Rent Strikes Gaining Popularity

the suburbs

Last year a community in Toronto launched a rent strike and won! This initiative to ensure affordable housing (and not being verbally abused by landowners) worked for the involved residents; and similar actions are working in the USA too. Last week in California a ballot initiative for rent control failed, but champions of housing argue that the ballot was merely one idea of many to help people stay in homes (after all, it’s hard for a grassroots movement to fend off a multibillion dollar industry). Over at The Slot they’re running a piece on the history of rent strikes and how they can be effective even if they don’t win in the ballot box.

Altogether, the strike lasted six months, ending in August with an agreement from the landlord to drop all pending eviction cases. In the months since, tenants have continued to organize, including around Prop 10. “We were not comfortable because the conditions of the building are really bad,” Camero says. “We don’t get that much money every year in our jobs, and all the money we make is for the rent. So I wondered what we could do to push back against a bad owner. To keep things in control of the tenants.”

The Burlington strike was one of several launched in Los Angeles since 2016. Sometimes, as in Burlington, they allow tenants to stave off immediate rent hikes or maintain a version of the status quo. But in 2017, after tenants in Boyle Heights (a rapidly gentrifying, historically Latinx neighborhood) went on strike in response to a proposed 80 percent rent increase, they not only avoided eviction but also successfully negotiated collective bargaining rights with their landlord. The building was not rent controlled and the tenants had no clear legal protections; the victory was built on organizing alone.

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