Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign Organizer to Testify Before UN Fact-Finding Mission in Detroit, Appeal for an International Investigation of City’s Housing Crisis

Webcast of UN town hall (4-6pm EST):

DETROIT, MI – Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign organizer Willie “J.R.” Fleming will submit formal testimony to a UN fact-finding delegation charged with investigating human rights violations in Detroit. Facilitated by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, this delegation includes UN Special Rapporteurs Leilani Farha and Catarina de Albuquerque, international experts on water, sanitation, and housing issues.

“The UN needs to know that rather than a housing recovery, we in Chicago have continued violations of the human to housing,” explained Fleming by telephone. “In the cities hardest hit neighborhoods, families are still losing their homes fraudulently, with many pushed into homelessness as our high rents become increasingly unaffordable. At the same time, tens of thousands of vacant homes blight the South and West sides, serving as havens for violent crime.”

“We are hearing a lot of promises this election year,” emphasized Fleming, “but we need real help right now.”

Two months ago, the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign joined a broad contingent of U.S. organizations in Geneva, Switzerland to present testimony before the Committee to Eliminate all forms of Racial Discrimination. This testimony focused on racial discrimination in public and private housing sectors, particularly in the wake of the mortgage foreclosure crisis and steep cuts to the provision of public housing. In response to this testimony, the UN committee found in its concluding observations that the U.S. had failed to meet its international obligations to reduce racial discrimination in housing.

In addition to his testimony on the ongoing housing crisis in the Midwest, Fleming will also make a formal appeal to the UN for an investigation the impact of the housing crisis, particularly on neighborhoods hard-hit by the mortgage foreclosure crisis, where the rate bank auctions has continued to rise.

“Since the mission and concluding observations, the housing and human rights crisis has impacted more lives and the loss of housing increased rapidly and dramatically,” stated the formal appeal letter. “We believe that the lack of housing has been the root cause, along with poverty, of the notable violence amongst African American youth in Chicago. With no home, there is no stability, no hope and like any other region in the world violence and crime become the only available opportunity for upward mobility.”

Mr. Fleming’s testimony will take place during a town hall meeting hosted by the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization. This organization has worked with a coalition of local groups to address the rash of water shutoffs by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department that have left thousands of the city’s residents without water  for past due bills of as little as $150. Local advocates  have repeatedly pointed out that over the past decade, Detroit residents have seen water rates increases of nearly 120 percent, as the city’s population has declined.

In June, these groups submitted a report to the UN OHCHR, which found that disconnection of water services because of failure to pay due to a lack of money constituted a violation of the human right to water and other international rights. In spite of a recent ruling by the federal judge overseeing Detroit’s bankruptcy proceedings that no such right existed in U.S. domestic law, local advocates hope that the UN visit will bolster ongoing efforts to shed light on the human consequences of the city’s policies.

In 2009, Fleming helped to coordinate a formal visit to the National Mission of UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to adequate housing Raquel Rolnik. During her visit to Chicago, Ms Rolnik visited the Cabrini Green public housing development as well as other parts of the city where the city razed its high-rise public housing. Ms Rolnik’s visit found that the U.S. Had failed to safeguard the human right to housing, promoting the Obama administration to put in propose reforms to public housing administration and mortgage modification procedures.