Southern Renters Rising – #HFASouth Is Born!

Southern Renters Rising – #HFASouth Is Born!

By Malcolm Torrejón Chu

On October 17 and 18, 23 residents, activists and organizers from across the South gathering in Atlanta for the first Homes For All Southern Land & Housing Leadership Assembly. Members of the Housing Justice League in Atlanta, Cooperation Jackson (Mississippi), Miami Workers Center (Florida), Kentuckians For The Commonwealth and Homes For All Nashville (Tennessee) spent three days learning from each other's local organizing, getting to know and build trust with each other, developing a collective vision for expanding land & housing organizing across the south, and planning next steps to build regional power towards land & housing liberation.

We caught up with some of the participants to hear about their experience and what went down in Atlanta.

“With no vision people will perish”

Sacajawea Hall of Cooperation Jackson opened the assembly with a collective visioning process helping to ground each of the five organizations in each other's work and begin to emerge common ideas and goals of what we want to build together. Each organization shared their vision and their short, medium and long term goals.

Kennetha Patterson of Homes For All Nashville participates and speaks at the #HFASouth Assembly.

“It was so powerful to see other states stand up as well. We all have a lot of the same ideas across the board, but also have unique and different things to offer each other. There was so much knowledge in the room.” -Kennetha Patterson, Nashville

Once grounded in each other's work, participants broke up into small groups of mixed cities to ask each other: What do we want the south to look like for our children / grandchildren?

Each group brought back a visual representation of their vision and bullet points of what they believe we must be ready to fight for together. While housing as a human right and community control of land & housing were central themes, our collective vision for the south (and the nation) was not limited to land & housing. We talked about our need to fight for a broad and intersectional vision with demands that include a living wage for all, ending mass incarceration and other economic, gender and racial justice issues.

We get so comfortable. We get comfortable thinking that the things we take for granted, someone paid a cost for that. It was so amazing to see all of the work, the detailed work that people are doing to create change, and to take that back and get out and fight for our cause.”

-Mrs. Sheila, Cooperation Jackson

This is the first time, that we know of, that a group of southern organizers and residents have come together to plan a regional organizing strategy for land & housing in the south. The battles ahead will not be easy, but we know we won't win unless we build intersectional power across movements.

#HFASouth Convening October 17-18 2017 in Atlanta. Credit: Mike Dennis

To confront and dismantle white supremacy, the south must lead.

Yvette Norton of Miami Workers Center at #HFASouth. Credit: Mike Dennis

Homes For All members across the country understand that to truly secure housing as a human right for all people, our movement must confront and dismantle white supremacy and other systems of oppression and power.

From the theft of indigenous land, the enslavement and exploitation of Africans, the denial of land ownership to black and other communities of color, the creation of federal backed GSE's to support white & suburban homeownership while redlining and dis-investing from entire communities of color, to predatory lending, the destruction of public housing and gentrification of historically black and brown neighborhoods, white supremacist ideology has shaped land & housing policy for centuries.

“I was born in the south. I came from a small city of Florence MS. I got to experience some of the injustice and white supremacist way of thinking. The south is so important because this is the root of white supremacist inequality of housing, the economic struggle of people of color, and that root spreads out to different regions.” Mrs. Shelia (Jackson)

During day two of the #HFASouth Assembly, we dove deep together to understand the particular and specific ways white supremacy has shaped our communities' relationships to land & housing in the South. We emerged deeper clarity that Southern people and movements must lead and play a central role in building a regional, national and international movement for land & housing liberation that centers the fight to dismantle white supremacy, win reparations and transform our communities.

We're looking forward to building together and creating change as we stand as a unified group. It's exciting to think about tackling this issue in the south in particular. Through Homes for All South, we will be directly confronting racial, economic, and housing injustice at its source. Meeting with our Homes for All partners in Atlanta gave us hope that we can create the vision we are looking towards as we build and grow together. (Meredith Wadlington, Kentucky)

Planting the seed – a plan to build #HFASouth

“Atlanta was just the beginning. Our hope in birthing #HFASouth is that this is just the planting of the seeds. Next is to grow our roots – meaning we must deepen our collective unity around vision & goals and reach out to bring in more cities and organizations to this critical regional organizing.” -Tony Romano, Atlanta

Members vote to officially form #HFASouth at the October Assembly, pending consultation and discussion with each of the five member organizations.

