For too long, gentrification and homelessness have destabilized countless lives in American cities – and have seriously impacted the health of men, women, and children. AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which operates in 15 states and 39 countries, has seen this public health crisis unfold firsthand, particularly among its patients living with HIV. To advocate for a more urgent and humane response by policymakers, AHF established, in 2017, Housing Is A Human Right.
Housing Is A Human Right (HHR), an advocacy division of Healthy Housing Foundation by AHF, is part of AHF’s multi-pronged approach to address gentrification, housing affordability, and homelessness in the United States — and to protect the public’s health. In addition to providing housing to lower-income and homeless people, AHF believes that advocacy – through public relations and political campaigns – helps improve service delivery, and, accordingly, has been active in pushing for reforms to improve health outcomes.
AHF’s longtime mission statement is “cutting-edge medicine and advocacy regardless of ability to pay.”
In only a short time, HHR has become one of the leading advocacy groups in California’s housing justice movement – and works closely with residents and community leaders. In December 2017, HHR organized, with support from nearly 50 organizations, the Resist Gentrification Action Summit in South Los Angeles. Attended by more than 800 residents and activists, it gave working people a forum to learn about ways to combat housing affordability and gentrification crises in their neighborhoods.
In April 2018, HHR played an important role in killing a controversial bill in the California State Legislature known as SB 827. Opposed by dozens of municipalities, community groups, and housing justice organizations, the proposed legislation would have ended democratic participation in local land-use decisions and mandated the construction of mostly market-rate housing near transit stops. The bill would have fueled gentrification in working-class communities and would have been a political giveaway to luxury-housing developers, Wall Street landlords, and global investors, who would have netted billions in profits on the backs of working people.
HHR is also a leader in the statewide movement to repeal the anti-rent control law known as the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. The 1995 law, which puts restrictions on rent control, is widely considered to be a major contributor to California’s housing affordability and homeless crises. In April 2018, HHR and its partner organizations announced that they collected 595,340 signatures to place a Costa-Hawkins repeal initiative – known as the Affordable Housing Act – on the November 2018 ballot. That total far exceeds the required 402,468 signatures to qualify.
HHR has organized numerous events to stand up for working people and hold the powerful accountable. One of the most high-profile advocacy actions took place in San Diego at the 2018 California Democratic Party convention. Working with a partner organization, HHR lobbied influential politicians to support Costa-Hawkins repeal, held an impactful press conference and rally, and marched through the halls of the San Diego Convention Center, demanding that Democrats support the Affordable Housing Act. By the end of the convention, numerous officeholders, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and California State Senator Kevin de Leon, gave their endorsements.
For the Costa-Hawkins repeal campaign, HHR will battle powerful real estate developers, global investors, and Wall Street landlords, who will contribute tens of millions in campaign cash to the opposition campaign. But HHR moves forward unafraid, willing to fight for what’s right on the behalf of working people. Such determined advocacy is a hallmark of AHF’s work.
As Healthy Housing Foundation by AHF expands across the U.S., so will Housing Is A Human Right, providing leadership and tenacity on housing justice issues. As noted by the World Health Organization and other institutions, adequate, affordable housing is crucial to maintain one’s health. HHR works to ensure that the health of vulnerable populations, such as working-class families and people living with HIV, are protected.