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18 Aug, 2010 21:11

US public housing advocates oppose private sector takeover

The United State of America is often referred to as a land of opportunities. But it is also the land of two tales; one of cities booming with business and politics, the other of a growing wealth divide.

As the ‘Great Recession’ continues to claim its victims, more Americans are in need of public housing. Since the Bush administration, public housing or section 8 housing as it is widely known in the US has been drying up over the year.

The Housing and Urban development agency estimates nearly 60 million people either live in public housing or are on the waiting list for a unit.

However, the Obama administration is gearing up to transform the future of public housing.

Linda Leaks of Empower DC explained that Obama’s new initiative would "get Congress out of it, let’s get the federal government out of it and let’s take these 3 million housing units and privatize it."

Under the Obama administration, PETRA, the Preservation, Enhancement and Transformation of Rental Assistance Act would hand over the public housing system to the private sector.

"To say we’re going to convert it to private ownership is a way of saying, we’re going to get rid of public housing," said Leaks.

Linda insists it will lead to an event like what took place in Atlanta, Georgia where 30,000 people scrambled for public housing applications when only 2,100 spots could be guaranteed.

The best example of what PETRA would offer in public housing is in Washington, DC.

The demographics in Washington are predominately African American and were once ridden with drug and gang violence. But now the tables have turned, and where section 8 and public housing once aided desperately in need communities, condos and corporate buildings now stand.

Linda tells RT, "DC has an extreme shortage of housing that is affordable to people who don’t have a lot of money for housing."

And it was Adrian Fenty, the Mayor of Washington, who decided private owned public housing would service the city’s poor better than what the government could offer.

Parisa Nourzi of Empower DC spoke to RT about Mayor Fenty. "He became the mayor of the elite, he did fundraisers at the homes of developer friends, and for instance, Donetilli hosted a fundraiser and got two buildings on Georgia are valued at over one million dollars for one dollar."

One of the buildings owned by Christopher Donetilli of Donetilli Development, a close friend and financial donor of Mayor Fenty, was set up to be for public housing. Donetilli refused to speak with RT, but told other media outlets, the buildings are for affordable housing. That’s if you can afford to rent a studio apartment at USD $1,500 a month.

"These are low income and moderate income families that are being abused this way, when you look at the wealth divide in DC, a big part of that is the two cities that exist here," says Nourzi.

It’s a story of two tales and two very different narratives reflecting the future of struggling American in peril.