The Crisis: A severe housing crisis is gripping families and communities across the United States. Since the fall of 2008, the US Government purchased millions of foreclosed properties from banks through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). These acquisitions bailed out the financial industry, which was literally on the verge of a collapse. The concrete result of the TARP bailout has been the transfer of $1.5 trillion in public wealth into the hands of private institutions and individuals (in the form of bonuses) to preserve their fortunes. While taking money from everyday workers and handing it over to huge, too big to fail, financial institutions helped forestall the collapse of the world's financial markets, it has not prevented the displacement and dispossession of millions of ordinary families- disproportionately low-income and working class women of color. In short, the banks have been saved, but the people have been abandoned. Because billions of dollars in public funds were used to buy these homes, we assert those homes are now public housing and must be used to solve the housing crisis by providing homes to millions of families and individuals.
The Movement: The Leadership Committee of the US Human Rights Network is building a movement to fundamentally transform land relationships in this society and to elevate housing to the level of a human right. To accomplish this objective, the LC is building a network of organizations engaged in land and housing campaigns in their communities. The Take Back the Land Movement is directly challenging those laws which allow banks to reap record profits while millions of families face eviction and homelessness. Challenging unjust laws requires a protracted direct action campaign of civil disobedience designed to prioritize people over profits in a tangible way. As such, the Movement focuses on defending families against eviction and “liberating” vacant government owned and foreclosed homes, moving homeless people into people-less homes. The Take Back the Land Movement is rooted in the following principles:
- Housing is a human right;
- Local community control over land and housing;
- Leadership by impacted communities, particularly low income women of color;
- Direct action oriented campaigns.
Organizational Structure: Changing times and new challenges demand new and fresh approaches, including innovative ways of thinking about and organizing our communities. Inspired by land reform and anti-eviction movements in South Africa and Brazil, this is a trans-local movement: a network of organizations engaged in their own local communities and campaigns, linked together by a common framework of principles, objectives and strategies to achieve those objectives. The Take Back the Land Movement, then, is not one single national campaign, but, rather, one thousand independent, but interconnected, local campaigns directed towards the common objectives of community control over land and elevating housing to the level of a human right. Local campaigns and actions are not directed by a centralized committee, but entirely driven by Local Action Groups (LAG), who operate independently while benefiting from shared experiences. The LC facilitates communication among the LAGs and provides them with campaign and technical support. This decentralized network model focuses power, flexibility and decision making in the hands of local impacted communities and individuals.
May 2010 Month of Action: The Take Back the Land Movement is calling for a May 2010 National Month of Action. In the spirit of the civil rights movement, in May 2010, organizations throughout the United States are organizing “live-ins” to provide housing for families by defending them against eviction or moving them into vacant government owned or foreclosed homes. May 2010 will mark the beginning of a major social movement, one which result in housing security for millions of families. We urge organizations and all people of good conscience to join the rising chorus calling for the elevation of housing to the level of a human right, and to do so through engagement in direct action campaigns which support that objective. Action Areas
- Foreclosure related evictions. In the context of the worse housing crisis in memory, evicting families and creating more vacant homes in communities is counterproductive. Foreclosed homes. These homes must be filled with families in need of housing.
- Vacant foreclosed and government owned buildings. At a time of such great need, these vacant structures shock the moral conscience. They must be used to housing people.
- Vacant foreclosed and government owned land. Now that “boom” times are over, vacant land must now be returned to the common good.
- Public housing. Public housing must be protected because we cannot afford to lose low-income housing.
- The right to return. Whether through gentrification, public housing demolition or the combination of natural disasters and government actions, those forced to leave their long-time communities must have the right to return.