Our society is not a debating chamber, but a power struggle between different groups and classes with competing and opposing interests. The landlords are raising the rent because they have the power to do so pure and simple.
The complex where I live in for example is run by numerous landlords, all in association with each other, and come every 6 months they raise the rent another ten dollars, not because anything’s different, but because they can. They won’t be swayed by argument, because from such a position of solidarity and strength (between landlords as a class) all arguments can be safely ignored. And anyway – we shouldn’t have to rely on the good nature of a landlord to ensure a stable place to live in. The tendency of Unionism I support is about association – ie tenants and workers getting together directly to form solidarity networks which can impose their own decisions. It scares me that the official ‘Tenants Union’ is purely representational – pretty much a lobby group/Service/NGO far removed from the collective self-organisation of tenants. Don’t get me wrong – we need people who can remind us of the few rights we have and help us navigate the confusing world of the Law, but it’s not unionism and it encourages people to approach these issues as individuals through the disempowering legal system – nearly always weighted in favour of those in power.
The legacy of rights and social gains which we enjoy today weren’t granted as gifts from above or because we asked nicely through reports and funding proposals— they were won and forced upon the system through popular struggle and have to be maintained through struggle. Now that we’re weak – they want to take away everything we’ve won in the past: The tenants rights sector, public services, support for LGBT communities, the right to strike, abortion rights, schools, the health of our communities and environment…This goes way beyond housing – If we don’t get organised we basically give those in power a blank cheque to do as they wish. There’s no point talking about a rent strike or anything of the sort since we have no power as tenants as it is. We need to re-learn basic nuts and bolts organising and begin to form the types of unions that will really serve to express and encourage solidarity between tenants and workers — start talking to your neighbours and get something going!
For some useful info on how to start organising around housing see the following:
How to build a solidarity network:
Picture the Homeless:
The City is Ours (Melbourne):
Brisbane Squatters Handbook:
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty Direct Action Casework Manual:
Seattle Solidarity Network: An example of tenant/worker power: