nation’s 12 million renters are now at risk of losing their homes. Renters tend to be poorer, many of whom are among the 52 million that have filed for unemployment benefits as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead of extending the eviction ban, top Democrats, including California Sen. Kamala Harris and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), proposed their own solution to the crisis: new money for a fund to help renters faced with eviction access legal representation. “We must take bold, urgent action to affirm that right and protect the millions of families facing housing instability,” said Pressley, as the bill was introduced yesterday.

Liberal outlet Vox presented the move as a “lifeline” to millions and a stroke of political genius. Yet others saw it differently. “Is this a joke?” responded The Intercept’s Aída Chávez on Twitter, suggesting that she saw the plan as pathetically weak non-solution to an impending crisis. “What if they just… introduced a bill to stop them from being evicted in the first place,” asked another user. Judging from reporting, this appears not to have occurred to them.

Harris, who is the prohibitive favorite with bookmakers to become Joe Biden’s vice-presidential pick come November, has a history of proposing piecemeal reform rather than bold solutions. According to a poll conducted last September, 58 percent of Americans, including nearly three-quarters of Democrat voters support making college free for all and totally eliminating outstanding student debt, a position advocated by Bernie Sanders. Harris, however, proposed instead to cancel up to $20,000 of debt only for Pell Grant recipients who start a business in a disadvantaged community and maintain that business for at least three years. “When you look at the requirements, it’s hard to imagine more than a handful of people would ever qualify for it,” said Matt Bruenig, founder of the People’s Policy Project.

The reaction to Harris’ proposal from the Democratic base was much the same as that to Rep. Joe Kennedy III’s (D—MA) recent statement that “Not a single patient should be forced to fight off medical bankruptcy in the midst of a global health pandemic without a lawyer by their side,” many feeling that he could have just stopped talking six or even 14 words sooner.

Republicans have put forward their own new coronavirus stimulus package that includes billions for the military and the FBI but nothing for hazard pay, nutrition assistance, uninsured Americans, or for state and local governments. While it does include a second $1,200 check, it also cuts unemployment benefits for tens of millions of Americans from $600 to $200 per week. Environmental justice group 350.org described the plan as a “disgraceful offering” from the GOP. “As unemployment skyrockets, this bill would cut off much of the support offered thus far to everyday people struggling to make ends meet. We won’t let Congress pass a giveaway to wealthy corporations while leaving our communities out to dry without a fight,” they wrote in a statement.

But Democrats have made pains to stress that they agree with the Republicans on the need to reduce unemployment benefits, even as there are no signs of a significant economic recovery in the short to medium term. “Look, it’s not $600 or bust,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), claiming that a weekly $600 check serves as a disincentive to many to start working again. He did not dwell on what that said about American wages. In fact, the U.S. offer to the unemployed has been particularly stingy, in comparison to similar countries. For example, Western European countries like France, the U.K., Ireland, and Germany simply pay between 60 and 84 percent of newly unemployed workers’ pre-pandemic salaries. Meanwhile, businesses in New Zealand have had little problem finding generous financial sponsorship from their government. New Zealand has an unemployment rate of around 4 percent, compared to the U.S.’ 11 percent

The Democratic Party is also at odds with its base on healthcare, a key issue during a global pandemic. 85 percent of Democratic voters support Medicare for All. But the Democratic National Committee blocked its inclusion in the party’s draft platform, voting it down, 125-36. The party is now facing a quiet internal revolt just three weeks from the National Convention.

Between a worsening pandemic, the threat of eviction, and a reduction in unemployment benefits, it appears that millions of Americans are in for a tough fall.

Feature photo | A view of a poster saying Cancel Rent Cancel Mortgage during the coronavirus pandemic on May 18, 2020 in Brooklyn Borough of New York City. John Nacion | STAR MAX | IPx

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Just Like With Healthcare, Democrats Offer Half-Hearted Measures to Impending Eviction Crisis appeared first on MintPress News.

Tech Giants Eye Lucrative Rent Market as End to Eviction Moratorium Could Leave Millions Homeless

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 25/07/2020 - 2:19am in

In a ‘normal’, pre-pandemic economy, a number roughly equal to the population of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania – or about 3.7 million people – are evicted every year in the United States, according to Matthew Desmond, principal investigator of Princeton University’s “Eviction Lab” project, which tracks evictions throughout the country and produces the first nationwide eviction database.

But, come Friday, July 24, those numbers could rise precipitously should the moratorium on evictions, included in the CARES Act be allowed to expire. The legislation afforded renters with a 120 days’ grace period from “fees, penalties, or charges in relation to nonpayment of rent” and barred landlords from filing eviction notices of any kind during that period.

