This roundtable on housing struggles is Viewpoint’s inaugural “movement inquiry” feature, in which we ask people across the United States to share organizing experiences so that local lessons can be bridged towards more regional, national, and international strategies. With this resource, we encourage radicals to make time to reflect, regroup, and more widely circulate our work. We hope that as these stories are shared, new connections will be made, and that a larger struggle for our cities’ futures can be waged.
It seems that every week there are new, ever more dire, statistics about how unaffordable urban centers in the United States have become for the multi-ethnic working and workless poor, and how quickly these cities are being forced to suit the whims of the wealthy. The violence of these changes reverberates and affects education, health, homelessness, police brutality, and unemployment. As neoliberal gentrification accelerates to outrageous levels, we focus on three epicenters of housing struggles – the Bay Area, Chicago, and New York City – as well as a national housing rights alliance, to share emerging and long-term strategies of resistance. In doing so, we intend to amplify a national conversation about how to combat the displacement, inequality, and violence that constitute gentrification.
These seven organizations shared reports with us:
In the Bay Area, the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project and the San Francisco Tenants Union have been central to struggles both recent and decades-long. The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project uses radical mapping, data visualizations, and oral history to document the dispossession and political economic landscape of Tech Boom 2.0 in the Bay Area. For over 45 years, the San Francisco Tenants Union has provided invaluable tenant counseling and organizing, while helping to write and affect housing policy in San Francisco, using a model that is entirely member-funded. Since the rise of neoliberal urban policies in the 1980s, the Bay Area has become a ground zero of gentrification and resistance, where longstanding claims to the right to transform public space have given rise to some of the most creative direct actions.
In Chicago, Centro Autónomo, linked with the Mexico Solidarity Network, opened a community center in September 2006 in the Albany Park neighborhood that “constructs community, builds political consciousness, and unites people in and around the Latin@ immigrant struggle.” The Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign, founded in 2009 by South Side Chicago residents and students, has transformed dozens of abandoned properties, in order to move “homeless people into people-less homes.” Both of these groups have helped shape a larger struggle over the future of Chicago amidst Rahm Emanuel’s controversial 2-term mayoral tenure (2011-present), the 2012 Chicago Teachers Union momentous strike, and rampant police violence that has endured for decades.
In New York City, the Crown Heights Tenant Union was founded in summer 2013 by longtime neighborhood residents, Occupy Wall Street participants, Urban Homesteading Assistance Board [UHAB] organizers, and the Crown Heights general assembly to build tenant power and fight the cycle of displacement in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. One year later, anarchists at the Base in Bushwick, Brooklyn, created the magazine Rent is Theft to “challenge conventional wisdom about rent and housing, and attack the problem from a radical perspective.” Steeped in histories of squatting, tenements’ reforms, and eviction resistance, New York City now suffers a rapid displacement/development cycle, and in June 2015 underwent changes in rent regulations that may signal a slow erosion in tenants’ rights.
Nationwide, Right to the City was formed in January 2007 as an alliance of economic, racial, and environmental justice organizations, and has developed a network with 57 groups across 22 cities to “halt the displacement of low-income people, people of color, marginalized LGBTQ communities, and youths of color from their historic urban neighborhoods.” Through their work, we see the contours of what a national movement for housing justice can look like.
Viewpoint envisions this roundtable as a beginning, not an end. We welcome your ideas, feedback, critiques, as well as your support in sharing this resource with friends and neighbors, in workplaces and organizing meetings, at rallies and direct actions, and beyond. We are eager to work with organizers to collectively create future roundtables on the struggles unfolding today – Black and Brown liberation, climate justice, education, feminism, LGBT power, youth-led migrant struggles, and in transportation, logistics, and the workplaces of retail and service workers, to name just a few. To get involved, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Conor and Manissa