Rent Strike and Tenant Council Toolkits: An Overview


“Why and How to Go On Rent Strike” – Montreal Counter Info FAQ:

Unlike most toolkits, this FAQ doesn’t assume that the reasons to go on rent strike will be obvious to you or to your roommates, fellow tenants, or friends. An excellent resource to prepare yourself for the obvious questions we often forget to address like: “I can pay my bills, why participate?,” “Isn’t there government support?,” and “Doesn’t our landlord also have costs to cover?” This FAQ will prepare you for discussions on the basic goals of a rent strike (in this case pressuring the government to institute a rent freeze), why it needs to be a collective direct action, and what the first steps might look like. Additional resources like sample letters for landlords can be found at Montreal Counter Info.

NYC Democratic Socialists of America – Housing Working Group – Tenant Organizing Manual

A fantastically detailed, and well-designed (which can be important for skeptical audiences) manual oriented towards long term housing organizing, not specifically designed for corona or rent strikes. The audience for this manual might be a first-time organizer or activist new to tenant associations, with suggestions in detail on process, meetings, structure, press advisories, actions, and mission. Organizers in NYC will find this particularly useful, as it arms you with basic facts about local housing law and housing inequality in the city as well as research tips. While this manual is not specific to launching a rent strike or to corona, the process it describes of forming a tenant’s union will likely be a necessary first step for many in organizing any building for a rent strike action.

Autonomous Tenants Union (Chicago) – COVID-19 Tenant Organizing Toolkit

The Autonomous Tenants’ Union approaches housing from a bottom-up, libertarian socialist perspective in Chicago. Along with basic tips on forming a tenants’ council, this toolkit is especially suited towards crafting the strategy and tempo of collective demands and actions – with an emphasis on landlord pressure more so than policy maker appeals. Includes information specific to Chicago, but with many universal suggestions and resources. A rent strike is framed here as a maximum tactic to achieve a number of possible demands ranging from: rent freezes, to rent reductions, lease extensions, free laundry and COVID specific building maintenance. Resources and templates, then, are landlord and tenant focused and tailored to these types of demands. Oriented towards forcing landlords to deal with tenants as a collective rather than as vulnerable individual renters and useful for building longer term structures beyond 2020 rent strikes.

TANC Pandemic Organizing Guide (Bay Area)

The TANC Pandemic Organizing Guide was published by a Bay Area tenants union and thus is not NYC specific.It focuses on the how-tos of organizing your building into a tenant’s union, focusing on long-term neighbor solidarity rather than organizing towards specific demands. The relationships built through organizing are the real goal of the manual, which offers rent strikes as a maximal action. There are two stand-out features of this manual. The first is its organizational model, which focuses on building the strength of members within a tenant’s union rather than state actors or institutions outside of it. TANC operates through a member-run organizing committee that supports each tenant’s council in the city. Second, the TANC manual is clear that unsheltered neighbors should be included as members of a city-wide tenant’s union. This sets it apart from many other guides that presume all participants involved in a tenants union or rent strike should be renters. (Such assumptions implicitly erase the fact that our unsheltered neighbors are often born and raised in areas where they no longer have a home.) The guide also takes a working-class perspective, defining workers as all those who are forced to “work or die.”

Housing Equality and Right to Council Rent Strike Toolkit (New York)

The Housing Justice for All and Right to Council rent strike guide is incredibly comprehensive. It provides a snapshot history of rent strikes and tenants organizing in NYC from 1839 to the 1960s. This history emphasizes the particular demands over which tenants have organized, ranging from evictions to rent gauging to poor conditions. The manual takes a Socialist approach to rent strikes and tenant organizing in which the goal is “decommodified” housing and more equal, fairer exchanges between tenants and landlords, rather than an anti-capitalist rejection of the need to pay rent at all. This manual presents organizing through a campaign-based model in which tenants put pressure on state-based institutions through media outlets and by garnering public attention. Due to this focus, it has more information about the legality of rent strikes and how to think about legal logistics when planning for a rent strike than some other guides. The extensive glossary of terms at the end of the toolkit provides definitions for technical and bureaucratic legal terminology often used in tenant legislation and would prove helpful in decoding it.

U.S. Rent Strike/General Strike Telegram

The U.S. Rent Strike/General Strike Telegram is a constantly updating feed of memes, infographics, flyering materials and news stories about the nationwide movement toward a rent and general strike on May Day. It could be a great source to turn to for the production of eye-catching agitprop or flyers to distribute digitally or physically. Much of the general strike related content that they have posted is articulated around a demand for single-payer healthcare. It has also aggregated a number of news stories from corporate media sources that critically report on the national economic and public health status. Most of these articles are lesser-read pieces that emphasize the longer term implications of this crisis. Many of these articles specifically emphasize the deaths of workers and the risks faced by the most precarious populations (e.g., the houseless, prisoners, the undocumented, medical/essential workers, the unemployed, people of color) in this time. Other news items also report on various strike efforts underway across the country – a function which could be useful for reaching out in solidarity to efforts in other regions, learning from these movements, and learning how to assist each other.

Published on April 17, 2020

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