News Roundup

  • FEMA Disaster Assistance Helps White People More Than People of Color

    A growing body of evidence shows that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) aid favors white people. Homeowners in Black neighborhoods are awarded less money on average than applicants in white areas, and though Black residents tend to lose wealth following disasters, white residents often see their personal wealth increase after receiving aid. “FEMA programs and policies need to be equitable, due to the disproportionate impact of disasters on marginalized communities,” said Chauncia Willis, cofounder and chief executive of the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management, a nonprofit group in Georgia.

  • $300 Million Rental Aid Unspent in DC Area

    As the end of the federal eviction moratorium nears, at least $300 million in emergency rental funds remain unspent in the Washington, DC, area. Only 5 percent of aid has been distributed, and 5 of 15 counties in the area have not received any aid, including the most populous counties in Maryland and Virginia. Local and state governments have struggled with distribution. “We’re dealing with unprecedented amount of funding,” said Stuart Campbell, director of community programs for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. “When you’re dealing with that amount of funding—especially when it’s taxpayer dollars—you want to make sure you get it right. Unfortunately, that can take time.”

  • Arkansas’s Public Housing Tenants Frustrated with Elements of the RAD Program

    The North Little Rock Housing Authority needed up to $90 million in repairs in 2016, so it’s been using Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program funds for maintenance and renovations. RAD allows private companies to assume ownership over public housing buildings (housing authorities still own the land) and provides a much needed funding option after decades of disinvestment. But introducing private entities has disconnected tenants and housing authorities. Many tenants have been forced to move multiple times a year because of ongoing renovations, and residents of one building say they weren’t told what was being updated and that living conditions are still poor. “If you ask to get something fixed, they don’t fix it,” the other resident said. “You can’t sit down in the shower anymore. They took the shower bars out. Some elderly people are scared to get in the shower because they’re scared they’re going to fall.”

  • Berkeley and Ohlone People Seek to Protect Sacred Land from Housing Development

    Developers want to construct affordable housing atop the West Berkeley Ohlone shell mound—a sacred Ohlone burial and ceremonial site that is more than 5,700 years old. Although the National Trust has listed the shell mound as an endangered historic place, the California Supreme Court does not recognize the site and has overridden the local zoning laws. In an appeal, the city and a local group of Indigenous people wrote that the “systemic murder, disenfranchisement, and appropriation of the property of Native peoples was official California policy at statehood, and the City of Berkeley now wishes to protect what little is left of its Ohlone heritage.”