Filed under: Action, Featured, Housing, Southeast
Report from Asheville Solidarity Network about resistance to an eviction in the midst of a housing crisis and ongoing pandemic.
Community members, including tenants and precariously housed people, have come together on November 4th to resist an eviction in support of a multi-generational family experiencing forced displacement by Buncombe County. A number of people have occupied the property and have refused to leave until the city and county enact real solutions to the widely experienced housing crisis. Dressed as woodland creatures, the group brought a banner that says “Everyone needs a home”.
The family being evicted—a mother, grandmother and two children under 5, who wish to remain unnamed due to fear of finding suitable housing in the future—has been living in their home in the Sweeten Creek area for six years in good standing, with part of their rent covered by the Section 8 program. The mother has worked essential front line jobs during the pandemic. Because of a transfer of property last spring, their new landlord, Cindy Rice, stopped accepting Section 8 but did not notify the tenants or provide a new lease. Additionally, the Housing Authority of Asheville (HACA) is responsible for paying the subsidized portion but neglected to pay this portion of the rent for three months (a HACA worker recently communicated their oversight to the tenant). This became grounds for eviction, which was a surprise to the family. They twice paid to appeal the eviction in court with the assistance of Pisgah Legal, paid the bond and fees mandated by the court three times, but despite this, the court found in favor of their landlord and the eviction is expected to take place today. They have not been able to secure stable housing for the coming months.
The mother said yesterday, “We are working on getting an email from housing saying that our voucher was canceled due to a mix-up with the inspector, because now our voucher has been reinstated. We got evicted because housing stopped paying [their portion of the] rent. It is absolutely wrong—we had to pay a rent bond to the court and everything. We never knew we were being evicted because our rent was paid. This whole time everything was working against us and we had no clue until, boom, we get the paper that says we’re being evicted, you owe this much.”
The city of Asheville recently was awarded a $26 million dollar federal grant for relief, the largest grant ever given to the city. Currently many public housing residents are threatened with eviction by HACA for rent arrears of only a hundred dollars, or even a smaller late fee. Many tenants are leaving their homes to avoid a documented eviction proceeding that makes finding future housing very difficult. Evictions in private housing are taking place daily and weekly in Buncombe County. Additionally, there is a wave of tenant displacement with little notice due to landlords choosing to sell properties in an inflated local market, or converting to short term rentals to house tourists for their vacations.
1/ Tomorrow Asheville Solidarity Network and Asheville Survival Program are teaming up to host a community forum on housing. Folks doing childcare for the event reached out to our co-op about providing appropriately themed kids books.🏠🖤 #AvlKids #AvlNews pic.twitter.com/TdynfWg9OB
— Firestorm Books (@FirestormCoop) August 28, 2021
A statement from the autonomous group resisting the eviction says:
We are seeing an unprecedented rise in displacements and evictions. This is just one example of a predatory eviction during the pandemic. The city of Asheville seems to have a policy of eviction whenever possible in public housing. Landlords have dollar signs in their eyes and are rushing to displace tenants to get tourist money. Every day we hear of a few more people losing housing. We have nowhere to go. Forced displacement is violence. We are enduring a period of pure gentrification enacted by those who have forgotten their humanity. Half the residents in the area are renters or unhoused, but the city and county do not care and continue to discuss ineffective solutions for housing at a snail’s pace. We will not be passive or polite. We will disrupt tourism and commerce as long as adequate housing is not made available and direct relief offered. This is a crisis and we demand housing now.
Additionally, the autonomous group of community members who have come together to resist this eviction, in solidarity with the tenants and everyone going through displacement, have communicated these additional demands of local government:
1. HACA must pay immediate restitution to the displaced family in the amount the family desires.
2. City of Asheville and Buncombe County must immediately forgive back or overdue rent for those living in public housing and cease threatening residents with evictions.
3. City of Asheville must forgive all unpaid or overdue water bills, including interest, for all residential customers.
4. Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department must declare an indefinite moratorium on eviction enforcement; no one should be evicted during a pandemic–or ever.
5. City of Asheville and Buncombe County must make camping legal on city and county property, provide 24/7 access to clean public restrooms where facilities exist, continue offering regular trash and recycling disposal, and add permanent sharps disposal containers to all public park infrastructure.
Those wishing to donate to relocation costs of the displaced family can send funds through Venmo is @cigarettes4thepeople.