Miami is enduring a severe housing crisis, as gentrification forces long time residents from their homes and communities in Liberty City, Little Haiti, Little Havana, Overtown, Allapattah and elsewhere. State, county and city officials are simply not building enough housing to meet the demands of low wage workers.
The low-income housing that does exist of often sub-standard slum housing, where decent living conditions, compliant with municipal codes, are not made available.
In addition, tenants enjoy few rights in the state of Florida, leaving them vulnerable to eviction for complaining about conditions, presenting in a way that the landlord disapproves or for no reason at all. Low-income renters have very few legal protections against predatory landlords.
All of the problems renters must face are disproportionately visited upon low-income Black and brown women, particularly those who are also LGBTQ community. We cannot end the feminization of poverty or realize the Femme Agenda without addressing the housing crisis right here in South Florida.
The Renter's Right Campaign
The Miami Workers Center is building a campaign shift power to the people and realize the human right to housing all while centering the experiences and leadership of low-income Black and brown women, girls and femmes.
We are fighting for the Human Right to Housing by improving the living conditions and winning power for renters. Our Renter's Rights Campaign has three primary objectives;
- End Slum Conditions. In 2017, there is no reason landlords should be able to get away with- much less profit from- allowing their properties to fall below municipal code compliance. Restaurants that are out of code are shut down, as are doctor's offices, grocery stores and even businesses. However, forcing human beings to live in slum conditions is legal and lucrative. The Renter's Rights Campaign will put an end to the profitability of slum housing. This process includes targeting specific slumlords as well as changing public policy.
- Enhance Renter's Rights. Renters in Florida have few legal rights of tenancy to protect them from predatory slumlords and rising housing prices. We are organizing to strengthen the base line rights of tenants so that they can fight for decent conditions and human dignity.
- Shift Power and Increase Housing Stock through Community Land Trusts. Community Land Trusts (CLT) are legal entities that allow the residents of housing to collective own and control that housing. We don't need landlords when we can depend on each other!
A successful campaign will increase and improve the housing stock and, in the process, shift power to tenants, with an emphasis on low-income Black and brown women, girls and femmes.
Organizing Tenants Unions
Given the current power dynamics, how can we advance such an ambitious agenda?
As individuals, renters often find themselves at the mercy of their landlord in an unequal power dynamic. In the context of that dynamic, it is difficult to get repairs or be treated fairly because we are just one renter and the landlord can easily evict any individual renter and replace them with another person desperate for housing.
As individuals, renters do not have much leverage. They are getting eaten alive.
Together, however, renters have the power. By organizing, renters can build their power and make demands for fair policies, laws and treatment.
The heart and soul of the Renter's Rights Campaign are the Miami Workers Center Tenants' Unions (MWC-TU). Locals of the MWC-TU are organized around specific buildings or landlords, but also come together as a larger collective to fight for fair public policies. We are building small locals and a large collective Tenants' Union to fight for the rights of renters in South Florida.
The MWC-TU engages in campaigns to repair slum conditions, advocate for the basic rights of tenants and push for a just public policy that will improve the lives of thousands of renters.
Building Community Wealth
During cycles of gentrification, housing prices rise rapidly pricing out long time residents of low-income communities in order to make room for wealthier- often whiter- residents.
In addition to the displacement of long time residents, gentrification also results in a loss of the wealth that is created through equity. Our campaign seeks to find ways to build community wealth by allowing residents to remain in place, at rates they can afford, while property values increase.