My name is Kendall Jackman. I am a former postal employee in the city of New York. I have been homeless for the past twenty nine months. I was born and raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. The house I was living in went into foreclosure because my landlady took out two sub-prime mortgages to purchase a new home for her and her family. She didn’t pay the mortgage on the house I was living in for the two years my neighbor and I lived there.
I entered the Department of Homeless Services shelter system on September 21st, 2009 and have been warehoused in three different shelters since. I say warehoused because that is what we are. You share a room with one to eighty-one other women. You have a cot for a bed, a square metal cube 3 feet by 3 feet for a closet and insufficient food. The City pays a “non-profit provider” $3,533 of my tax dollars for this. Add $354.00 of my tax dollars to pay for my storage and you have a grand total of $3,887, monthly. My rent was $950 for a 1 bedroom, garden apartment. My current rent is 4 times what I was paying for my own space. The house is still sitting empty. I could be living in it.
Why is this important? Picture The Homeless, where I am a Housing Campaign Leader wrote legislation called “Annual Census of Vacant Buildings and Lots”, known as Intro 48 in the City Council. This bill will do what the title says, change the City Charter and mandate the City to do an annual count. More importantly it will shine a light on the warehoused property in the City that has been sitting for 10, 20, 50 years for speculation, while people like me are displaced. The largest populations entering the shelter system are coming from my neighborhood, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Harlem. These communities are on the super fast tracks of gentrification and foreclosure.
The bill has sat on the desk of Erik Martin Dilan, Chair of the Housing and Buildings Committee of the City Council for the two years since it was introduced. While he helps speculators and developers price hard working, middle-class people out of the City by not calendaring the bill for a hearing, more and more people are being displaced.
We conducted our own count of a third of the City, in partnership with Hunter College’s Center for Community Planning and Development and found enough vacant property to housed 199,981 people. What could we find in the other two-thirds? If we don’t use all the vacant lots for housing, they can be used for playgrounds, parks, gardens, parking lots. The bottom line is, we have a bill that will make housing in New York City affordable again and Erik Martin Dilan is sitting on it. Imagine what this bill can do for us, for you where you live.