Category Archive : Updates from the Field

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. 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.

Organising tenants amidst the pandemic: how direct action still delivers

From ACORN Manchester:

Alone we are weak, but together we are strong. Our belief in this maxim is vital amidst a pandemic which has further exposed the injustices at the heart of society. As ACORN, we’ve shown that grassroots organising not only brings results, but by delivering these together as ordinary people, we advance concrete examples of community solidarity to last beyond the pandemic. 

ACORN’s ‘Member Defence’ teams utilise the collective power of the union to fight alongside fellow members on housing issues, empowering them to take action and win. We do not buy into direct action ‘only as a last resort’ – when already rigged in favour of the rich and powerful, going through the system has both little appeal and often little success. Despite the obvious impediments that Covid-19 guidelines have had on our ability to visit landlords and letting agencies in a big group to demand justice, our teams have displayed impressive creativity with incredible results. So much so, that we now have a prominent pro-bono housing solicitor referring people to us, because it’s clear that we can achieve so much more through people power than the courts. 

During the UK’s nationwide lockdown, and before our Manchester Member Defence Team was formally established, Sabrina’s household was hit with a rental increase of 24%. The household had been devastated financially as a result of the virus; the ability of the tenants to cover their rent, let alone manage an increase, proved a severe challenge. One housemate reached out to ACORN for support, and signed up the rest of the house as members – the root of all our union power is getting each other’s backs; if we get your back, we expect you to have ours too by becoming a member. Collectively, with direction from ACORN, a campaign strategy was drawn up. In the end, the mere threat of union action is all it took for the rental increase to be dropped in its entirety. 

This inspired Sabrina to take an active role in the union, getting trained up to join the first cohort of our Member Defence Team (whilst joining our Community Protection Team against evictions and supporting vulnerable people through our food delivery scheme). Sabrina went on to give talks to other fledgling ACORN branches in the UK, such as ACORN Swindon, sharing her insights, and inspiring them to get their own victories. One simple win transformed a non-member into a passionate leader, committed to solidifying the collective power of renters.  

Early on in the COVID-19 crisis, Sophie lost her job and her Universal Credit payments were not adequate to cover her rent and bills. Sophie, like so many others, started to accrue rent arrears. In June, she contacted ACORN for support. We pride ourselves on empowering our members to take action with the union’s backing, rather than us performing a service for them – this is essential to building a powerful and engaged movement. Accordingly, we worked with Sophie to draw up demands and a strategy to win them. Much of the devised strategy was unnecessary, as once it became clear to the letting agents that Sophie had our backing, they quickly relented to her demands. In the end, all it took was an email from ACORN to secure a £500 arrears reduction and a favourable repayment plan. This relatively easy victory not only made a difference to Sophie, but it strengthened our union; the new team members involved gained experience, and Sophie became another determined member of the team. As long as we continue to ensure that every victory – easy or hard-fought – empowers our members, we can build ACORN into an ever-stronger fighting force. 

In another case, a member came to ACORN after being furloughed and having their repeated requests for assistance to their letting agency ignored. The tenants had been unable to move into the property for a month at the start of the tenancy, despite paying full rent, due to multiple pest infestations and the general uninhabitable state. ACORN members took bold and cunning action alongside the tenants, leaving a flood of negative reviews online, tanking the agency’s ratings. This forced them to the table, and even brought the landlord out of the woodwork. With these avenues of communication open, and the backing of ACORN members, the tenants were able to unearth a series of lies and omissions from the letting agent to both the landlord and themselves, throughout the tenancy. With their deceit laid bare, the letting agency conceded defeat, agreeing to refund the first month’s rent and offer an on-going 20% rent reduction. And yet again, our winning member has joined our Member Defence Team, building our power to get even more wins, and on an even more ambitious scale. 

These are just a handful of wins that the four of us writing this article have helped to organise. When we have been able to all go down in-person to a dodgy letting agency together,we’ve managed to stop a member being taken to the small claims court for rent arrears, and win the cancellation of all his rent debt, worth over £1500. 

ACORN gives members the support and tools they need to stand up for themselves. The growth in membership month on month speaks to how people repay this faith shown in them, allowing ACORN to go from strength to strength in the process. Simply put, there is power in the collective – ACORN intends to remind the masses of this crucial fact. 

Written by Chris Moore, Ethan Green, Jack Yates & Sabrina McDonnell. You can join ACORN here.

