Stop the landlord attack!

The Crown Heights Tenants Union in Brooklyn, N.Y., successfully fought the eviction of the Robinson family. Queen Afua Helen Robinson speaks at a rally outside the home. Photo: Jessy Edwards / BK Reader

Rents are going through the roof while a tidal wave of evictions has begun. Average rents increased by 14% last year across the United States.

Rents went up in Austin, Texas, by 40%, while in New York City and Newark, New Jersey, they rose by 35%. Rents jumped by 28% in Dallas, 26% in Phoenix, 25% in Las Vegas and 24% in Cincinnati. 

Neither broken supply chains nor rising wages – which were canceled by skyrocketing prices – can be blamed for this rent-gouging. Pure capitalist greed is the cause. Even the idiots at Fox News can’t claim the People’s Republic of China or Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin are responsible. 

In New York City during 2017, five out of twelve families devoted more than 30% of their budgets to rent. A quarter of families had to pay their landlords more than half of their income. That’s like the tribute that feudal serfs had to fork over.

Now it’s even worse and the result is increased homelessness. Most visible are hundreds of thousands of human beings forced to live on the streets of the wealthiest country on earth.

Much more numerous are the millions of families who have to double-up with relatives. Back in 2010, the Census Bureau estimated there were 4.3 million families living in these conditions.

This overcrowding is a big reason why Black, Indigenous and Latinx people were two and three times as likely to have died from COVID-19 as whites.

While rents are rocketing, so are house prices. Banksters are committing wholesale robbery by raising interest rates on mortgages. Between 2007 and 2016 these criminals foreclosed on 7.8 million homes

The investment bank BlackRock wants to get in the action by gobbling up homes. This outfit has $10 trillion in assets under its control to play around with. That’s more money than the economies of every country except the United States and China.

Fighting back against evictions

Landlords want to start mass evictions. Many Democrats, like New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, joined with Republicans to end the bans on throwing families out of their homes.

These measures were enacted in 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress and state legislatures only did so because they were afraid of what 20 million suddenly jobless people might do. It was millions of people who marched demanding “Black Lives Matter” that kept these bans in place.

Congress was also forced to spend billions in rental assistance. But millions of tenants never saw any money.

In California’s Santa Clara County – home to San Jose and Silicon Valley billionaires – just 34% of households that applied for help got it. The headquarters of Apple, Alphabet (Google) and Meta (Facebook) are located there. These outfits have a total stock market value of $5.1 trillion, yet 244,000 of the county’s children live in families who can’t afford basic needs.

Most housing courts operate as eviction mills for landlords and banks. Issa Smith was evicted over a disputed lease with her landlord in Kalamazoo, Michigan. 

She now lives with her two children in a motel room that doesn’t even have a refrigerator. The $1,800 a month that Issa Smith has to pay for the tiny place eats up almost all of her disability assistance benefits.

In most places tenants don’t even have the right to a lawyer like criminal defendants do. Families can be evicted for almost any reason, with landlords trying to steal the security deposit.

In New York City, the Right to Counsel Coalition won the right for tenants to have legal representation in 2017. Baltimore and San Francisco have also passed similar laws.

Tenant and community groups also want the New York state legislature to pass the “Good Cause Eviction” bill. Families shouldn’t be evicted just because the landlord doesn’t like them. This law will give basic protections like a union contract does.

Direct action is more effective. The Crown Heights Tenants Union and other organizations stopped the Robinson family home from being stolen. For 18 days in February, activists stood guard at 964 Park Place in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The Robinsons were the first Black family on the block. They were victims of an attempted “foreclosure rescue scam” in which they unknowingly signed away the title to their home. 

The victory in Brooklyn must be repeated across the country. Evictions and foreclosures must be stopped. Housing is a human right!

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