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The Southern Tenant Union Playbook

Despite an eviction moratorium that was intended to keep people housed during the pandemic, landlords filed more than 95,000 evictions in just eight major cities across the South last year.  With the passing of the most recent stimulus bill, Senate Democrats approved more than $45 billion in rental and mortgage assistance, but it won't be enough to stave off what housing advocates call the "tsunami of evictions" still to come. But the fight to keep people housed didn't begin when the country shut down, and it won't end when people can safely dine in restaurants.  The solution to the current crisis requires novel tactics just as much as it builds on old ones, tenants' unions and advocacy groups say—particularly in the South.

The Housing Affordability Crisis And What Millennials Can do About It

When millennials head home for the holidays this month, many who are city dwellers will be hosted by parents or grand-parents whose housing is far more spacious and financially secure than their own. Even guests with well-paid jobs in relatively stable rental markets will cast an envious eye at the benefits of baby boomer house buying decades ago. That’s because these holiday visitors belong to a “generation priced out” of America’s hottest urban markets for single-family homes, condos, and rental apartments. According to Berkeley author Randy Shaw, skyrocketing prices for all three forms of housing have created a generational divide, with major political implications for progressive city governments and advocates of affordable housing.

Tenants Together: Stories, Struggles, And Strategies

Concord: Local allies conducted a survey and report (that Tenants Together helped edit) that 75 percent of tenants in Concord fear eviction, while over half experience unsafe living conditions, but fear retaliation from their landlords for reporting them. Los Angeles: According to a new report, the Los Angeles area loses 5.5 rent control units every day due to Ellis Act evictions. San Francisco: Our friends and member orgs in the San Francisco Anti-Displacement Coalition has released a new report, "The Cost of Costa-Hawkins". The report puts a spotlight on common landlord lies and exploitation of loopholes, as a resource for statewide action to support Yes on Prop 10, a full repeal of Costa-Hawkins. To join the fight for Proposition 10, the Affordable Housing Act, sign up here! To learn more about what Costa-Hawkins is, check out this primer on our website and educate your friends and neighbors to vote #YesOn10 this November.

Tenants Push Back Against Corporate Landlords During “Renter Week Of Action”

By Candice Bernd for Truthout - "One year in January we didn't have any heat. They would come and they would quote-unquote 'fix it' during the day and by nightfall it would be completely gone and out," Hasbrook said, describing how she and her neighbors were left exposed to the biting cold of a Minnesota winter. "For that month, I still got a bill that was over $100 for utility costs," she said. All this, coupled with Frenz's steady rent hikes over the years, led Hasbrook and other tenant-organizers to hold a protest and vigil on the front lawn of the slumlord's mansion this week: to remind him of the substandard conditions she and the tenants of his 1,200 other units endure. "He did not come out. However, the sprinklers were turned on," Hasbrook said. "But we just covered the sprinklers with bandanas and kept right on going." The vigil was just one of several actions popping off this week in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area -- and across the nation. Renters in 45 cities are organizing protests from September 16 through September 24, during a nationwide "National Renter Week of Action and Assemblies" spearheaded by the Right to the City Alliance to fight back against the Trump administration's threat to cut billions from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and to demand rent control and just-cause eviction policies.

Tenants March To Stop Giveaways To Wall Street Landlords

By Aditi Katti for - It was a brutally hot and humid day in the nation’s capital and Margie Mathers needed a cane to get up to the podium, but the Florida senior had a story she was determined to tell. “When I moved into our manufactured housing community in North Fort Myers, it was a beautiful, peaceful place,” Mathers told the crowd of around 1,000 activists who’d converged on the city for a July 13 Tenant March on Washington. “Now I have neighbors who are really struggling. They’re taking their medications every other day instead of every day and not eating the food they need to be healthy.” What changed? Her development had been purchased Equity LifeStyles Property Inc., a private equity firm specializing in developments where residents own their trailer homes but rent the land under them. This new landlord quickly jacked up Mathers’s monthly rent to $630, from $230 just four years ago. To fight back, Mathers became involved with MH Action, which is organizing owners of manufactured homes to protect the affordability and quality of their communities. This group co-sponsored the Tenant March, along with more than a dozen others, including New York Communities for Change, Community Voices Heard, People’s Action, CASA de Maryland, and the Center for Popular Democracy. Organizers reported that marchers came from 16 different states.

