By David Dahlborn in The Student Assembly – If we learn one thing from the recent rent strikes at University College London (UCL) and the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) it should be this: we won and we can win again. In 21st century London rent strikes still work. And we should use them frequently to win campaigns by concentrating our forces at our enemies’ weakest point. Oppressive rents, scumbag landlords and gentrification caused by property investment are rampant. There is talk across London and the country of the need for housing campaigns and a “fightback” against property owners and their landlord lackeys. What we have demonstrated is that, alongside well-practiced campaigning methods – demos, occupations and blockades – it will, above all, be rent strikes that enable us to coerce the ruling class to concede to our demands for better and affordable housing.
By Timothy Ginty in RoarMag – In February 2009, after the Spanish government had shown itself incapable of enforcing Article 47 of the Spanish Constitution — declaring that “all Spaniards have the right to enjoy decent and adequate housing” — a citizens’ assembly was held in Barcelona to establish the Platform for People Affected by Mortgages, or the PAH (Spanish: Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca), a social movement which would wait for neither government action nor market corrections for this right to be enforced. The PAH’s immediate aims are simple — the prevention of the systematic eviction of tens of thousands of debtors across Spain — but its larger dream is bolder: the achievement of the socio-economic conditions in which the human right to housing may be secure.
By Laura Proto in The Standard – Squatters were today evicted from the historic Elephant and Castle pub after a month-long protest about gentrification and the selling off of social housing. Police said bailiffs secured the pub in the early hours of this morning and about 20 squatters were removed. The group took over the pub on Wednesday, June 17, in a protest against gentrification after estate agent Foxtons submitted an application to open a premises at the famous pub site. Kazz Rafi, who works at Elephant and Castle Food and Wine, said five or six police vans and security crews arrived just before 4am today. He told the Standard: “The people were sleeping inside and [police] told them to go. They were illegally inside – it’s not their property.” The squatters were expected to move on to occupy another vacant building.
By Rebecca Nathanson in Waging Nonviolence – Thanks to the 1971 Urstadt Law, New York State, rather than New York City, controls the city’s rent laws, which expired on June 15. These laws include vacancy decontrol, which allows rent-stabilized apartments to be destabilized once they are vacant and the rent reaches a certain threshold. However, the city does have one means of managing its rent-stabilized apartments: the RGB, which votes on yearly rent increases for stabilized apartments. This year’s vote was scheduled for late-June. The combination of the rent laws expiring and the RGB vote resulted in a period of heightened mobilization for tenant organizations and provided an opportunity for them to come together to pressure both the city and the state in two separate but related struggles.
By Ross Barkan in The Observer – Telling reporters that they were “royally screwed,” tenant activists and a Democratic city councilman blasted Gov. Andrew Cuomo today for failing to bolster rent regulations as much as they had hoped. Gathered outside Mr. Cuomo’s Midtown office, the activists from left-leaning groups including Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change and Crown Heights Tenant Union called the Democratic governor a Republican, said he had done the equivalent of urinating on them, and even claimed he would be arrested before he sought re-election in 2018. “The deal that is about to be voted on is worse than the deal in 2011. They have done absolutely nothing to help tenants in New York City,” said Councilman Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat and chair of the Council’s housing and buildings committee.
By Dennis Parker in ACLU – We’re living in a tale of two Americas, where racial segregation and racial disparities in housing continue to plague our nation. A report we released this week outlines just how disadvantaged future generations of Black Americans will be because of predatory lending practices that disproportionately targeted people of color. Yet, in the midst of the seemingly relentless reminders of the ways that racial discrimination continues to plague our nation, the decision of the Supreme Court in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. provides a much-needed cause for celebration. The decision is important not because it articulates a new principle, but because it re-affirms long-standing legal precedent that recognizes the purpose and function of the Fair Housing Act passed in 1968.
By Nick Muscavage in Legislative GazetteProtesters in support of stronger protections for renters slept in Academy Park in Albany last night with only pillows and sleeping bags. They are planning a protest in the Capitol Tuesday as lawmakers return to Albany to finish the legislative session. Rent regulations remains one of the last major issues to address before lawmakers can return to their districts for the summer. There were about 15 protesters from different organizations including NYC Communities and Real Rent sleeping in the park. While there, at least two Assembly members came to the park to show support and chat with the protesters. Assemblyman Keith Wright, D-Manhattan, and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, D-Manhattan, both stopped by the park last night and visited with the protesters. Wright said at a press conference last week that he will fight for stronger rent laws as long as it takes.