On day two of the convening, we unanimously decided to form Homes For All South (#HFASouth) and to move forward with plans to hold a bigger Southern HFA Assembly in Spring 2018 in either Jackson, MS or Nashville, TN. We plan to bring together as many as a hundred residents, organizers and freedom fighters actively engaged in land & housing struggles along with allies from other movements to train & educate each other on cutting edge organizing strategies, develop shared strategy and grow our movement.

I left Atlanta thinking “What Can I Do”? How can I work with my community to transform the way that things are done? I've been talking about it with friends since I've been back. Anytime you can put something together that causes us to talk. To have people with from different experiences in life in a space to really be able to talk, to listen, without judgement, and talk from the heart, that's a really really great experience.” -Mrs. Sheila (Jackson)

Over the next years we plan to recruit and support the development of new housing and land justice organizations including tenant unions, neighborhood organizations and Community Land Trusts, as well as to build deep partnerships across other sectors and movements. HFA South covers the following states: Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky. Parts of Texas, Virginia and West Virginia are being considered.

A larger regional assembly is planned for next May in either Jackson, MS or Nashville, TN. Credit: Mike Dennis

By building a unified land & housing movement across the south we can contribute to a broader movement to confront the rise of the neo-confederacy and win land, liberation and freedom for our people.

Learning From Atlanta

While the collective time together was transformative and powerful, for many participants getting a chance to learn from the local movement for development without displacement and to fight back against gentrification in Atlanta was a highlight.

My highlight was going to the Housing Justice League monthly meeting and learning about their Beltline Report. We then got to break out into a tenant association meeting. I learned so much, it was so real and raw. I was in there with Ms Sherise from Atlanta, being able to see how other folks engage tenants and organize tenants. The tenants coming in were elderly and were being bullied and left the room with hope. As an organizer who is going to be leading tenant union meetings in the future in Nashville, it was very informative and I got to learn a lot about how to organize. -Kennetha Patterson

Sherise Brown of the Housing Justice League in Atlanta participates in the #HFASouth Assembly. Credit: Mike Dennis

The Housing Justice League recently released a powerful new report on the Beltline Development project laying out an alternative vision for development that guarantees and protects the right of long-term black, low-income and working-class communities to remain in their homes. They are organizing tenants unions, neighborhood assemblies and holding monthly organizing meetings to build power.

Direct Action Gets The Goods

On Day Three of the gathering, we were joined by our sister and brothers from It Takes Roots and other movement organizations for a day-long Direct Action Strategy training put on by the Ruckus Society and Blackout Collective. Homes For All members built across social movements with comrades from Southerners On New Ground (SONG), SNAPCO, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards and the North Carolina Climate Justice Summit.

Participants role play eviction blockades at Non-Violent Direct Action Training led by the Ruckus Society.

We learned about direct action strategy, how to plan a direct action, common roles in actions, discussed how to challenge those in power and practiced eviction blockades and civil disobedience to build our skills and get ready to fight for our people and communities.

“One of the discussions that opened the training was around non-violence and offensive versus defensive actions. It was helpful to move through the steps of planning an action, and the materials that Ruckus shared will be helpful templates that we will put to good use as our state moves into the General Assembly” – Laura Harper (Kentuckians For The Commonwealth)

Rose, a trainer from the Blackout Collective leads a Non-Violent Direct Action organizing training.

The Direct Action training was put on as part of Right To The City's collaboration with It Takes Roots which includes Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Climate Justice Alliance, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Center for Story Based Strategy and the Ruckus Society. Over the next 9 months we are convening regional and national cross-movement direct action strategy trainings to deepen the skills and capacities of communities on the frontlines of grassroots movements for transformative change to take bold and escalated action together and lead visionary alternatives to the right wing agenda.

Photo Credits: Mike Dennis

For more information about Homes For All's southern regional organizing please contact Tony Romano at Tony [at] RightToTheCity [dot] org.

