Last Saturday a group of activists and residents of Oakland public housing presented a petition and a series of letters written by tenants demanding repairs for neglected public housing units to the Oakland Housing Authority.
The petition was posted just outside the OHA’s downtown office.
The UFAD had met with over a dozen households with serious rat and mold infestations in recent weeks and tenants are demand immediate relief and transfers to safer housing. Tenants have reported being ignored by OHA in some cases for years. This isnt the first time that public housing tenants have demanded that OHA take action. Earlier this year, over 90 residents at Cypress Village signed onto a petition demanding that the Housing Authority improve maintenance. The UFAD protested outside the West Oakland office. This forced OHA to respond to several overdue maintenance issues and relocated a resident who had severe mold in her apartment after years of OHA just painting over it.
While the petition had some successes, it was important to keep fighting, especially since the increased maintenance did almost nothing to improve conditions inside the units. As one person said while delivering the petition said, “OHA acts like just because it’s low income housing that means you have to treat people like low income. Treat them worse.”
The letter campaign was inspired in part by a similar campaign taken up by UFAD Boston which has the Boston Housing Authority scrambling to respond. Housing Authorities often push the idea that residents just need to call the maintenance line and wait their turn. Work orders often don’t get completed or are completed so inadequately just so the housing authority can check off a box without addressing any real issue. One online comment on the Boston Housing Authority’s press release simply stated, “pictures don’t lie”.
When we emailed OHA the first batch of letters, we sent it to the entire executive board and the property administrators. We received only one response: an automated out of office email dated from 2016. This just shows the level of disrespect and disregard OHA has for its residents and properties.
This disregard is not an accident. One sign posted to the OHA office stated: “OHA intentionally neglects its properties”. As we wrote in issue 1 of People of the Bay, OHA does have a plan to eliminate public housing by running down the properties to justify privatization in the future.
We will continue to keep fighting for public housing and struggling against those who want to force the poor and working class to live in awful conditions. As one resident at the event said, “We need you to join the fight. It takes all of us.”