Late Friday, the AEC posted bail for the release of five of their members, who were held in custody by the DuPage County sheriff’s department after stalling the Smedron family’s eviction through a “people’s blockade.
Ms. Smedron, a single mother and her children have lived in their Addison home for ten years, paying over $3,000 a month in mortgage payments, until she was injured at work and ended up on disability. Despite Ms. Smedron’s modified circumstances, Wells Fargo refused to grant her a loan modification. The Smedron family home is now one more addition to the over 11,000 vacant homes throughout Chicago, many bank-owned. The AEC hopes their action will heighten awareness to the ongoing human right to housing crisis in Chicago and across the nation.
On the heels of massive losses in the city’s affordable housing stock, due in large part to the demolition of roughly 20,000 units of public housing, entirely new segments of the population are feeling the impact of decades of speculative investing, over-leveraging and financial chicanery in the private housing market. “It is not about black or white, and it’s not even about poor and middle-class anymore. Those of us who are under the constant threat of economic injustices must come together to fight for our right to housing, stability and community. We are pleased to be a part of the Campaign to Restore National Housing Rights, which is uniting rural and urban communities in this struggle for housing as a human right,” says Willie J.R. Fleming, a former resident of Cabrini-Green public housing complex and chairperson of the AEC. In the past year, the AEC has won two temporary moratoriums on “economically-motivated” evictions, moved a homeless family into an abandoned home they helped rehab, and prevented the eviction of countless families facing eviction in both public and private housing.
The Smedron’s suburban stand-off is only the latest sign of growth for the U.S. human right to housing movement. From the City of Boston (where City Life Urbana Vida has prevented 23 of 24 foreclosure evictions) to the suburbs of Chicago, community-led eviction blockades and “housing liberations” – the act of moving homeless people into “people-less” homes – has been wildly catching on. Cathy Albisa, Executive Director of the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative, notes, “The increased reporting on squatting in the national media is evidence of a widespread crisis. This crisis is not a housing crisis, because we have excess housing in this country, but a human rights crisis. Actions from grassroots, community-led groups like AEC and the national Take Back the Land Movement may set the stage for surprising changes in our legal and political framework and result in real changes to an increasingly predatory and historically imbalanced housing system.”
To learn more about the AEC and how you can help, visit chicagoantieviction.org.
NESRI: Brittany Scott, (212) 253-1710, ext. 318
AEC: Willie J.R. Fleming, (312) 863-1643