Category Archive : Updates from the Field

ACORN Scotland: Maryhill campaigners ‘occupying’ land in response to sale dispute with Glasgow City Council

From Glasgow Live:

Community activists are currently occupying land in Maryhill earmarked for sale by Glasgow City Council.

The derelict land on Collina Street, known locally as ‘The Valley’, was used as the main location in Still Game but has now become the centre of an ongoing dispute.

Campaigners have set up a wooden hut with one volunteer at a time taking turns to occupy the land. They plan on maintaining a presence on the site until the council stops the sale and engages with locals.

A temporary extension to the sale has been granted due to the pandemic to allow offers of interest to be submitted. The site is currently being marketed for 125 units of low-cost homeownership.

But locals are considering a community buyout over concerns that the social housing needs of the community are being ignored in favour of selling to private landlords.

Living Rent member and Wyndford Tenants Union committee member Norman Cunningham accused the council of failing to speak with the community about the plans before the original sale deadline.

He says he community have developed their own vision and solutions for how the piece of land could be used for a ‘sustainable, environmentally-friendly, community housing development’.

He told Glasgow Live : “We decided to occupy the land and then the next day the sale was postponed – but we only found out through the media. We decided we would still go ahead with the occupation because they never communicated with us about what was going on.

“We’ve set up a wooden hut called Boabby’s Bothy where one person can sit in at all times. We won’t stop until they sit down and talk to us. So far, the council has failed to respond to our attempts to meet with them and have continued to gaslight us.”

The sale of the land is part of the Maryhill Transformational Regeneration Area which Mr Cunningham has been described as ‘no longer fit for purpose’.

Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “The Collina Street site will deliver 125 new low-cost home ownership properties in Maryhill, homes that will complement the wide range of affordable housing already built – and to be built – in the area.

“The low-cost home ownership properties cannot be sold to private landlords as there is strict assessment criteria for the purchaser and unless they meet this criteria (first-time buyer, income threshold and so on) they will not be permitted to purchase. When completed, most of the homes in the Maryhill Transformational Regeneration Area will be in the socially-rented sector, underlining the reality that affordable homes will be a feature of the entire regeneration area in Maryhill, and providing low-cost home ownership offers a choice for those who prefer to buy.

“The wider project will transform the quality of housing in this part of the area, and it should be noted that this is a community-led masterplan that includes mixed tenure projects across a number of sites. That master plan is supported by the local housing association.”

The Still Game for The Valley group will be holding a public meeting at 6.30pm this evening to discuss the campaign and proposals for the Community Right to Buy.

To join the meeting, click here.

Susie Thomas, the Rock of Pine Bluff

From the Chief Organizer Blog:

When ACORN began in Little Rock, the next city where we organized was Pine Bluff in 1971, a river and mill town about 50 miles down the Arkansas River. The first organizer there was Herman Davenport, who I had poached from the Pulaski County Legal Aid office when we briefly officed there in 1970. I had gotten him a slot with the FRAC, the Food Research and Action Council, which covered his work. There was a list of others, including Madeline Talbott, who worked for ACORN in a number of offices before building a spectacular operation in Chicago, and now the even longer serving Neil Sealey, who has moved seamlessly from being the Pine Bluff organizer to the head organizer of Arkansas ACORN to the executive director of ACO, Arkansas Community Organizations.

The members and leaders were the through lines for the organization for the last fifty years. Maxine Nelson was at the point of the leadership there from local group to elected member of the school board to national secretary of the ACORN board and head of the ACORN Political Action Committee. One of the rocks on which the entire operation was built who was a member from the 70s was Susie Thomas. When young guns talk about people being “present” and “engaged,” they would be unable to imagine how Ms. Thomas lived those words to the fullest. She was at every local group meeting. She was at every action, as long as someone picked her up. She was at board meetings in Pine Bluff and Little Rock for the Arkansas organization, and she was at the biannual national ACORN Conventions time after time. She was as recognizable in Pine Bluff as the ACORN flag, maybe more so.

Susie Thomas passed away a couple of days ago at 107. Zach Polett, a longtime ACORN veteran, shared with me memories of visiting with Susie a year ago. She was still clear as a bell and reminiscing about ACORN meetings and actions. It seems like only yesterday, but it must have been almost five years ago when I last sat with Susie in her home in Pine Bluff. Sam Pollard, the photographer and filmmaker, famed for his work with Spike Lee and in the news now for a documentary on Martin Luther King, Jr., was there with a crew working on a documentary being done by Reuben Atlas, who shared a clip of their interview with Susie. Her boundless spirit and infectious laughter and liveliness jumps out of every frame.        