NPQ Quarterly: “Renter Nation” Shapes Eviction Reform


By The All-Nite Images from NY, NY, USA (A Day In New York 14th May 2015: Rally to Save NYC) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

October 2, 2017; Marketplace

PRI's Marketplace featured a report on one way that New York City is seeking to empower tenants. The article, “New York is betting $155 million that it can cut evictions,” describes the city's effort to provide legal representation to low-income tenants facing eviction. The payoff to the city is reduced social service costs for shelter and relocation. According to Steven Banks, commissioner of the city's Department of Social Services:

More than 59,000 people sleep in New York City's homeless shelters every night. The new law could help people stay in their homes instead.… And there's an economic argument for that.… To spend a couple of thousand dollars to provide legal services versus tens of thousands of dollars to provide shelter makes this a very good investment.

Support for legal representation has been championed by advocacy nonprofits in recognition of the fact that more than 90 percent of tenants go to eviction court without a lawyer.

Subsidizing legal representation in housing court is only one of a series of strategies being used to protect low-income renters. In past months, NPQ has covered other efforts, most inspired by activists in New York City, to create eviction court navigators, outlaw landlord harassment of tenants, and curtail blacklisting of tenants. Lack of affordable housing in New York City is part of a larger nest of problems faced by low-wage households. Landlords are using aggressive techniques to force tenants out of rent-controlled units so they can get higher rents from more affluent home-seekers. Predatory rental practices may have increased as demand for rental housing has risen across the country. Yet another factor shaping rental practices has been the corporatization of rental property ownership.

New York's mayor, William “Bill” de Blasio, has made expanding the number of affordable housing units a key strategy for his administration, but at the end of four years, the mayor seems unable to build his way out of the affordability problem. Eviction representation is another tactic to preserve existing affordable units.

Besides the savings to the municipal budget, there are less tangible benefits to be derived from stable rental housing. One is economic. Most cities depend on a workforce of lower wage workers who need stable rental housing to be productive employees. The nonprofit research and advocacy organization PolicyLink has a new study that details the economic impact on cities of stable rental housing and tenant-friendly public policies. A study from Cleveland State University's College of Urban Affairs suggests that the most economically distressed city in the United States can “grow from the inside” based on the new renters.

Another benefit is political. Tenants are gaining electoral power in places like New York City. There's an emerging social movement in US cities that's sometimes characterized as the Renter Nation. This movement brings together young urban renters, childless boomers choosing an urban lifestyle, and former homeowners who have been displaced into single-family rentals by the Great Recession. These “new renters” are adding fuel (and political power) to the struggle of low-income households in inner-city subsidized developments. While nonprofits like Right to the City and PolicyLink are giving voice to this emerging movement, other more traditional housing advocacy and fair housing organizations are also feeling the energy. WBUR's On Point features a segment on this profound demographic shift. Throughout the half-hour discussion, the panelists reiterate that the emergence of a renter nation is “market driven,” not an investor conspiracy.

In the early aftermath of the Great Recession, there was a sense among the FIRE (Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate) industries that homeownership would bounce back as the wreckage of foreclosed homes were sold off, as displaced owners' credit records were cleared, and as the millennial generation reached the age for first time home buying. That hopeful scenario of 2010 now seems naïve in the face of our present reality.—Spencer Wells

