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[Twin Cities Daily Planet] Renters collectively demand justice, equity from Minneapolis to St. Paul

Source: http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/renters-collectively-demand-justice-equity-from-minneapolis-to-st-paul/

Renters collectively demand justice, equity from Minneapolis to St. Paul

By | October 10, 2016

It seems that each day Minnesotans hear about another community whose homes are being taken from them: the residents of Glendale Townhomes in Minneapolis, Lowry Grove in St. Anthony Village, and Crossroads at Richfield for starters. And along the Green Line recently, apartment renters and their allies heard even more stories from passers-by who shared their own stories of housing injustice.

On Sept. 22, renters from across the Twin Cities rallied in Minneapolis and St. Paul in an effort to draw attention to the injustices and challenges they face.They also held a press conference at the St. Paul City Hall, which had declared the day to be a National Renter's Day of Action, and met with Minneapolis City Council members.

One of the key issues brought up by residents, outside of safety concerns, was the increasing cost of affordable housing. Just days after the day of action, a report, released by the Minnesota Housing Partnership, noted that low-income renters in the Twin Cities are being priced out of affordable housing as the cost of rent increases. By coming together for this one day, this Renters' Day of Action, they are able to organize toward change in ways that the groups couldn't have done alone.

The rent is too damn high

Twin Cities residents are losing their homes as more and more housing is sold to developers looking to upscale their housing complexes, according to the MHP report. The developer boom has led to a decrease in affordable housing units, increasing the costs of affordable housing, and – as MHP Executive Director Chip Halbach pointed out – may lead to an increase in family homelessness unless immediate action is taken.

“It is a situation that has worsened to the extent that stronger reactions and actions are needed. [Without those reactions and actions] it looks like there will be continued investment and loss of more of these properties. The landlord of last resort will say ‘hey, you can cram as many people into this home as possible, and I'll make money, and I won't do much, because you don't have alternatives.' We do think there will be more homelessness out there, even though family homelessness has declined recently, it's just that the situation is such that it looks like it will increase,” said Halbach.

Issues of affordability, as well as concerns about safety and the lack of preservation of affordable housing in the Twin Cities, brought together residents and their allies for a rally down the Green Line LRT.

“The day of action was beautiful. We had a various myriad of tenants come out and kinda share and understand their differences in our cities, but we also saw a commonality in terms of displacement,” said Roberto de la Riva, an organizer with Inquilinxs Unidxs por Justicia.

Organizing together, not in silos

“If you stay silent, they will step on you. If we fight, we win,” said Luis Caguana, who rents an apartment in Minneapolis and is a tenant leader with Inquilinxs Unidxs por Justicia.

The renters' rights tour was the work of a partnership between several organization including Inquilinxs Unidxs por Justicia (Tenants United for Justice), Frogtown Neighborhood Association, Defend Glendale, the Community Stabilization Project, and others. It was part of a national day of action organized by Right to the City, a national movement which fights against gentrification and displacement and for justice, democracy, and sustainability in cities.

The day of action was necessary, because of the commonality of oppression that all the tenants who participated face, said Arike Ogundip, a two-year resident of Minneapolis originally from California.

Residents and housing organizers from across the Twin Cities gathered at Glendale Townhomes on Sept. 22 as part of a day-long tour from Minneapolis to St. Paul during the Renters' Day of Action. Photo by Cristeta Boarini.

“The day of action was powerful because the commonality was oppression, was injustice, the commonality is having the system betray you constantly, that's the commonality. There comes a breaking point that instead of bending down and taking this oppression, you stand up and then when you stand up, you look around, and you see that's it's not just you and not just people from your own background, you look up and see its people of all backgrounds. The commonality is that very thing of oppression. And alll we're saying is it's not like this for everybody,” said Ogundip.

As part of the event, renters talked about gentrification in Frogtown, visited the unique community of Glendale Townhomes to hear about the battle with Minneapolis Public Housing Association, and even traveled to the home of Steven Frenz, a Minneapolis landlord. With all the groups working together, they not only learned about each others' struggles, but could support each other.

“At the vigil when we drove to Steve Frenz's $3 million home, it was one of the most powerful things to me, getting to stand up to my oppressor, telling him about my experience of being his renter. It was so powerful. I was shaking, but I kept speaking because I had people behind me, supporting what I was saying,” says Ogundip, a board member for Inquilinxs Unidxs por Justicia.

With members from Defend Glendale and other nonprofits there to confront Frenz, Ogundip noted that that feeling of collective power is core to the coalition being built amongst tenants and their allies.

“Even though I was scared to speak up, maybe someone else was too scared to say anything, so I was maybe able to speak on their behalf, hopefully. It's a very powerful thing,” said Ogundip.

The coalition plans to continue its work as they focus on organizing around local policy initiatives, including rent control and a tenant's union in the Twin Cities, said de la Riva. De la Riva also noted that his organization has plans to expand their organizing beyond Minneapolis in to St. Paul and the suburbs.

The demands of the national renter's day of action include a national rent freeze, an end to unjust evictions, community control over land and housing in our communities, and tenant's right to organize against their landlords without fear of retaliation.

“I am really excited for what that coalition can mean for potential big policy battles in the future, but also for connecting renters and people who are directly affected by the issues. We are going to share with each other, learn from each other, ” said de la Riva.

[Oakland North] Renters’ rights, landlord responsibilities core of Oakland’s Measure JJ

Source: https://oaklandnorth.net/2016/09/27/renters-rights-landlord-responsibilities-core-of-oaklands-measure-jj/

By Posted September 27, 2016 12:00 pm

Tenant rights advocates in Oakland have joined in a nationwide campaign for affordable housing that would toughen rent controls in Oakland.

