Today, Tenants Together, California’s statewide organization for renters’ rights, announced its sponsorship of Senate Bill 529, which aims to protect California tenants from retaliation by their landlord for organizing collectively. The bill would prevent evictions of tenants participating in a tenant association or rent strike.
Fifty years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, the US housing market is anything but fair. In stark contrast to the racially and economically integrated neighborhoods envisioned by 1960s-era reformers, the United States housing market today is characterized by striking inequality: precipitously rising rents accompanied by high rates of eviction and homelessness in US cities, along with exploding luxury construction marketed to the wealthy.
The newest fight for state-level tenant protections was ignited by an old pamphlet.
This past February, Elizabeth McGriff, a resident of Rochester, New York, moved back into her home at 618 Cedarwood Terrace. It was no small act, following a foreclosure local housing activists deemed unjust, prompting more than five years of bank negotiations, eviction blockades, rallies, acts of civil disobedience, prayer services, lockouts and a “live-in,” in which McGriff and others moved back into the house after sheriff’s deputies removed her belongings.
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Two years ago, City Limits wrote about an affordable housing preservation deal under Mayor Bloomberg that tenants and advocates say was disastrous and non-transparent, leading to skyrocketing rents and evictions for many tenants. Those tenants, with the support of Legal Services Corporation A and the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, have now filed a class-action federal lawsuit against the owner as well as the federal and city agencies who signed off on the deal.
“Rent control is a moral, ethical, and human issue,” said tenant organizer Walter Senterfitt Tuesday evening, in laying out his position at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California Pasadena/Foothills Chapter Forum on rent control.
Continued Senterfitt, “Rent control is a human right,” as he laid out a brief history of rent control in Southern California. Senterfitt was joined at the speakers table by Allison Henry of the Pasadena Tenants Union and attorney Frank Broccolo.
Nancy Buttanda, 68, has watched in horror as her rent check eats up more and more of her fixed income. The rent on her apartment in Federal Way, Wash., has increased annually at least $100 a month for three or four years, she says, and her landlord rarely makes repairs. She now pays $1,245 a month for rent, water and trash, while living on pension, Social Security and disability payments that amount to around $3,300.