Press Coverage 9/11/17-10-6/17 Renter Week of Action and Assemblies

Date Outlet City Title Link
9/11/2017 Sonoma Sun Sonoma County Upcoming Renter Week of Action
9/13/2017 KCET / Link TV LA/ CA City Rising, Multiple videos and articles
9/14/2017 Sonoma Sun Sonoma County Who Cares about Renters Issues?
9/17/2017 News Channel 5 – Nashville Nashville Coalition Lists Demands For Mayor's Transit Plan
9/17/2017 NewsChannel 5 Nashville Coalition Lists Demand for Mayor's Transit Plan
9/18/2017 Colorlines US #RenterWeekOfAction Addresses Nationwide Housing Crisis
9/18/2017 LA Weekly Los Angeles L.A.'s Housing Crisis Is Now the Nation's Housing Crisis
9/18/2017 Orange County Register Samta ANa Activists push for more affordable housing, rent control in Santa Ana
9/18/2017 Tennessean Nashville Billion-dollar transit plan must benefit all Nashvillians
9/18/2017 Tennessean Tennessee Billion-dollar transit plan must benefit all Nashville
9/19/2017 ABC5 Minneapolis Apartment Tenants Take Grievances to Twin Cities Landlord's Front Door
9/19/2017 BillyPenn Philadelphia Photos: Protesters outside Ben Carson's Vaux High School visit
9/19/2017 Fox 17 Nashville Protestors call Nashville's $6 billion transit plan the ‘gentrification train'
9/19/2017 KEYT3 Santa Barbara Activists rally for renter's rights in Santa Barbara
September 18-23 is ‘Renter Week of Action'
9/19/2017 Metro – Philadelphia Philadelphia Ben Carson to oversee reopening of Philly school, protests planned
9/19/2017 NewsChannel 5 Nashville Activists Protest Transit Plan, Hope For Affordable Housing Instead
9/19/2017 Next City US Here's What U.S. Cities Gain If Housing Is Affordable
9/19/2017 OC Weekly Orange County Housing Activists Kick Off “Renters Week of Action” in Santa Ana
9/19/2017 Philadelphia Magazine Philadelphia Time for a Protest: Ben Carson Is Coming to Philly on Tuesday
9/19/2017 Philadelphia HUD Secretary Ben Carson helps open a North Philly high school
9/19/2017 StarTribute Minneapolis Angry renters demonstrate outside landlord Stephen Frenz's home
9/19/2017 Tennesean Nashville Activists warn of Mayor Barry's transit push becoming ‘gentrification train,' demand benefits
9/19/2017 The Progressive Duplicate? Renter Week' Brings Protests to Corporate Landlord and HUD Offices
9/19/2017 The Progressive National ‘Renter Week' Brings Protests to Corporate Landlord and HUD Offices
9/19/2017 Twin Cities Pioneer Press St. Paul Romanish, Snyder: Pricing tenants out of their homes
9/19/2017 Univision Santa Ana Con una protesta, inquilinos en Santa Ana exigen que se respeten sus derechos
9/19/2017 Nashville Some worry $6 billion Nashville transit plan won't benefit their communities
9/19/2017 WSMV-TV Nashville Residents, community activists raise concerns over Nashville mass transit plan
9/20/2017 Alternet US Tenants Nationwide Tell Landlords They're Fed Up: Renter Week of Action
A week's worth of rallies, protests and demonstrations aims to unite renters and draw attention to their struggles.
9/20/2017 CityLab US If Rent Were Affordable, the Average Household Would Save $6200 a Year
9/20/2017 KEYT Santa Barbara Activists rally for renter's rights in Santa Barbara
9/20/2017 Nashville Public Radio (WPLN) Nashville Activists Question Whether Gallatin Road Will Really Benefit East Nashville
9/20/2017 OCRegister San Diego Majority of Orange, San Diego county voters support rent control, poll says
9/20/2017 Rhode Island Future Providence DARE smashes piñatas in protest against high rents, evictions and public subsidies for luxury housing
9/20/2017 Spare Change News Boston Boston puts Advanced Property Management on notice in kickoff to Renters' Week of Action
9/20/2017 The Baltimore Sun Baltimore “Renter Week of Action” calls attention to housing crisis
9/20/2017 The Detroit News Detroit Council approves housing law amid gentrification fears
9/20/2017 The Portland Mercury Portland From Slacktivism to Activism
9/21/2017 CityPages Minneapolis The newest battle coming to Minneapolis: Rent control
9/21/2017 Denver ABC 7 Denver Aurora mobile home residents fight owner's plan to close park
9/21/2017 Equal Voice US A Look at Hope and Housing on Skid Row in Los Angele
9/21/2017 KTVL (Channel 10) Ashland, OR Some Ashland community members say they pay 40 percent of their their income on rent
9/21/2017 Mission Local San Francisco The San Francisco Anti-Displacement Coalition has produced the series of advertisements as part of National Renter's Week of Action.
9/21/2017 ReWire News US Trump's America: Fair Housing Group Adds ‘Report Hate' Button to Its Website
9/21/2017 RPA Lab US Renters Call for Local, National Action as Rents Rise
9/21/2017 Sonoma News Sonoma County Housing advocates will rally at Sonoma Plaza
9/22/2017 Ashland Daily Tidings Ashland Seeking shelter
9/22/2017 Colordado Independent Denver Colorado renters to landlord law firm: educate don't evict
9/22/2017 Local ABC 10 Miami Nonprofit group builds tent camp for Civic Towers' residents
9/22/2017 Sonoma Sun Sonoma County ‘Renters Week' rally on Sonoma Plaza
9/23/2017 TruthOut US Tenants Push Back Against Corporate Landlords during Renter Week of Action
9/24/2017 Real News Network US Renters vs. Slumlords: Activists Nationwide Rally for Renter's Rights
9/25/2017 KALW San Francisco California tenant advocates galvanized by national ‘week of action' for renters
9/25/2017 UniCorn Riot Denver Eighty Families Offer to Purchase Mobile Home Park to Avoid Eviction
9/25/2017 Univision 14 San Francisco San Francisco Reunión de inquilinos en Alameda para discutir la falta de vivienda asequible
9/27/2017 East Bay Times East Bay Rent control fight to be arduous, Alameda conference hears
9/27/2017 East Bay Times (Bay Area News Group) Oakland/ East Bay Soaring rents, evictions, tenants rally in Oakland to close landlord loopholes in Just Cause protections
9/28/2017 Sonoma Sun Sonoma County ‘The rent is too damn high'
9/30/2017 Apartment Therapy US Here's how much extra cash you'd have if rent were affordable
10/2/2017 NLIHC US National Equity Atlas Releases Renter Fact Sheets
10/4/2017 The Oregonian Portland Portland City Council extends renter protection and ‘housing emergency' policies
10/6/2017 Daily Free Press Boston City Council votes to pass act protecting tenants

