Want to create social change? Form a tenant union!


Hartford tenants rallied at City Council last week to lobby local lawmakers to impose better terms on tenants in the city. Local residents, joined by organizers from the Progressive Working Families Party and members of the tenants’ union, have called for more housing inspectors and accountability for landlords who fail to make apartment improvements. dangerous that do not meet basic living standards. The Hartford Courant reported the following chant from protesters and speakers: “’No more cockroaches! More rats! We want you to work for us!”

Far from the one-community experience, the conditions tenants face are on the decline in cities and towns across the country — and not just because of shitty landlords. The problems of being a tenant are systemic. Paying obscene portions of your income – over 30% of average income is eaten up by the average cost of rent – to landlords who provide virtually no productive service on their own; undergo arbitrary and dictatorial changes in the conditions and cost of the rental; receive inferior treatment to a legal system that is preferential to landlords; and, of course, often deplorable living conditions are inherent in the social position of the tenant.

As millennials and older members of Gen Z become increasingly uncertain about their ability to own a home, renting accommodation will very soon be the only option for most students, not to mention that many students are already renting. With chaotic, cartel-like swings in the housing market — particularly in Connecticut, where the cost of rent has risen 12% since last year and is already 35% above the national average — tenants have little or no safety net in the event of a sudden economic crisis or at the individual whims of their landlord. These latter factors explain why the COVID-19 pandemic has been indicative of capitalism’s vulture behavior against tenants; in fact, looking back to Connecticut, the pandemic has doubled no cause eviction filings on top of the violent increase in eviction filings for tenants whose economic circumstances have been devastated by mismanagement simultaneous to the COVID-19 crisis.

Alone, tenants have no power other than the meager rights granted to them by state law, something you should nevertheless familiarize yourself with. Together, however, tenants are empowered through their ability to organize and bargain collectively to advance their interests instead of filling a landlord’s income. Slumlords profiting while the people of Hartford lived in unsanitary, unsafe, and inaccessible conditions profit from whether or not their tenants are atomized, or not in communication and solidarity with one another. Organize a tenant union and learn about existing ones, such as the CT and Crown Heights Tenant Unions, or the Autonomous Tenant Union, a radical Chicago-based collective that strongly supports that housing is a human right, not a privilege or conditionality.

The ATU has published a basic toolkit zine outlining many useful tactics that can be used to organize your neighbors against landlord malfeasance or greed. It offers strategies such as canvassing your apartment complex or neighborhood to investigate living conditions and community interest, nominating candidates for the local city council to expedite the process of appointing city inspectors. housing, submitting demand letters to landlords and holding public press conferences to air grievances and engage other community members in the fight for housing justice. If you are a tenant or find this type of organization interesting, find a tenant union near you. In the likely event that one does not exist in your immediate area, contact established housing justice or tenant organizations for advice.

A third of most Americans’ income is spent on housing, something almost impossible to live without. These resources could be spent on education, enriching your community, or finding new ways to make life fulfilling on this beautiful planet; instead, they are spent to pay landlords who are entitled to tenant income solely by virtue of the deed. While building, maintaining and maintaining a house is productive, owning one is not – very similar to being a shareholder or CEO of a company that earns 10 to 100 to 1,000 times more than the employees who actually produce for it .

On a macroscopic scale, the capitalist mode of production and the distribution of wealth favor those who own the economy over those who actually value it. The struggle of tenants for fair housing conditions is a reflection of the society in which it takes place, calling more than ever to organize. The housing exploitation regime is not the only problem we face as a country or as a world, and demanding incremental changes in our standard of living is not enough to overcome these challenges, lest we risk settling for just a fraction of what workers, marginalized communities and the planet we stand on are owed, that is, everything. Ultimately, however, forming organizations wholly dedicated to changing the structures of a deeply unequal society on the basis of solidarity and repairing historical damage is a bold first step towards this radical vision of the future.


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