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Margareth Massac Testimony

Testimony to Secretary Fudge

JULY 20, 2022

Good morning Secretary Fudge, thank you for your time today. My name is Margareth Massac and I am a tenant leader at Community Voices Heard, and I am also a tenant association president of Oceanside Public Housing Development in Far Rockaway Queens New York. 

I would like to tell you a story about my experience living in public housing in New York City, how public housing has given me housing stability, and why I am part of this tenant delegation. 

During the 1980’s, I was living in a basement apartment with my 2 year old son and the landlord evicted us so that he could put his sister in the apartment. I was ambitious about finding an apartment, but there was nothing.  I was a homeless mother for about a year. They gave me a voucher at the shelter but no landlord would take it so I could not find a place to live. 

At the time when I was homeless I was very angry at God because I thought he did this to me. I didn’t know until years later that it was really the mayor and developers who were allowing rent increases so low income people like me couldn’t afford to live in our own homes.  

The only way out of homelessness was through public housing, so I moved into a building owned by NYCHA. When I got into NYCHA, it was beautiful, clean, and the janitors fixed things. Some people didn’t even believe that I lived in public housing because it was so nice.  I was able to raise two boys here, finish college, afford my rent and get a decent job with the city. For this reason, I believe in public housing. 

Then, the government began disinvestment in public housing in the last 20 years. For years the budgets for public housing has decreased. The walls aren’t painted. The lobby floors need to be replaced. In 2018, I got hit by a car on a Saturday. I was really bruised up, but I got up and went to church on Sunday because I didn’t want people from church to come check on me. I would have been so embarrassed if they saw where I was living. 

As a tenant association president, I am aware that residents have pipes leaking. And there’s mold that is toxic. We don’t get repairs done in a timely manner.  I feel disrespected and  I’m ashamed to bring people to my home. 

NYCHA residents have been left behind and  stuck in deplorable conditions. And, millions of other HUD tenants across the country are also facing rent increases and evictions. 

I am here today to ask you for accountability and investment in Public Housing and the protection of tenants across the US. There is a large disinvestment in the care for tenants and renters and it must stop. 

Secretary Fudge, I’m here today because I want to work with you and tenants across the country to renew Public Housing to be the gift that it was when I first moved in. 

Secretary Fudge, can we count on you to convene with us quarterly so that we can share our expertise and vision for how HUD can best serve tenants in its properties?

In addition to this, will you create a tenant advisory board, including public housing residents like myself, to guide the agency’s rulemaking process and budgeting?

Secretary Fudge, in organizing we make a regular practice of telling each other “we have your back.” Today we’ve asked you to have our backs. Can you tell us how we can have yours? How can we be helpful to you? How can we build the political will that you need to take bold and urgent action to protect tenants? 

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