Giving Compass' Take:
- Community activists are fighting for housing justice by forming unions to protect and reimagine their rights.
- How can housing policy help protect renters' rights after large-scale economic crises like COVID-19? How can donors advocate for equitable housing policy?
- Read about community-powered housing solutions.
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The pandemic exposed the long-standing failures of the housing market. After tens of millions lost their jobs and were unable to afford rent, the federal government prevented mass evictions by adopting housing organizers’ demands for financial aid and increased legal protections for tenants. Activists say that while these responses were inadequate in dealing with the scale of the problem, they demonstrated the power of collective action in bringing about meaningful change.
Many pandemic-era protections, like the eviction moratorium, have since been struck down or have been allowed to expire, but community organizing in cities like L.A. has only intensified.
Today, Jackson is a member of the Los Angeles Tenants Union (LATU); she displays a poster in her garden for the organization that reads, “This tenant is safe and cannot be evicted.”
“People like me were already fighting individually,” says Jackson. “But now I fight with a union of people.”
LATU employs tactics such as eviction blockades, mutual aid, and courtroom packing to fight evictions—all part of a long local history of collective action to fight gentrification in the face of rising property values and luxury development. The organization has secured historic wins, such as pressuring the LA City Council to vote to purchase a 124-unit of affordable housing from a developer who was tripling rents after the properties affordable housing covenant expired. It also helped elect longtime LATU organizer Kenneth Mejia to the position of city controller in the November midterm election.
The scale of the rental crisis and the resulting social costs are difficult to fathom. Even before the pandemic, one study found that 3 in 4 LA residents had to pay over 30% of their income on rent, forcing them to cut back on other essentials such as food, clothing and transportation. Since then, nationwide, the average rent has increased by nearly 30%. High rents are increasing four times faster than wages and are a leading driver of inflation.
Read the full article about housing justice in Los Angeles by Jaisal Noor at YES! Magazine.