Working with Systems

Changing rules, policies and procedures to benefit groups, communities and classes of tenants

System change is changing rules, policies or procedures in order to:
  • remove barriers to stable rental households;
  • rebalance the rights of landlords and tenants, or 
  • create new opportunities for tenants to realize stability, choice, and opportunity in their housing decisions.
What systems are we talking about changing?
  • building/property policies or procedures
  • community laws, policies, practices
  • legal (civil) rights at state, federal levels
  • financial resources for rental households
Why system change?
Changing a system's policy or practices can provide benefits to many tenants at one time.  Many tenants who are reluctant to "make a case", can benefit from a change in rules, policies and procedures that provide a better balance between owner and tenant interests.   Systems may be government; owner associations or service organizations

System change is rooted in case management

Don't "tilt at windmills" like the literary Don Quixote.

Change for the sake of change is boring and ineffective. 

Change that makes a difference in the real lives of real people is worth your time! 

Connecting the dots:  Counseling, Organizing and Advocacy.
Linking "pay to stay" with BIG system change
It’s imperative for the housing movement to grow and strengthen. Rent crises are not an isolated problem. More than one in four working renter households – approximately 6 million renter households in total – had severe housing cost burden in 2011. Federal rental assistance programs break the rent crisis cycle for the people they serve, but less than one in four eligible households receives assistance. "

 Solving Problems thru HUD
1. Tenant in project-based Section 8 development must contact Assisted Housing Services Corporation, present the problem and ask for a response (contact info for AHSC is attached). To the best of my knowledge, AHSC does not accept 3rd party complaints--it must be a call from the tenant.
2. IF the AHSC fails to resolve the problem, then contact the office of the Hub Director for Multifamily Housing in Chicago. 

Beware of the phrase: “It's a HUD rule” 
      This week's news and yesterday's meeting at Newark Think Tank on Poverty brought home again the need to understand and communicate the complex relationship between HUD and local housing providers. This past week, for instance, there were a couple news stories about a new HUD guidance on “one strike” policies could be discriminatory.Here's the catch. That's not news and HUD will only crack down if SOMEONE ELSE brings them a case. HUD's guidance will not change a single discriminatory practice until a case works it way through the system and will only change the rule in that case while other folks skate. 
     Here's the flip side.. When the manager tells you “it's a HUD rule” your best response is “show me the rule.” It's too easy for a property manager to tell you that some cockamamie rule like you must remove the face plates from your wall sockets before extermination is really just a “made up” rule. This past week a tenant was told that her counselor from an Ombudsman program was not permitted to be in a “reprimand” meeting because it is a HUD rule about privacy. 
      RHINO is ready to admit that there are some HUD rules and that HUD permits owners to make local rules as long as they are reasonable. Here's the two tests: 
1. if it is not written down (lease, HUD regulations or house rules) then it's not a rule.
2. if it is written down, but it is not reasonable, then file a complaint with HUD.
Affordable vs. Safe and Decent

What is a social service provider's duty in a case like this? City of Columbus is seeking a nuisance judgement against Summit Park Apartments for numerous, serious code violations. Until last summer, Summit Park was a place where refugee agencies placed families coming to Columbus from Bhutan, Somalia and other countries.
It is good that the agencies stopped placing families into these conditions, but what next?
Should these agencies have been working with authorities to seek remediation?
What if it weren't refugees, but homeless families trying to get out of a shelter? Do you accept substandard conditions?
Does permitting low income housing to be substandard create NIMBYism where neighbors say react against the occupants...rather than the housing provider?
Does this happen in your practice? What does your organization do to ensure "safe and decent" as well as "affordable" housing for households you work with?
This is a real problem for organizations which are charged to find housing for low income people...Not pointing fingers, but asking questions--how do you handle this?
more here and here.