The situation facing low-income communities is exceedingly harsh when considering the endemic economic disparity that characterizes cash-poor communities with scant access to any sort of financial resources or affordable credit. Studies on wealth inequality have shown time and again how excessive rent burdens can leave families on the brink of homelessness over relatively minor, unexpected emergencies like a simple car repair or a doctor’s visit.

A “semi-permanent renter class” has developed among poor African Americans, in particular. 1 in 11 people who fall into this demographic face eviction every year. For the rest of the United States, the rate is 1 in 20. African American communities and other communities of color are the most vulnerable to the approaching deadline, which not only opens the door for the resumption of eviction filings but also brings potentially large bills of fees and penalties, which the CARES Act allowed to accrue for 120 days.

 

A broad crisis

So far, few lawmakers have come out against the end of the moratorium despite the uncertainty and great potential for popular unrest this is likely to cause. Some cities like Houston have already lifted the eviction freeze leading many in the legal profession to expect a “tsunami” of eviction filings. The prospect of homelessness looms large over working families living on incomes under $40K a year; 40 percent of which lost a source of employment in March, according to Shamus Roller of the National Housing Law Project.

Milwaukee and Cleveland are two of the cities most at risk, with a 40 percent jump in eviction rates from their typical level at this time of year. The American Bar Association’s Task Force Committee on Evictions revealed that a staggering 28 million homes are at risk of coming under eviction orders due to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Emily Benfer, who chairs the ABA committee is also the co-creator of the COVID-19 Housing Policy Scorecard put out by the Eviction Lab.

In an editorial published Wednesday by NBC News, Benfer called for a “long-term solution to housing precarity and its disproportionate impact on Black and Latinx families” and warned that without “robust government intervention” the “avalanche of evictions” will take a heavy toll on entire communities. She predicts renters will suffer increasing levels of distress as unemployment benefits are cut off and reopened courts begin hearing thousands of pending evictions.

Benfer decried the Trump administration’s attempts to eliminate fair housing rules, that were set up to push back against “longstanding discriminatory housing practices,” echoing her partner at Eviction Lab, Matt Desmond, who contrasted the plight of African American and Latino renters with white American families who are “buffered” from the looming eviction crisis by virtue of most of them owning their own home.

In her concluding paragraph, Benfer asserted that we must “define our post-pandemic reality” and suggested that the government subsidize the housing market in toto while a new paradigm takes shape.

 

Public and Private Motives

Anti-eviction demonstrations are starting to sprout up around the country with organizations like the Cancel the Rent movement and Kansas City Tenants stage protests against the imminent expiration of the moratorium. Some state governments, like Andrew Cuomo’s office, are taking the initiative to implement rental assistance programs.

The federal government is joining the chorus through U.S. Representative, Ilhan Omar’s “Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act of 2020,” a bill co-sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Rashida Talib and 27 others, which calls for the effective annulment of rents and mortgages due for the (undefined) period of the Covid-19 pandemic and proposes the creation of a Landlord Relief Fund for property owners to recoup their losses.

Parallel to this and largely under the radar, however, the private tech sector is moving into position to swoop in and take advantage of the impending housing crisis. Just as news of a mysterious virus was breaking late last year, Facebook invested $1 billion for the construction of 20,000 new affordable housing units in California, following Google’s lead which had made the exact same commitment a few months earlier. Apple more than doubled Google’s and Facebook’s investment, combined, when it put down $2.5 billion for the same cause.

On the occasion of Facebook’s investment, California governor Gavin Newsom declared that the “State government cannot solve housing affordability alone” and praised the public-private partnership for advancing the fight against “economic inequality and restoring social mobility.”

Correction | A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that 3.7 million people are evicted in the United States every month, the correct figure is 3.7 million people evicted every year.  We regret this error.

Feature photo | People from a support organization for immigrant and working class communities unfold banners, including one advocating rent cancellation, on a subway platform in the Queens borough of New York during a vigil memorializing people who died from coronavirus. The pandemic has shut housing courts and prompted authorities around the U.S. to initiate policies protecting renters from eviction, May 21, 2020. Bebeto Matthews | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

The post Tech Giants Eye Lucrative Rent Market as End to Eviction Moratorium Could Leave Millions Homeless appeared first on MintPress News.

2021 Could Look Pretty Ugly No Matter Who Wins

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/07/2020 - 4:32pm in

Joe Biden is leading in the polls. Democrats would like to believe that things will get a lot better if he wins, but do they have any real basis to believe that?

So Your Landlord Is Trying to Evict You

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/05/2020 - 4:06pm in

Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, aren’t able to pay rent or their mortgages, and therefore face eviction or foreclosure. Yet the best that even “liberal” politicians are offering is a moratorium on evictions until some future point in time.