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"Southern Arizona People's Law Center"

September/October 1995 issue of Poverty & Race

Nearly two years ago, the Southern Arizona People?s Law Center (SAPLC) released a PRRAC-funded report, Unfulfilled Promises: Racial Discrimination and Neglect in Tucson?s Public and Federally Subsidized Housing. The study made use of tenant satisfaction surveys and on-site inspections to document racial discrimination, neglect and segregation in eight federally subsidized and conventional public housing complexes.

Initially, the report generated a good deal of interest in the local media. SAPLC's challenge, at the time, was to translate that interest into concrete action and results. Their work has since been split between efforts to move public officials into action to rectify the problems highlighted in the report, and using the report as an organizing tool for the people living in the subsidized complexes.

For years, tenants, working alone or in groups, have attempted to get HUD to recognize the problems noted in the report. Armed with the SAPLC report, tenants were able to receive concrete verification from local officials of the problems that know all too well. These tenant-led organizing efforts have proven to be excellent community education and mobilization mechanisms, which are sure to lead to positive impact on local housing policies.

As is sometimes the case, the report has proven to be a double-edged sword, complicated by Congressional threats to gut federal housing programs. While the report was intended to highlight the problems of public and subsidized housing in an effort to increase funding for the program, program critics use the problems featured in the report as a
reason to reduce or eliminate federal housing funds.

SAPLC continues to support tenant-led organizing as part of their dual-pronged advocacy approach and will use the report in media and organizing work directed at saving federal housing programs.

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