Apartment Therapy: Here’s How Much Extra Cash You’d Have If Rent Were Affordable

Imagine, if you will, that you only had to pay the recommended maximum of 30% of your income on rent. For a family earning $100,000, that would be $2,500 a month. Not exactly chump change, to be sure — but still not enough to afford even a median-priced two-bedroom apartment in cities like New York, San Francisco, Washington, Boston, or Los Angeles (places where a six-figure salary doesn't stretch like it used to).

Indeed, this traditional standard of what constitutes “affordable” rent is increasingly a fantasy. More than half (51%) of all American renters are now rent-burdened, meaning they pay more than 30% of their income on housing and utilities, compared to 39% in 2000.

But for a moment, let's indulge ourselves in that fantasy: What if people only paid what they could afford in rent?

No, we're not talking about pay-what-you-want restaurants, like those Paneras. But what if people in the 100 biggest American cities paid only 30% of their income in rent — in other words, what most economists consider the highest level of rent people can afford without risking financial hardship?

In that scenario, the average renter would have an extra $6,200 to spend or save each year, according to an analysis by the National Equity Atlas. Collectively, that's $124 billion that could fuel local economies when spent on groceries, childcare, transportation, medical care, and education — things that many households are forced to skimp on to make rent.

In some areas, of course, that figure is even higher. Renters in the nation's capital would save $8,600, while renters in El Paso, Texas, would save about half that. In either case, renters all over the country are increasingly stretching themselves financially to enrich their landlords.

Meanwhile, homeownership is near a 50-year low and the number of renters has been rising since the Great Recession. That's not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself — renting can allow for more mobility to pursue better work opportunities, for example. But as home values and rents have both skyrocketed in recent years, homeowners have amassed trillions in wealth while renters have seen their housing costs spiral out of control with little to show for it. And the brunt of this burden falls largely upon minorities, as CityLab's Tanvi Misra explains:

Renters of all ages and races are being pinched to keep a roof over their heads. But the affordability crisis is, at its core, an equity issue. Homeownership—the primary way to build wealth in America—has always been set up to favor the white and the rich. Then the recession hit, dealing extra blows to people of color. So, it's not a coincidence that the black homeownership rate has seen the steepest decline, plummeting to 1994 levels; simultaneously, minorities have made up the bulk of the increase in renter household numbers in the last two decades.