 I remember the conversation well.  She talked about local actions and how much she missed ACORN conventions. Towards the end of our conversation, she drew me closer, looked me in the eye, and said, “When are we going get ACORN back again?” I parried her question, saying that ACO was still right there in Arkansas as the successor organization. She wasn’t having any of it. She shook her head and said, “It’s not the same, Wade, I want ACORN again!”        

Susie Thomas was a rock and an inspiration. When you made her a promise, you do everything you can to live up to it.

New London advocacy group says a third of renters live in substandard conditions

From the CBC:

A housing group that lobbies on behalf of low and middle-income renters has learned from a recent survey that one third of respondents are living in sub-standard conditions in London.

ACORN Canada, a national grassroots organization which opened a chapter in London, Ont. in October, has been surveying renters in the city. 

Sarah Henke was one of the 72 people to respond. She lives with her husband in a two-bedroom unit in a five-building high rise apartment complex at 520 Mornington Ave., in east London. 

“It’s a bit of a gong show,” she said of the complex that is operated by Sterling Karamar.

“Maintenance requests do not go answered. I’ve had a maintenance request for my tub that doesn’t drain since November 10th and a maintenance request in for my sink that doesn’t drain since November 18th,” Henke said.

CBC News has made multiple attempts to contact Sterling Karamar but has yet to receive a response. 

Henke has lived in the unit for seven years and pays $1,000 a month, including hydro, which is below market value in London. 

“My husband and I have actively considered leaving and have looked but we can’t afford anywhere else in the city.”

Henke said a comparable apartment today would cost $1,400 a month, plus parking and utilities, which is why she says she puts up with the living conditions. 

“The building itself is infested with [cock]roaches. So regardless of what unit gets treated — because the whole building is so infested — it’s just a losing battle,” she said.

Similar complaints 

ACORN London leader, Nawton Chiles, who is also a philosophy student at Huron University College, hears stories like Henke’s too often.

He’s been taking stock of survey responses and sees patterns that he hopes the lobby group can address. 

“The number one thing that people are complaining about is that the rent is too high. We’ve got almost 75 percent of tenants saying that,” said Chiles. “But the second most popular concern is that repairs and maintenance never get done and that the housing condition is poor to begin with.”

A third of respondents said their conditions were substandard.

Henke, and ACORN London believe one solution is for the city to license landlords.

“What we’re asking the city to do is to license all new and existing rental units in a publicly accessible database,” Chiles explains, emphasizing the importance of random, annual inspections.

Chiles said that would strengthen property standards, “so that a landlord could be fined for repeated infractions, have their license revoked, if they continue to provide substandard housing.”

“We need accountability. These landlords have gone unchecked for so long,” Henke said. 

Tenant Advocacy Group Arrives In N.B.

From CKNI:

A national tenancy advocacy group has established a New Brunswick chapter.

ACORN New Brunswick will join previously established chapters in British Columbia, Toronto, and Nova Scotia.

Their first goal is to push Blaine Higgs’ PC government toward reinstating the eviction ban that was rolled back last spring.

“There are so many people facing economic pressures in their personal lives, and the government as of now hasn’t really done anything to accommodate that,” said Raven Blue, an organizer with the new chapter.

The newest ACORN chapter has released a petition calling on Higgs’ government to freeze evictions through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blue says the Higgs government doesn’t understand the issues many New Brunswickers are facing during the Public Health emergency.

“The government has not shown interest in protecting people during a pandemic when you have exceptional market pressures that are causing rent increases to spike,” he said. “People are being evicted, and so my sense is they are not really aware of the issues. They are more interested in enabling gentrification in our communities, rather than helping tenants or people at risk.”

Blue says he’s noticed changes in the rental market provincially and locally over the past five years, and he himself has been evicted under what he called questionable circumstances.

“It’s a widespread issue where housing market pressures are taking advantage of very low tenant protections in New Brunswick,” said Blue.

While many have called for rent control in the province, similar to what Nova Scotia’s government rolled out in late 2020, Blue says it isn’t a cure-all for the issues faced by tenants here.

In provinces like Quebec, Blue says tenants have 21 days to pay off late rent, and then receive a tribunal hearing. But in New Brunswick, tenants can be evicted after just seven days without paying rent with no recourse.

“In New Brunswick it’s among the worst in Canada, the triggers for eviction,” said Blue. “So if you can easily evict a tenant then rent controls don’t really matter a great deal. You can evict somebody and just name your price for the rent.”

Swindon ACORN continue fight for Oasis virtually with a day of Twitter action

From Swindon Advertiser:

Campaigners have held a virtual day of action to express their desire to save the Oasis and bring it back into public ownership.

The Swindon branch of the community union ACORN has held the latest in a series of public events online last Saturday.