ACORN – Nottingham Supports Local Tenants

From ACORN UK: Nottingham:

Nottingham City Homes wouldn’t listen to our demands, but BBC East Midlands did! Watch what we had to say on this clip from yesterday evening.

Today marks the deadline we set NCH to lift our member’s unfair £10,000 charge following our last action. If they fail to do so by the end of today, we will have no choice but to escalate our case further!

Watch the full video:

https://www.facebook.com/ACORNNotts/videos/695032671141513

Tenant Actions in Nova Scotia

From ACORN Canada: This has been an explosive week for the Rent Control Now campaign in Nova Scotia! Over the past few months ACORN has been collecting rent increases from across the province. The results are grim but not shocking, members have gotten increases upwards of $900 a month.

One rent increase went viral over social media, Grace – a tenant who works at the local gas station – got a $650 increase designed to force her to move from her apartment so the landlord can renovate the unit. The response from the Province? Rent Control doesn’t work. According to the provincial government it’s a “philosophical issue” – try telling that to Grace and the hundreds like her who are forced from their homes by greedy landlords!

Since then tenants have been coming forward with their stories and ACORN has been more active than ever, getting tenants rallied, sending hundreds of emails to Stephen McNeil and local MLAs, and pushing the province closer to rent control.  We are organizing a rally Saturday (Facebook event here) – with upwards of 1500 people from across the HRM interested in coming – to force the province to act in the best interest of tenants and enact Rent Control Now! Can’t make it? Click here to send an email to your MLA to demand Rent Control!

PRESS:

CTV News: ‘It’s ridiculous’: Calls for affordable housing in Halifax area grow louder (with video!)

Nova Scotia Advocate: News brief: We need rent control and landlord licensing everywhere in Nova Scotia

The Chronicle Herald: Rally calling for rent control in Nova Scotia to be held Saturday in Halifax

Global News: Habitat for Humanity pushes for more affordable housing options in the HRM

The Coast: Halifax to rally for rent control this weekend

UK Tenant Organizing: From illegal evictions to union bootcamps, how Covid-19 could change renting

From iNews UK:

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, 63 per cent of private renters had no savings and almost half of working renters were just one paycheck away from losing their home. Think of them as the “squeezed middle” Ed Miliband once tried to champion – they were already stretching themselves to cover the most essential cost of all: housing. Now, Shelter estimates that 332,000 private renters who were not in arrears prior to the pandemic are now behind on their rent…

In the meantime, without the protections they need and with local authority enforcement patchy at best, some renters are turning to tenants’ unions for help plugging the gaps where the state is failing. Acorn is a nationwide community union with 5,000 members across the country and branches in 22 cities. A spokesperson told they have helped to resist 20 Section 21 evictions in total and picketed lettings agencies. They also reported a “huge rise in attempted illegal evictions” and requests for help. Acorn has been holding “eviction resistance bootcamps” across the country over the last two months. Participants are taught about renters’ rights in the event that a county court appoints bailiffs to carry out an eviction.

“We have seen a huge increase in our membership over the crisis period,” Acorn’s spokesperson added. Tenants unions see themselves as providing grassroots support where legal aid (which was cut significantly back in 2013) and local councils are falling short. They may become more ubiquitous in months to come but, if they do, it will be a symptom of a housing crisis that predated the pandemic and has been exacerbated by it.

ACORN India on the BBC: How Dharavi Coped with Coronavirus

BBC featured an update on the pandemic in Dharavi, where public health programs and aid from organizations such as ACORN have helped decrease infections and deaths. As one of the most intensely packed places on earth, it is incredibly positive news to see that cases and deaths are down. Local leaders attribute this to local health workers who know the slum well and are able to go door to door, and aid from NGO’s and civil society.

“I would put this down to about 6,000 health workers combing every street, doing tests…since they know the slums, they are able to track all the cases,” says ACORN organizer Vinod Shetty. “It’s mainly been civil society and NGO’s which are responsible for the feeding of the whole of Dharavi and the kind of support that was given at the worst possible time. It was civil society, social network of organizations that rose to the occasion and kept the kitchens running.”

Listen to the full story on the BBC.

Tenant Organizing in Montreal

ACORN Canada is organizing to support tenants who are being forcibly evicted by their landlord due to repairs and renovations on the buildings. Organizers say that it is the responsibility of the landlord to find accomodations for these tenants.

“We are in the midst of a pandemic, there is no room to rent and it is expensive! We ask them to leave when Montreal is in code red and we are told not to leave home! ” says Theodros Wolde of ACORN Canada.

Read the full post (in French) from ACORN Canada.






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