Promoting Measure JJ on the November city ballot, Oakland demonstrators converged on City Hall as part of a national “Renter's Day of Action” on September 22. The demonstrators said the city's character was at stake. They held banners and chanted slogans proclaiming housing as a “human right.”

“Oakland is a melting pot, but it won't be if rent keeps rising,” lifelong Oakland resident Zane Burton said.

Rents in Oakland increased 34 percent between 2011 and 2015, making Oakland the fourth most expensive housing market in the country, according to an estimate from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

[SF Gate] Renters’ rights, landlord responsibilities core of Oakland’s Measure JJ

Source: http://blog.sfgate.com/inoakland/2016/09/27/renters-rights-landlord-responsibilities-core-of-oaklands-measure-jj/

Renters' rights, landlord responsibilities core of Oakland's Measure JJ

By on September 27, 2016 at 12:30 PM
Tenant rights advocates in Oakland have joined in a nationwide campaign for affordable housing that would toughen rent controls in Oakland.

Promoting Measure JJ on the November city ballot, Oakland demonstrators converged on City Hall as part of a national “Renter's Day of Action” on September 22. The demonstrators said the city's character was at stake. They held banners and chanted slogans proclaiming housing as a “human right.”

“Oakland is a melting pot, but it won't be if rent keeps rising,” lifelong Oakland resident Zane Burton said.

Read more…

[Bay State Banner] Boston activists call for policies in Renters Day of Action demonstration

Source: http://baystatebanner.com/news/2016/sep/28/boston-activists-call-policies-renters-day-action-/?page=2

Boston activists call for policies in Renters Day of Action demonstration

Tenants rally to demand gentrification protections
Jule Pattison-Gordon | 9/28/2016, 10:27 a.m.

Protesters gathered before the Greater Boston Real Estate Board headquarters downtown, criticizing what they said were practices that favored profit over people. Banner photo

Protestors at City Hall raised the spectre that much of the working class could be pushed out of Boston, thus destroying communities and damaging the city's economic diversity and viability.

Ownership and evictions

Activists called for measures to prevent landlords and developers from speculating on real estate, increase emphasis on affordable housing and promote turnover of public land to community control. Groups such as land trusts would be able to ensure continued affordability or that land use reflects other resident priorities, several activists said.

“It's not good enough to fight gentrification and rent increases,” said Suzanne Lee, CPA president emeritus and board member of the Chinatown Community Land Trust. “We must control the land in our community. That's the only way we can make a dent and stem the tide of gentrification.”

Many expressed frustration with what they said was limited community voice reflected in development plans. Among these were members of the Fenway who were protesting Emerson College's plans to house students for two years in the neighborhood. Protestors said that plan seemed to be progressing, despite local resistance.

Activists said that residents are better able to hold landlords accountable when they are local individuals or community groups, as opposed to large corporate owners. Among protesters' requests were passage of a just cause eviction law, which would prevent corporate landlords from evicting tenants without providing an acceptable reason, such as property damage or failure to pay rent, thus curtailing their ability to make no-fault evictions. A draft of the just cause eviction bill is with Mayor Martin Walsh and the city council, Darnell Johnson of Right to the City told the Banner.

While an earlier version of the bill gave tenants access to non-binding third-party mediation with landlords prior to any significant rent increases to see if an alternative solution can be found, that provision was removed during negotiations. It was replaced by a requirement that landlords file notices to quit both with the tenant and with the city's Office of Housing Stability. With many residents unaware of their rights and resources in such a situation, this will cause the city to provide tenants with information, Johnson said.

Once evicted, residents often struggle to find living quarters they can afford. Pei Ying Yu said that when a developer bought their home on Hudson Street, she and other long-time tenants were forced to leave so repairs could be made. Yu qualified for subsidized senior housing, but said her sister, who also was displaced more than a year ago, remains homeless.

Greg Vasil, CEO of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, said in a Banner phone interview that procedures already are in place for handling a situation in which a landlord tries to evict a tenant early. In his view, the just cause eviction ordinance seems designed to prevent a lease from ending on its expiration date, something he said tenants should work out before signing.

Vasil also said there is a danger in tenants' calls for a rent freeze, stating that national developers testified in a March hearing that rent control in Boston would discourage them from building here. When the city had rent control, many landlords could not afford to make repairs, he said.

[Valley Advocate] Scene Here: Rent Rally

Source: http://valleyadvocate.com/2016/09/26/rent-rally/

Scene Here: Rent Rally

By

Several dozen protesters gathered this past Friday at Mason Square in Springfield, chanting What Do We Want? Affordable Housing! When Do We Want It? Now! and carrying signs down State Street — through one of the city's most blighted neighborhoods — to Court Square in the heart of the downtown area. Organized by Arise for Social Justice and No One Leaves — Springfield, it's no coincidence that the rally is a stone's throw from both City Hall and the courthouse where eviction cases are heard. The march was part of a National Renters' Day of Action, a grassroots campaign demanding affordable housing and an end to what the advocates have called “an epidemic of evictions” that leave many struggling families on the brink of homelessness.

In Springfield, a third of the population lives in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with the median household income around $37,500. Meanwhile, the average rent is upwards of $850, according to rent-rate aggregators rentjungle.com, depotofnumbers.com, while MyApartmentMap.com says average Springfield rents are pushing $1,000 per month. That means that nearly a third of the average Springfield resident's household income is consumed by rent. Among housing advocates, a good rule of thumb is to use no more than a third of your income to cover housing expenses which includes rent as well as heat, water, and electricity.

— Peter Vancini, pvancini@valleyadvocate.com

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