So how can we get closer to this fantasy land where rent “only” devours 30% of your income? Housing experts tend to agree there's just not enough new construction underway — both for home buyers and for renters. Low inventory is driving up the cost of homes, which keeps more people renting, competing for a scant supply of affordable apartments. The National Equity Atlas also advocates for more community control over housing — such as land trusts, cooperatives, and public or nonprofit solutions for affordable homes — and full funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Until then, you could always move to Memphis — or find an impossibly benevolent landlord with a Panera-style, pay-what-you-want mentality. Maybe Radiohead's Thom Yorke has a flat to let.

KALW: California tenant advocates galvanized by national ‘week of action’ for renters

By Sep 25, 2017 Link: LISTEN HERE

It's been decades since this country has had anything like a tenants' movement. If you're young enough you might not even be familiar with the phrase. But today a movement is forming to fight for policies that preserve and create affordable housing. Last week, renters and their advocates coordinated more than 50 political actions in 45 states as part of national renters' week of action. In the Bay Area, Alameda hosted a weekend-long, statewide gathering of over 400 California tenants and organizers in the movement.

“[The gathering in Alameda] was one of the biggest actions anywhere in the country, it was state-wide, around 400 people, and what they focussed on was strengthening rent control.”

Real News: Renters vs. Slumlords – Activists Nationwide Rally for Renter’s Rights

September 24, 2017

Organizers in Minneapolis say it's about more than just rents increasing: affordable housing is basically disappearing, and the city's policies leave the door wide open for predatory landlords

