Below are the many different conversations and ideas shared at the Burlington Tenants Union Summit back in November. Comment on what you’d like to see/help us with!
What’s most important short-term (end of session)
- Landlord licensing/database (ratemylandlord)
- Utility costs, etc
- Educate on rights, those with disabilities, simple English on govt and BTU docs
- Leases in different languages (common app)
- Income-based rent
- Rent Control
- Tenant Reference Support
- Tenant Walkthroughs + check out problems (without code enforcement)
- Moving parties and support during evictions
- Support tenants to reduce stress during evicted
- Funding for public housing/housing stock
- Housing that’s carbon neutral
Summit Demands/BTU Ideas
- Landlord licensing (tenant defined like Migrant Justice)
- Rent strike
- Tenants Rights Office
- List of Demands to Landlords + City + State
- Work both inside and outside system
- Relationship to housing w/ power + colonization
- Radical Housing Models
- One-on-ones with organizers
- Reimagining a better housing relationship
- Collective events + potlucks, aka “community”
- How can we build solidarity with students?
- Intersectionality + How find allies
- We don’t all share background/politics but must critically engage
- How make change when our political system is controlled by landlords?
- Hold people in power accountable
- Be conscious of public image
- How does power play a role?
- Be okay angering/confronting people (esp those in power)
Issues We Identified
Students – not their fault for housing issues, being exploited too.
Black mold + health issues.
People ‘stuck’ renting.
No landlord enforcement/accountability.
Need Lawyers/legal support.
No public transit on Sundays makes it hard for folks to organize.
Inclusionary Zoning segregation.
Section 8 funding + discrimination from landlords.
High rents (30%+ income)
Lack of affordable housing.
What does affordable even mean?
Access to housing vs opportunity.
Rent is so damn high – why isn’t it lower?
Where does rent money go?
How can we weatherize and not pass costs onto renters?
Stress about insecure housing.
Fix apartments in a regular and timely manner!
Gender/racial/disability all the isms w/ housing discrimination.
Who was not at Our Summit?
Long-term Old North End Residents
People who work
Those without a college degrees
Those who rely on public transit
Those who fear retaliation
(modified from LATU)
- Mainstream political parties actively work against housing rights. No Vermont politician is a housing ally.
– Mobilize tenants as voters – large % of residents
– If you don’t view electeds as allies then you should be working with them to make change!
– Non-citizen voting on local issues
- Developers and their allies in city government have enormous resources for framing a specific analysis of the housing crisis.
– There’s enormous sympathy with landlords and the belief that they are barely making it because their cost = their revenues. But that’s not true. They are getting 100k-millions in assets at the same time. Why are the big landlords buying everything like crazy if it’s not profitable?- Ask questions to politicians in open/recorded spaces that call out injustice with facts.
- The political aims of the labor unions sometimes conflict with the struggle for housing justice.
– We must recognize that we will sometimes come into conflict with any ‘ally’ group due to differing material interests. Building a spirit of solidarity with more entrenched ally groups (i.e. showing up to labor actions as a bloc) may help build good faith relationships that will allow ally’s to resolve conflict while building working class power around multiple avenues.
– Show up in solidarity and have convos of common goals and injustices.
– Showcase that they have more in common with US than THEM. They are the ones that work and when we lose, so do they in the macro.
- Affordable housing is often not affordable.
– The only just definition of affordability is one pinned to a % of income that also understands that 30% of $100k earner is less burdensome than 30% for a $20k earner.
– Affordability measured by mean or median income does not reach people not eligible for section 8 or other programs. Affordabaility should be measured based on income of bottom 20%. That’s the only way it actully helps the people who need it. No one on fixed income can pay over $1,000 for an efficiency.
- Cultural institutions, like art galleries, can often contribute to speculative development and gentrification.
Comments: Involve the artists in the union – get an artist to produce art about gentrification and displacement.
- When we encounter tenants in crisis we can point to concrete examples if tenant organizing and resistance.
Comments: Show up for one another
- There are other grassroots political movements that could be natural allies for the housing justice movement.
– Are we participating in their work? Or just asking for their presence at our actions? Engage in anti-racist actions + edu outside of this org!
– Solidarity struggles overlap
- While poor and working class people, especially communities of color, have always faced a housing crisis, today’s crisis affects large portions of moderate-income people as well.
– As capitalism decays, the illusion of the middle-class will fade. As ‘medium income’ folks begin to feel the effects of this process the way poor folks always have, it may be worthwhile trying to organize across these income divides – both to increase working class consciousness and avoid reactionary tendencies in the ‘middle class’.
– Include students in these conversations
– Building across class lines requires political education to ensure common goals + motivations – this helps prevent tokenization and co-optation of a tenants’ movement.