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New anti-displacement network to help cities experiment with anti-eviction policy

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PolicyLink’s program brings leaders and politicians together to find solutions to affordability crisis

Tracy Munch looks over her belongings after an eviction team removed all of her family items from her foreclosed house on February 2, 2009 in Adams County, Colorado.
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A new multi-city effort to combat displacement, the PolicyLink All-In Cities Anti-Displacement Policy Network, wants to create a laboratory for city leaders to find new solutions to improve affordability and reduce the burden of evictions.

The new effort, which launched in late March, will bring together teams from 10 U.S. cities, comprised of local mayors and city council members, senior city staff, and community leaders, to discuss and share policy ideas and solutions and develop new strategies.

The teams, which will meet at the PolicyLink Equity Summit in Chicago, April 11-13, will work with national experts. The hope is that this collaboration will help cities accelerate the work they’re doing in their communities to stop displacement, and create new policies around renter protections, community land trusts, commercial neighborhood stabilization, inclusionary zoning and other equitable development strategies

The ten cities are Austin; Boston; Buffalo, New York; Denver; Nashville; Philadelphia; Portland, Oregon; San José, California; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and the twin cities of Minnesota (Minneapolis and Saint Paul).

According to PolicyLink Senior Associate Chris Schildt, the issue of displacements and evictions, a symptom of continuing affordability issues, has become a national issue. PolicyLink research shows that reducing rent burdens for low-income Americans, one of the main causes of displacement, would put $124 billion back into the budgets of local residents to spend in their communities.

Additional research found that significant numbers of renters are at risk of displacement or eviction: 51 percent of U.S. renters are rent-burdened, including 60 percent of households led by women of color.

“I was surprised at how strong a response we received from all across the country,” says Schlidt. “There is such a strong narrative going around that this is just a problem for the coasts and cities like New York and San Francisco. Certainly it’s a problem for these cities. But it’s also a problem for places like Minneapolis, Nashville, Denver, and Buffalo.”

As cities have seen the recent urban resurgence bring in new investment and growth, low-income communities and communities of color, who lived through the period of disinvestment, haven’t been able to benefit from this growth and are being pushed out, says Schildt.

This coalition of city leaders comes at a time when the affordable housing advocacy community is “on the defensive,” according to Schlidt. After collaborating on new programs with the Obama administration, Schlidt says that they’re working to keep past gains, especially in light of proposed budget cuts to housing aid and community development block grants, as well as HUD action to delay initiatives such as Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing.

“Cities can’t wait for help from the federal level, because it’s not going to come,” says Schildt.