2015 – Building the Renter Nation: Actions, Highlights, and Victories

2015 – Building the Renter Nation: Actions, Highlights, and Victories

This year, the Right To The City Alliance propelled its work forward to Remain in, Reclaim and Rebuild our cities, amplifying the cry for “COMMUNITY CONTROL OF OUR NEIGHBORHOODS,” “DEVELOPMENT WITHOUT DISPLACEMENT!” and “CITIES FOR PEOPLE, NOT PROFIT!”

One central theme for 2015 was the strengthening of the base of renters guiding our movement to shift power in our cities.  By having renter assemblies in 6 cities, we affirmed our right to remain in cities like Boston, New York, Oakland, LA, Portland and Springfield. 

We provided the inspiration and fuel for renters and housing activists to take hold of their local movements.

Our groups reclaimed the narrative on gentrification and displacement by framing gentrification as a human rights issue, and elevating the plight of renters to a national discussion. By training grassroots leaders in narrative strategy, building broad-based Renter Nation Assemblies in cities around the country, and distributing a fabulous toolkit of what it takes to build a winning renters rights movement, the media is starting to reflect our call for housing as a right and the renter nation as the heart of a national movement. See these excellent news articles in Al Jazeera, The Atlantic, and Viewpoint magazine to see how we are bridging local and national work to make our presence known and heard.

Finally, we reclaimed our urban spaces by supporting efforts and developments of community land trusts in cities like Jackson MS, Detroit and Boston.

Check out our TOP 6 highlights of 2015! 

1. OUR NATIONAL VICTORIES

$200 MILLION!!

We won over $200 million for low-income (0-30% ami) rental housing across the country.  After a 2 year all-out campaign,  we working with the National Low-Income Housing Coalition and won the first ever funding the National Housing Trust Fund.

Putting Wall Street Speculators in Check

Screenshot 2015-12-17 12.23.06We helped move the federal government to stop selling foreclosed homes to Wall Street speculators, to fund the national housing trust fund (the only fund dedicated to housing for extremely low income residents and renters), and to reduce the  mortgage principal for underwater homeowners. We held the stories of several of these homeowners in a national story bank called Faces of Eviction and had several actions on the ground, where people shared their personal stories.

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Katia Carvalho, Lynn United for Change

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Lynn United for Change leaders with Sen. Elizabeth Warren

In a national action coordinated with the Center for Popular Democracy and New York Communities for Change we brought over 100 leaders from the state of Massachusetts led by our dynamite member leaders from City Life/Vida Urbana and Lynn United for Change, to join Senator Elizabeth Warren and the other elected members of Local Progress to take a stand on Wall Street speculation. Katia Carvalho, a leader from Lynn United for Change, was the central spokesperson in an action against one Wall Street speculator, Lone Star, a global private equity firm that invests in real estate, in Washington, DC.

The New York Times  lauded the efforts of the activists and organizers of this national campaign called #Evict Wall Street. And housing advocates were glad to have Elizabeth Warren taking a very public stand on the issue.

2. RENTER ASSEMBLIES AND WINNING LOCAL POLICIES FOR RENTER PROTECTIONS

The Renters’ Rights Committee of Homes for All, developed, distributed and implemented model policies on rent control, just cause eviction and rental speculation tax.
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NYC Assembly, Sunset Park, May 2015

Homes for All hosted 6 Renter Nation Assemblies, launched renternation.build and produced a fabulous toolkit to share the methodology for growing our housing justice movement with renters at the center of leading our struggle.  The assemblies were also a place where different issues that faced renters’ were articulated. The NYC assembly, organized by mostly students, took on the issue of students as gentrifiers, the history of racist land and housing policy in the United States and the challenges of growing an international movement.

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Anti-displacement Assembly, Oakland, California, Oct. 2015

In Oakland, the main focus was widespread displacement in the Bay. In Springfield, local groups tackled health issues for tenants. In Boston, there was the launching of a city wide push for a just cause ordinance.

VICTORIES FOR OUR CITIES AND COMMUNITIES

Homes For All Partners won big in cities across the country including these 5:

New York, NY — Won Historic Rent Freeze — led by CAAAV and Community Action for Safe Apartments with support from Metropolitan Council on Housing
Portland, OR — Won a Renter State of Emergency with millions for homeless services and an extended period of notice for evictions — led by Community Alliance of Tenants
Richmond, CA — Won just cause eviction and rent control (round 1)–Led by Tenants Together with Homes For All and ACCE with Center for Popular Democracy
Sante Fe, NM — Renters Bill of Rights City Council Resolution, led by Chainbreaker
San Diego, CA — Strong, Pro Renter Code Enforcement, led by Community Leadership Association

Victory/Campaign materials by city including copies of ordinances won are available here: bit.ly/1O0W90g

This Fall, over 200 people participated in a national webinar on our victories.  Since then, 5 new organizations including Kentuckians For The Commonwealth joined Homes For All.

These victories set the stage for even more in 2016 with rent control and just cause eviction leading the way!

