Landlord trouble? Talk to your neighbors

The Sacramento Tenants Union from left to right: Erica Jaramillo, Chad Osborn and Elliot Stevenson. Photo credit: Julian Mendoza

In an effort to combat corrupt housing practices, a housing forum was held. We the Renters: Housing Democracy Forum held a forum to show what housing democracy looks like.

If you walk around the right parts in Chico, you might find Addison Winslow coming into your neighborhood, knocking on your door and asking if you are interested in starting a union with your neighbors.

Addison Winslow (Right) walks around asking people about their rights as renters. Photo credit: Julian Mendoza

The Union? A renters union against housing harassment practices, preventing renters from harassing their tenants in ways that may be legal, but not ethical.

Because of this, a housing forum was hosted at the Dorothy Johnson Community Center, where housing democracy strategies were discussed.

“If one person stands up themselves, then they can be singled out, they can be thrown out and it could ruin your life,” siad Winslow. “But, if people unionize, just like unions in a workplace operate against their boss, people could unionize against their landlords.”

When Winslow knocks on people’s homes, he gets surprised to hear how excited tenants get at the thought of forming a union for landlords taking advantage of people affected of the Camp Fire.

“Whenever I see people that (are) surprised like that, you know there is a secret problem,” said Winslow.

Citizens arrived at the housing forum hosted by the Democratic Socialists of America in Chico.

DSA also invited Elliot Stevenson, Chad Osborne and Erica Jarmallio of the Sacramento Tenants Union, as well as Eduardo Torres the Northern California regional coordinator for Tenants Together, a statewide organization focused on renters rights.

One of the recurring strategies for combating predatory housing practices was to take the time to get to know your neighbors. Once neighbors noticed they have similar living conditions, it makes it easier to unionize and see the larger issue, they said.

“Everybody’s in the same boat here,” said Osborne. “Everybody’s experiencing these same issues and once everybody recognizes that we can start to build power and a collective solution to combat these housing practices.”

The Sacramento Tenants Union has seen a variety of different students in these housing situations and that most of the time whenever they ask them about their rights, they welcome into their home.

Another thing they have noticed is the language these people may speak may be different in a housing complex on its own, according to Jamallio.

Coming from the East Bay, Eduardo Torres was in invited and hopes to see more this event cause change in Chico. Photo credit: Julian Mendoza

Torres hopes that the event would be the driving force for change in Chico. Torres drove from Pittsburgh, a two-and-a-half-hour drive, and was pleased with the event. He hopes it starts a spark to make change and prompts the making of a city-wide tenants union in Chico.

“It’s important for people to learn their rights as tenants and I felt that was definitely touched upon,” said Torres. “It’s very important now considering that housing is scarce.”

Julian Mendoza can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JulianMTheOrion.