Photos of supporters with ‘Save the Oasis’ signs were tweeted to Swindon Borough Council, Seven Capital and members of the Oasis Task Force.

Member Jon Timbrell said: “It would be an absolute tragedy to lose the Oasis and that’s why we’re going to do everything we can to keep it.https://56e910633adaa60ea8b3e2d18018ff2f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

“ACORN is not here to just protest or signal our discontent that it’s closing down. We’re here to fight to keep it open.

“We’re serious about keeping it open and about organising a community to win this fight,” he added.

Banner drop on Cambie Bridge calls for rent debt forgiveness in B.C.

From CTV News Canada:

VANCOUVER — On Saturday, advocates dropped a banner off the Cambie Bridge in Vancouver calling for rent debt forgiveness.

BC ACORN, an advocacy organization, said the banner drop was an effort to escalate its campaign to end rent debt caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Many of the people that lost income because of the pandemic restrictions also found themselves unable to afford rent and buy enough food,” said ACORN’s housing advocacy spokesperson Murray Martin in a news statement.

The white banner read “end rent debt” and included an illustration of the coronavirus.

Specifically, the group wants the B.C. government to reinstate the moratorium on evictions, end rent debt and enact vacancy rent control – a type of rent control attached to homes that prevents landlords from hiking the rental rate when a tenant leaves.

“(ACORN) hopes that by showing broad support for ending COVID rent debt (it) will convince (its) old housing ally David Eby that something needs to be done,” reads the news statement.

The organization says it will be meeting with Eby, B.C.’s Housing Minister and Attorney General, next week.

“David Eby used to come and speak at housing forums we held before he was elected. He was always showing unequivocal support for the cause. We hope he hasn’t changed too much” said ACORN member Peter Gardner in the statement.

History of KNON: The Voice of the People

Wade Rathke was recently interviewed for this 3-part podcast about the history of KNON in Dallas, Texas. Listen to the full series below:

UK Tenant Victory!

Students win battle with North Oxford Property Services

Tenants in Oxford celebrated a hard-won battle against a local estate agent after a row over a bedroom.

The five Oxford University students sharing a house in Cowley were in dispute with North Oxford Property Services (NOPS), which they rented a nearly £3,000-a-month house from in September.

The students sought the help of tenants’ union Acorn Oxford and, after weeks of negotiations, the estate agents has now agreed to pay Ms Lanceley a £200 compensation.

In a victorious statement on its website the union wrote: “These housemates received a confusing and worrying order from their property management company, to vacate and padlock Aleisha’s bedroom and refused to explain why.

“Luckily they are all ACORN members, and the union put the pressure on NOPS and got the situation resolved in our member’s favour.”

London ACORN members take on Briarlane Rental Property Management

From London ACORN:

On Saturday November 28th, London ACORN members and tenants of 186 King Street who have been silently living with pest infestations and lack of maintenance and repairs, held a tenant speakout. Their landlord, Briarlane Rental Property Management, who boasts of owning and managing rental portfolio across Ontario, has been extremely negligent. Tenants need a management that responds to them. Currently, there are no standard office hours when tenants can approach them to get any issue resolved. On top of that, they enter tenants’ units without proper notice! There are even reports that a senior died of heat during summer as the building lacks proper heat/cold conditions. ACORN members and tenants decided to speak out against their landlord to highlight the issues they have been facing.

Close to 20 people joined the action. The action was led by London ACORN leaders Betty Morisson, Devon Mota and Nawton Chiles. Members were joined by the NDP MPP Terence Kernaghan.

Tenants are demanding that:

  • The landlord takes urgent action to do the necessary repairs and maintenance.
  • There is a pest management plan which is carried out in a timely manner.
  • There is staff and resources available in the building to do general maintenance and repair.
  • The building follows COVID-19 related health protocols.
  • The City of London needs to take immediate action to ensure that there is greater landlord accountability.  

We haven’t still heard from the Property Management Company & Owner – Briarlane but we will keep the fight on!

Residents of Manor Village to rally outside city hall Wednesday

News from Ottowa:

Leaders from the Ottawa advocacy group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), along with impacted tenants of Manor Village, in Nepean, will be gathering outside Ottawa City Hall this week, in an effort to prevent the community from being demolished to make way for a future light rail transit (LRT) station.

As part of the Stage 3 LRT planning, city staff recommended that 120 units of low-income housing be demolished, in order to build the future Knoxdale LRT Station. The move would force the eviction of over 300 low-income and working class families.

According to a statement from ACORN, city staff say tenants will have multiple years to find a new home if the city goes forward with the plan, but residents are concerned they will be unable to find somewhere as affordable as Manor Village, given the rising cost of rent in Ottawa.

ACORN leaders, along with affected tenants, will be gathering outside city hall at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, November 25.


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