Additionally, in order to understand the national landscape and identify trends and opportunities, we mapped 22 victories across the country as well as 130 housing justice campaigns underway, led by Homes For All or other networks.  The mapping project is an ongoing effort which YOU can support by adding lessons from your own local campaign by visiting: http://goo.gl/forms/Ecqe9mzsFM

3. INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY AND THE RIGHT TO THE CITY

Right to the City is an international human rights demand. In November of 2014, nations worldwide met to draft a global platform for the right to the city in response to global economic forces shaping city centers. We strengthened our role in this international sector, supporting the development of the Global Platform and building with international right to the city practitioners in Central & South America towards the UN Habitat 3 summit.

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Through ongoing relationships with housing justice organizers worldwide, we participated in an exchange in Spain with the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (La PAH – the social movement comprising more than 2 million members, transforming the national political landscape in Spain and currently holding the mayorships of Madrid and Barcelona).  We shared our stories and reports of abusive practices towards Blackstone tenants in Atlanta and Los Angeles and found that Spanish tenants were facing many of the same concerns.  We coordinated an International Blackstone Working Group and created international demands along with the PAH. Together we raised national and international awareness of the moves of big capital speculation into the private rental market.

INTERNATIONAL ACTION AGAINST WALL STREET SPECULATION

In October 2015, we held an international action in Barcelona, Japan, Dublin, and New York. We will continue to strengthen these collaborations in 2016.

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4. BASE BUILDING and interdependent movement structures

Our forces continue to grow in number and scale, popularizing new common-sense ideas to challenge the (il)logic of gentrification.  This year our alliance and campaign added 11 new members, growing to 54 organizations in 28 cities across 26 states.  

CHECK OUT OUR MEMBER MAP!

As profit-driven development continues to fuel the rent crisis and destabilize our communities, new organizations and cities are reaching out weekly to plug into the work.  The urgency and value of building national-scale unity and demands could not be clearer.

We continued support of member groups through collaborative fundraising, skill-sharing, fiscal sponsorship, and online CRM infrastructure and began a mapping project to track our victories and our growing impact.

5. PRODUCING KNOWLEDGE, GROWING EXPERTISE

The Research Committee of the Homes For All (HFA) campaign continued to strengthen our theory-driven practice.  A core of strong partners supported HFA with research, writing and data visualization work.  Our collaborations include the professors and students at The Urban Democracy Lab at NYU, the Urban Ecologies Program at the New School and several departments in CUNY.

This year, the team is producing 3 major pieces: 1) a report on the history and examples of non-market alternative housing models won from housing justice struggles, 2) a GENTRIFICATION FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) and 3) a report on the fight for justice in the arena of energy utilities.

6. DEVELOPING SOLUTIONS TO DISPLACEMENT

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In 2015 we continued to innovate and develop solutions to displacement and gentrification led by impacted communities, rooted in a transformative vision for just & equitable urban ecosystems.

We built partnerships with lead practitioners of the community land trust model, participating in the national Community Land Trust Network and deepening our relationship with leading CLT expert Burlington Associates.

The Our Homes Our Land (OHOL) Committee included 12 organizations in 10 cities actively building or planning Community Land Trusts.  OHOL has became an active space to share resources and lessons, and catalyze support for timely campaign battles such as supporting Detroit People’s Platform in defending families from the largest tax foreclosure in US history by investing in buying foreclosed properties and securing commitments to form a community land trust in Detroit.

We co-convened the 3rd international roundtable on Alternative Housing/Alternative Future with our allies Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung NYC.  We worked with Cohabitation Strategies (COHSTRA), Parkdale Neighborhood Land Trust in Ontario and HFA partners Cooperation Jackson and Detroit People’s Platform to develop comparative analysis of Northern Europe and North American non-market housing interventions.

The momentum and excitement of building our renter nation, is leading us to focus on strengthening the movements to effectively win more policies for renters on the state and municipal level in 2016, while supporting out of market solutions like community land trusts. We will be in touch in the new year with our bold new plans and strategies and information on how to get involved.

Thanks for your support!

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2 Responses

  1. Christine Jeffords

    As a renter myself, I’m very much in sympathy with your activities. But I think there’s another program you should launch: Drive for Transparency. Most tenants have no idea what their landlord’s expenses are, and therefore he can gouge with impunity. In retailing, it’s a common practice to double one’s wholesale costs (called “keystoning”). The same thing should be required of landlords, and the best way to make it real is to give tenants the tools to “vote with their feet.” We need a Federal law requiring every residential landlord to provide each current tenant annually, and any prospective one, with a statement showing what his fixed costs are (mortgage, taxes, insurance, any utilities he provides, $X per month set aside for calamities like a new roof or furnace), what his total leasable residential space is, and how much of it each unit occupies. With that information, a tenant could say, “OK, his expenses are X, his square footage is Y, and I occupy 15% of Y. He’s charging 15% of X, x2. This is fair; I’ll stay.” Or: “His expenses are X, his square footage is Y, and I occupy 25% of Y. He’s charging 30% of X, x5. He’s gouging–I’m outta here!”

    I also believe that organizations such as yours must work to get every American a *home of his own*–even if it’s only a trailer or a studio co-op from which he can trade up. We need a Federal loan bank, like the old Home Ownership Lone Corp., whose function would be to provide no-down-payment, low-interest mortgages tailored to the applicant’s income. Every American above a certain age (30?) who has an income at all would be eligible for it. Let’s drive residential landlords to extinction!

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