By Monica Morales in Pix11 – Tenants, advocates and lawmakers camped out overnight Thursday outside the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo to protest the state letting housing regulation laws expire, impacting millions of New Yorkers who have rent stabilized apartments. Protesters have a powerful allies with them in the protest– Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams and several council makers. Many there are sleeping on the streets–to show the growing frustrations that millions of New Yorkers are feeling right now. Meantime the Mayor and the Attorney General held a joint press conference about busting bad landlord under a new taskforce created to protected tenants of rent stabilized apartments across the city. One of the first landlords arrested ran a building on Union Street. He allegedly endangered the health of his residents–including a six-year-old girl.
By Naureen Khan in Occupy – Tenants of this 43-unit apartment building — predominantly African-American, many of them elderly or disabled and receiving vouchers for Section 8 federally subsidized housing — were told their rental contracts were being terminated shortly after the building came under the ownership of Lafayette Square Apartments in December of last year. Critics charge that the maneuver is part of an increasingly common scheme in Los Angeles to drive away low-income residents and raise rents, contributing to the affordable-housing crunch in the city and the gentrification of once diverse neighborhoods. Notices informing residents that they had 60 to 90 days to forfeit their units began arriving in their mailboxes in January. By March, most tenants had been notified that their rental contracts would be terminated by mid-June.
By Richard Rothstein in Salon – Housing equity is Americans’ most important source of wealth. Average black family income is now about 60 percent of white family income, but black household wealth is only about 5 percent of white household wealth. This disparity is almost entirely attributable to federal policy that prohibited black families from accumulating equity during the suburban boom and thus from bequeathing that wealth to children, as whites have done. We don’t have what is commonly termed “de facto” segregation—primarily resulting from private prejudice, income differences, preferences to live separately, or demographic trends. Our segregation is “de jure,” resulting mostly from racially explicit public policies designed to create residential patterns we too easily accept as natural or accidental.
By Maria Sanchez Diez for Quartz. Colau, a well-known housing and anti-eviction activist, is the leader of the leftist coalition Barcelona en Comú (Barcelona Together). During Spanish regional elections in May, Colau’s party edged out the coalition lead by former Barcelona mayor Xavier Trias. Colau was helped by endorsements and support from new anti-austerity party Podemos, as well as the left-wing Catalan Green Party. Meanwhile in Madrid, 72-year-old judge and leader of a similar leftist alliance Manuela Carmena was sworn in as mayor thanks to support from the Socialist party. Carmena’s victory signals the end of 24 years of conservative leadership in the Spanish capital. Both Colau and Carmena have promised to cut their salaries and stop evictions. If Colau’s past record is any indication, she just might give banks a run for their money.
By Alex Ellefson for Waging Nonviolence. Housing advocates urged New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to declare a state of emergency if regulations protecting almost 1 million affordable apartments are allowed to expire. Lawmakers in Albany have only four days to renew the rent laws and tenant rights groups called on Cuomo to accept nothing less from the state legislature than an overhaul of the current rules. “So many people in my neighborhood have been pushed out and evicted because of these weak rent laws,” Flatbush Tenant Coalition member Jean Folkes said during a rally outside City Hall on Thursday. “Brooklyn is becoming more expensive than Manhattan. They are coming to take it away from us. I’m begging Governor Cuomo, ‘Do the right thing.’” New York City Council members who attended the rally said they are willing to take control of the city’s rent-regulated apartments if state legislators fail to produce stronger protections for tenants.
By Madeline Stone and Matt Rosoff in Business Insider – A group of about 50 protesters swarmed the San Francisco home of Google lawyer Jack Halprin early Wednesday morning. Halprin purchased 812 Guerrero Street, a seven-unit apartment building in the Mission District, for $1.4 million in 2012. In 2014, he served tenants an eviction notice under the Ellis Act, which allows landowners — many of whom had purchased buildings at a discount because of rent-controlled tenants — to push existing tenants out so the buildings can “go out of business” and be converted into condos. According to Mission Local, this week tenant Rebecca Bauknight received a one-page Notice to Vacate that said she could be evicted from her apartment anytime after 6 a.m. Wednesday morning. Bauknight has reportedly lived in the building for more than 25 years.
By Drake Baer in Business Insider – The Economic Roundtable just came out with the largest study on homelessness in American history. And it turns out the best way to combat homelessness is to provide homes. The study’s focus was on Santa Clara County, California, home to the extreme wealth of Silicon Valley and the highest percentage of homelessness in the entire US. The methodology is enough to make a social scientist swoon: Researchers analyzed information about everyone in Santa Clara County who had been homeless between 2007 and 2012 — 104,206 people. Homelessness, the report details, gets very expensive. Between costs related to healthcare, social welfare, and the justice system, Santa Clara County as a whole spent $520 million on services for homeless residents. Those costs didn’t come from everybody who was homeless in that time period. As Gabrielle Canon at Mother Jones notes, much of those costs came from the roughly 2,800 people who were persistently homeless.