San Francisco Too Valuable For Poor People*

By Carl Finamore in CounterPunch - Last year, San Francisco tenant rights’ supporters scored an important victory when voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition K, requiring all new housing developments provide 33% low and moderate-cost units. The objective was to put a lid on the unregulated, speculative construction boom that earned the city its most contentious distinction of being the country’s second most expensive place to live, just after New York City. Housing activists say Prop K was a partial victory but more is needed. That next step of “reining in record-high eviction rates” was announced at a July 27 city hall press conference attended by over 75 community, labor and political leaders. “The data clearly shows that the evictions crisis and resulting loss of rental units” is a big blow to the city meeting its affordable housing goals, said Board of Supervisor Jane Kim.

‘Royally Screwed’: Activists Eviscerate Gov. Cuomo After Rent Laws Deal

By Ross Barkan in The Observer - Telling reporters that they were “royally screwed,” tenant activists and a Democratic city councilman blasted Gov. Andrew Cuomo today for failing to bolster rent regulations as much as they had hoped. Gathered outside Mr. Cuomo’s Midtown office, the activists from left-leaning groups including Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change and Crown Heights Tenant Union called the Democratic governor a Republican, said he had done the equivalent of urinating on them, and even claimed he would be arrested before he sought re-election in 2018. “The deal that is about to be voted on is worse than the deal in 2011. They have done absolutely nothing to help tenants in New York City,” said Councilman Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat and chair of the Council’s housing and buildings committee.

NYC Rent Laws Expiring, Tenants Demand State Of Emergency

By Alex Ellefson for Waging Nonviolence. Housing advocates urged New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to declare a state of emergency if regulations protecting almost 1 million affordable apartments are allowed to expire. Lawmakers in Albany have only four days to renew the rent laws and tenant rights groups called on Cuomo to accept nothing less from the state legislature than an overhaul of the current rules. “So many people in my neighborhood have been pushed out and evicted because of these weak rent laws,” Flatbush Tenant Coalition member Jean Folkes said during a rally outside City Hall on Thursday. “Brooklyn is becoming more expensive than Manhattan. They are coming to take it away from us. I’m begging Governor Cuomo, ‘Do the right thing.’” New York City Council members who attended the rally said they are willing to take control of the city’s rent-regulated apartments if state legislators fail to produce stronger protections for tenants.

Googler Buys Building, Kicks Out Tenants, Gets Protested

By Madeline Stone and Matt Rosoff in Business Insider - A group of about 50 protesters swarmed the San Francisco home of Google lawyer Jack Halprin early Wednesday morning. Halprin purchased 812 Guerrero Street, a seven-unit apartment building in the Mission District, for $1.4 million in 2012. In 2014, he served tenants an eviction notice under the Ellis Act, which allows landowners — many of whom had purchased buildings at a discount because of rent-controlled tenants — to push existing tenants out so the buildings can "go out of business" and be converted into condos. According to Mission Local, this week tenant Rebecca Bauknight received a one-page Notice to Vacate that said she could be evicted from her apartment anytime after 6 a.m. Wednesday morning. Bauknight has reportedly lived in the building for more than 25 years.

Brooklyn Tenants Revolt

On one of the coldest days of 2014 I put on long underwear, a flannel shirt, my thickest sweater, a hat, and a scarf, and took the subway two stops down to 1059 Union Street to join the new Crown Heights Tenant Union’s first public action. It was so bitterly cold that I couldn’t help but think about the previous winter, my first in Crown Heights and fourth in Brooklyn, when my heat would mysteriously shut off, often just in time for the weekend when my landlords didn’t answer the phone. My partner likes to say that most New York landlords operate on a continuum between greed and laziness. I figured at the time that mine were hovering closer to the “lazy” end with a bonus bit of cheapness thrown in; they just didn’t want to pay the extra money to really fix whatever was wrong.

Tenants Form Union to Fight Gentrification

In the struggle to hold on to their places in a neighborhood where rents are rising rapidly, a group in Crown Heights is hoping there’s strength in numbers. The newly formed Crown Heights Tenant Union held a rally outside a building on Union Street to protest a wave of displacement in the wake of rapid gentrification in their neighborhood.
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