Detroit tenants living in hotels demand affordable housing

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About 25 evicted tenants and supporters of Detroit Eviction Defense demanded action on affordable housing in front of City Hall on Tuesday as some residents are set to receive federal assistance for the hotels they live in.

More than 275 Detroit households used federal aid given to the city of Detroit through the U.S. federal bailout to pay for hotels after the eviction, said Dan Austin, director of communications for planning and development of the Detroit Department of Housing and Revitalization. To date, 88 families are living in hotels, supported by this aid.

“We are just here fighting for the right to have housing,” said Jai Kiser, who was evicted from her home in April and has been living in a hotel ever since. “We don’t want excuses, we want action.”

Several tenants, many of whom are black women, had been told earlier that aid would be cut on June 1, although the city has until June 30 to spend the full funds. Of the 88 households, 40 recently had their June 1 end date extended to June 30 and the remaining 48 already had later end dates, Austin told the Detroit News.

“This is obviously a last resort attempt to prevent someone from being homeless,” said Detroit Eviction Defense attorney and organizer Joe McGuire.

Protesters called on city officials to help them find affordable housing before financial assistance for their current home expires. Each tenant was assigned a housing case manager. But when tenants are forced to leave hotels, they are cared for by a shelter.

“The intention, it seems, was for these people to be put in hotel rooms, but then get advice through non-profits and help finding a place to live. affordable housing,” McGuire said. “A lot of people we spoke to didn’t get this advice.”

Just over half of Detroit residents are renters, and 80% of them are low-income, according to city estimates.

Renters facing the end of their hotel stay spoke out at last week’s city council meeting, where they were told of the June 30 deadline by Julie Schneider, director of the housing department and city ​​revitalization and local homeless shelters. Their issue was then escalated to the council’s public health and safety committee.

Angela Whitfield-Calloway, a member of the city council who represents District 2, said the situation was heartbreaking since council was only made aware of the issue last week.

Protesters march past the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in Detroit on Tuesday, May 31, 2022, to demand affordable housing.

“This is an emergency for this city,” Whitfield-Calloway said at the meeting. “We are talking about African American women, some with children. You cannot detail all of this. This is a real problem and as members of the board we should have been made aware of this problem.

McGuire said all tenants working with Detroit Eviction Defense have been granted extensions to their hotel stays through June 30. However, many other tenants staying at the hotels were not told about the possible extension and have been continually misinformed by the city and nonprofits of the hope they will evict themselves, a he said.

“Nobody wants to live in hotel rooms. If these people are there, it’s because they have nowhere to go,” McGuire said. “What they need is real, practical advice to help them find affordable housing.”

The city denied misinforming households.

“How would that be in the interest of the city?” said Austin. “What could we learn from this? It also goes against everything we and our partners are doing to place these residents in accommodation and extending their hotel stay for as long as we are allowed to do so.

“In addition, CERA (COVID Emergency Rental Assiproviders have made phone calls and/or home visits to each of the residents. However, we recognize that someone may not have answered their phone or the wears during this sensitization.”

Treva Copeland, who lives in a hotel, said she had been relying on federal assistance since November and was previously unaware of the extension. Copeland said she was “forced into survival mode” while living in the hotel and trying to care for her son.

“I had been looking for accommodation since November of last year,” Copeland said. “I heard the people where I was staying got a 30 day extension and I was shocked.”

The situation was familiar to Copeland, who said landlords would rather let homes rot than accept less than $1,500 in monthly rent.

“You can’t just sit there and leave the houses empty while there are people sleeping on the streets,” Copeland said.

Kiser claims she was illegally evicted in April after being told by a judge she had until May to move out. She said the city should use more homes in its land bank as affordable housing.

“There are so many land bank houses and so many condemned buildings,” Kiser said. “I’ve never seen a city where the city owns so much and people still suffer so much.”

McGuire said one of the main goals of the protest was to call on city officials to devote the resources they already have to providing hotel tenants with more permanent and affordable housing.

“What we’re here to do is bring the people directly impacted by this into the city to demand answers and raise awareness that the city has the money and the capacity to do something about it,” McGuire said.

Most hotel tenants don’t have housing plans after June 30 and have asked the city to provide them with the help and resources they need.

“Life is much harder at the hotel and it only gets worse at the shelter,” Kiser said. “How are you supposed to get up off the ground if you get pushed back every chance you get?”

Staff writer Sarah Rahal contributed.

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