Watch the video

Eze Jackson: It's the Real News. I'm Eze Jackson. Renters across the nation are taking part in a week of action to highlight their plate. So far, actions were held in Boston on Saturday and Long Beach on Monday. There are actions planned at the homes and headquarters of major corporate landlords in Minneapolis and Seattle and a march in Nashville. A new study is found, renters makeup a majority of households in most major cities and most pay more than they can afford for rent. The study also found “If every renter in the country was guaranteed that they only had to pay 30% or less on rent, renter households would have $124 billion per year or $6,200 per family.” Now, joining me to discuss this are two guests, Monique Quantane Carrillo is a tenant union organizer with United Tenants for Justice who is actively organizing tenants of The Apartment Shop Equity Residential LLC owned by corporate landlord, Steven Frenz. [Chelsea Hanvey 01:07] is a renter who lives in Apartment Shop housing and building captain for her tenant union. She was at the action Tuesday night and actively involved in growing campaign for renters, rights, and rent control. Welcome you all. Thanks for talking to us today.Monique C.: Glad to be here. Chelsea Hanvey: Thank you. Eze Jackson: Monique, I want to talk about the actions you took part in this week. What has happened and what's been the response? Monique C.: The actions I took part in this week was our kick off, which was nice to get to be involved with other organizations to support the actions that we've been taking throughout the week. Another action that I took part in was going to the Nexus Office and finding out that this is so insane. They're increasing some of the rents on some of these units that they've taken over $700. I was so infuriated when I walked into the office to find that there's a tanning salon and an exercise room when you walk in the door. These rents are being increased, I feel like, to contribute to their luxuries. They're not taking into consideration that they're displacing other people. That's been my personal response to the action at Nexus. Also, the action at Steve Frenz' house that's actually the owner of The Apartment Shop. I consider myself in a partner shop survivor. I did rent an apartment from Steve Frenz. It was awful experience. It had me in a state where I would've rather lived in my car than in his apartment. Eze Jackson: Oh, man. Monique C.: We had the action at his house on Tuesday to walk into his yard and to see his home. The way that he's living and the way that he is treating his tenant is just appalling. While we were there doing our actions, the sprinklers came on. The first thing that came to my mind was, “This is nothing new. Living at one of your units, you never know what's going to happen.” There were going to be [inaudible 03:33]. Just him turning the sprinklers on, it just really sparked my fire even more because that was actually a scenario that I had to deal with living in his unit. My response and what I see are a lot of people are starting to recognize that this is bigger than just rent increasing. This is involving displacement for children and they're having to move schools. A lot of people that are privileged and have more than some of us people that are struggling, don't realize that a solid foundation starts at home. Somebody has the power to shake that foundation and doesn't care that they can shape somebody's whole family's foundation for a profit is just really heart-wrenching. Like I said, it just makes me more compassionate. It fires me up even more to take action to stay involved to try to get this changed. Eze Jackson: Chelsea, what are some of the challenges you're facing as a renter? Chelsea Hanvey: Well, probably the rapid city development is one of the biggest problems right now. City of Minneapolis is trying to bring in wealthy renters, wealthy condo owners to develop the economy in our city. With this rapid rate of development, they're displacing, basically, their entire workforce. The affordable housing, both government subsidized housing and just housing that has reasonably priced, is pretty much disappearing in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Metro area. We have a 1%, I think it's a less than 1%, vacancy rate right now. We have a complete lack of housing no matter what your income bracket is. To have housing that's affordable, it's going nowhere. I make a decent wage. I make a fair wage. I'm cost burdened by my rent. I think I pay about 45% of my income after taxes on rent and entire system that is crippling people of our income bracket. Eze Jackson: Right. Chelsea Hanvey: It's been a struggle. Eze Jackson: Chelsea, you said that you were forced to come back. How were you forced to come back? Chelsea Hanvey: Through income limitations. There's not very much available to me in my income range that I can afford. At the time, I didn't have a vehicle and I needed to be close to work. The apartment shop owns buildings in major transit areas. I can access all the major buses from my neighborhood. That's how it works for most of his buildings. It's almost like they swooped out buildings in low income areas where people needed access. It feeds into that whole predatory thing. I didn't have a choice. I have bad credit. I don't make a lot of money. They would accept me as a tenant again and so I had to go back because that was the only option that I had. Eze Jackson: Right. Clearly, this sounds like part of a bigger pattern. Of course, you're not alone in this. I'm in Baltimore. We are seeing the same thing where it's raising and working folks being pushed out. Monique, what are the demands, locally, right now? Monique C.: The demands, locally, I would have to say two out of every three women of color in Minneapolis are cost-burdened. I know I personally make a decent income to live off of, but after paying rent, I'm paying over 48% of my income. The demands, I would have to say, are affordable housing like you have all these people coming in and putting in these condos and high-end apartments. I think that it needs to be some limitation. I am from Minneapolis. I'm born and raised here. I've seen the process changed where people that weren't struggling as hard moved out to the suburbs and met the struggling people in the city. Now that everything is a little more fast-paced and about convenience, now, they're raising the rents up and trying to push everybody out not taking into consideration that public transportation is a lot of way that people get around. The school systems, the kids, and for the parents that actually do public transportation, public transportation in the suburbs isn't as convenient and it's easy to