By Michael Byrne for ROAR Magazine - These organizations are developing new ways of responding to the growing conflict between tenants and landlords and between housing as a right and housing as a financialized asset. They aim to become more than radical activist groups, but rather to organize tenants en masse and to change the structural conditions and policies which condemn tenants to a life of high rents, frequent evictions and low-quality housing. All the organizations mentioned above are involved in collective action in response to individual issues, in particular rent increases, evictions and poor housing standards. This involves providing information about tenants’ rights, negotiating with landlords, media campaigns targeting specific landlords and taking legal cases. For tenant organizers this is about tenants working together to fight for their rights, rather than charity. Renting can be an isolating and individualizing experience. The only time a tenant is likely to reach out to others is during a particular moment of crisis, such as a rent increase or eviction. These moments provide the possibility to de-individualize the experience of renting, but also to politicize that experience by showing that by working together tenants can change their reality. Yet this kind of “case work” brings its own challenges — and not just in terms of the considerable resources it requires.
By Margaret Flowers for Popular Resistance. Baltimore, MD - Every year in Baltimore City, 6,000 to 7,000 renter households are judicially evicted for not paying the rent. These evictions result from a court system – known colloquially as “the Rent Court” – that is overwhelmed by landlord litigation, to the tune of 150,000 rent cases annually. The scale of this enduring crisis sets Baltimore apart from most rental housing markets in the nation. In fact, among metro areas studied in the 2013 American Housing Survey, Baltimore ranked second only to Detroit, Michigan, in the percentage of renters experiencing the threat of rent eviction.1 Many of these struggling renters feel that the public has tuned out their stories or flipped those stories against them.
By Randy Shaw for Counterpunch. Activists in cities that have long had rent control laws are pushing for stronger measures. In Los Angeles, activists like Larry Gross, Director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, want the city to stop allowing tenants to be evicted so that speculators can demolish their rent-controlled buildings (emptying the building through the Ellis Act, a state law that preempts local just cause eviction laws). CES and their allies forced the head of the California Housing Finance Agency toresign over his Ellis Act eviction of tenants. The spread of rent control campaigns goes beyond California. In Seattle, sharply rising rents and tenant displacement led Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata to push for a Council resolutionrepealing of the statewide ban on rent control. On September 21, Seattle’s City Council backed the resolution calling for repealing the state preemption of local rent control enacted in 1981. Portland tenants are also pushing for rent control.
By Divya Rao for Rooflines - Over the last few years, communities have witnessed the latest iteration of Wall Street predation—the purchase in bulk of distressed single-family mortgages and foreclosed homes (REOs) with the intent to rent them- so called REO to Rental. Investors are muscling out first time home buyers, displacing tenants, outbidding nonprofit affordable housing developers, and changing the demographics of communities. This new scheme is being funded in the same way that caused the foreclosure crisis- by securitizing housing payments (this time, rent payments) and passing on the risk to communities. A recent survey by the California Reinvestment Coalition of 80 community based organizations identifies some of the most concerning trends, provides context for who is funding this recent boom, and makes recommendations to protect communities from additional harm.