get around on. For parents that are having to transport through public transportation, moving to the suburbs, it's not an option. I feel like the demand here in Minneapolis that they need to have more affordable housing and they need to open up the zoning for some of these multi [inaudible 09:26]. Some of these single homes that can be converted into multi units, they're not allowing that. I just think that some of that needs to change a lot. I don't think that, I know that that needs to change. I know that a lot of the laws need to be changed. That's the development that needs to be made and a lot need to be changed. Eze Jackson: Yeah. It sounds like, you said earlier, they're not taking in consideration the convenience of public transportation, but it sounds like they all take it into consideration just not for you … Chelsea Hanvey: Yeah. Exactly. Eze Jackson: … for working class people. Chelsea, tell me about what you're doing to get accountability for your management company. What's been the response from the company and what's been the response from other renters? Chelsea Hanvey: I think one of the biggest challenges that we face speaking to, first and foremost, other renters is apathy in some cases and fear. What we're doing with this movement is challenging a societal norm. Nobody really thinks about renting as a good that we're paying for. They don't think about the fact that you have these business owners that come in. We are paying their rent. We are paying their mortgage on their building. We are paying for the repairs. We are paying their workers through the rent that we pay to the company. They are accountable to us. A lot of renters kind of just, “Oh, well, I'll just move” or “Oh, well, I just have to accept that this is what it is because this is what I can afford.” There is this fear that if you push back that you'll lose your home. There's nothing more frightening than losing your home. I've been in that situation. The response from friends is, it's always the renter's fault. It's the renter's fault that we have infestations because we don't keep our apartment clean enough. Not that they don't treat the problems systemically rather than chasing them from unit to unit to unit or fixing plumbing problems. “The mold is our problem. The security with our doors. I've been attacked.” Other members that organize with [inquilinos 11:54] have been attacked in their buildings because the doors are broken. His response is that, “It's our fault.” It's not his fault. It's our fault. He blames us and he continues to abuse us. He is basically just trying to get out of everything that's going on with the class action suit that we filed, with the city revocation of his license. We recently found out that supposedly, he has sold about 40 to 45 of his buildings. No, he hasn't sold them. They've essentially created shell organizations that have just popped up in the state registry and their parent company are Steve Frenz's companies. He's trying to get the blame shifted off of himself. It's never his fault. It's never his responsibility. Eze Jackson: Yeah. We've definitely seen that thing happened before. Monique, can you discuss the upcoming actions happening across the country and the national domains from the movement? It seems like organizing an awareness is two major obstacles to getting changed. What's your plan to achieve that? Monique C.: Well, I know that, right now, we're laying the path. We got to lay the path before we can actually walk it. We know there's going to be a challenge, but we are trying to get it to a level where it's being recognized that there needs to be rent control because right now, there's no law. They can charge you any amount at any time that they feel. I use the example. It doesn't always have to be a slumlord. It doesn't have to be somebody that does bad business. You can have a great landlord, but if that landlord or that property owner hits a financial situation that you're unaware of, how do you think he's going to fix that? I can hit this tenant with any amount that I want at any time. It doesn't just have to be abused. In the apartments, [Wisty 14:17] Frenz units, to me he's a landlord because the people that are in his units are prisoners of the environment that they're in and the way that he takes care of things. As a landlord, he don't care what we're going through in our daily lives. This is something that really needs to be addressed. Let's not just push these buildings off to other people. The accountability still needs to be held, for these repairs to be made for the rent to stay reasonable, and for displacement to stop with unjust evictions. Getting a rent freeze into play and getting, I would say, a ladder as to how often an amount that it can be increased, the economy changes. That's understandable that there may be an increase here or there, but just because that's what you want to do, because it creates a bigger profit for you, rather than stable housing for other people, that needs to be addressed, just bottom line. It needs to be put into action that this isn't just an option for people. Housing is a necessity. It's not a luxury. It's a necessity. Eze Jackson: Let me ask you, either one of you can answer this. Are you getting any support from policy makers, city council or state legislators? Is there any move to try to draft legislation to not only stop this but prevent it from happening in the future? Chelsea Hanvey: My understanding of what we're seeing is, there are some interests. The things that we're talking about changing, getting rent control, just cost protection for eviction, rent caps, rent freezes, changing city policy, it is equally as intimidating to politicians just to forward you that because it would be an entire paradigm shift. Eze Jackson: Right. Chelsea Hanvey: It would be forcing the city to put the people first as opposed putting developers first. There has been some tentative interest. We've been to a lot of city council forums for candidate election. I've sat in a few of those. The council members and the candidates don't always seem to quite know what we're talking about, but they're listening. I think the important part of that is that we're forcing to listen. We have a less than 1% occupancy or they can see in our city right now. We can't just move. We can't just go somewhere else. Eze Jackson: Right. Chelsea Hanvey: We have to stand up for ourselves now. Eze Jackson: Right. Well, we hope you continue to get the supports you need and appreciate you joining us today to talk about this. Monique C.: Absolutely. Thank you for having us. Chelsea Hanvey: Yeah. Thank you very much for having us. Eze Jackson: All right. Thanks for joining us on The Real News Network. I'm Eze Jackson.