Housing Justice Working Group Digest (OCT 2020)

The purpose of this digest is to bring all of our comrades up to speed on the work here in Housing Justice, especially those who have been away for a while, or those who wish to get involved!

If you wish to get involved, drop a message in our Slack channel #wg-met-housing-justice or message our current Housing Justice Working Group chairs. You can attend our weekly tenant organizing check-ins at 6:00 PM on Mondays – see the slack for details. We’ll train you!

Earlier this year, the Housing Justice working group was revived with an orientation towards the “base building” strategy, according to the ratified project proposal here. As the project progresses, we try to always keep a handful of goals in mind:

  1. Engage people who are not familiar with socialist politics
  2. Develop relationships with working class communities 
  3. Join working class communities in their struggles
  4. Foster the formation of organized bodies of tenants across different buildings and neighborhoods, under different landlords, with the means of leveraging their collective power for, e.g. rent negotiations, striking, occupations
  5. Recognize where the San Diego Tenants Union is lacking and fill that gap
  6. Improve our own organizing skills
  7. Ensure that the project can persist even if our relationships with working partners were to change. 

To those ends, we have undertaken some major projects in order to pursue an investigation of the material conditions on the ground with regards to rented housing, meet working class communities where they’re at, and develop our skills as organizers. The intention is to organize the unorganized and to create independent working class institutions capable of fighting the capitalists. The ultimate goal is, of course, socialism.  

We consider the work here in Housing Justice to be critical to our goals as socialists because revolution can only be achieved through centering the working class as agents of their own liberation. Thus, organizing the working class is paramount. However, successfully organizing the working class requires socialists to be equipped with the right politics, and the right politics can only really be arrived at through struggling among the working class and actually learning about the concrete conditions in which the working class exists. Tenant organizing provides us one major avenue of accomplishing all of this.    

In September, we began developing a “Eviction Defense Network,” a project initially proposed by the Cancel the Rent Coalition (CRC). We established the Tenant Solidarity Network, an ongoing project independent of CRC, informed by the base building orientation of the working group. Organizing Tenant Solidarity Network has challenged our organizers as we’ve developed numerous connections with vibrant working class communities. We now struggle alongside tenants who are facing evictions, and foment the organization of tenants into institutions capable of defending themselves against the landlord class. Generally, our work in the Tenant Solidarity Network can be broken down into a few key components:

  • “Loose” canvassing of locations where housing-precarious people congregate, with the intent of learning about the struggles of people who have to contend with the extremely exploitative machine that is commodified housing as well as provide individual tenants with information about their protections from eviction under AB3088(COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act). Through this work we’ve been able to locate numerous apartment complexes to focus our organizing efforts on.
  • Through our efforts, we’ve been able to connect to various communities and individuals. For example, we have developed a relationship with the Mid-City Church of the Nazarene, which has been allowing us to canvass their massive food bank lines, as well as vouch for us with those who are a little more wary of us. Through this relationship we have been able to identify many individuals and apartment complexes who are experiencing hardship.
  • Organizing of tenants within apartment complexes. The pandemic and associated economic strife has further precarized large swathes of the renting population – many tenants are finding themselves without the means to pay rent, utilities, food expenses, etc. The intent of organizing tenants within apartment complexes is to unify neighbor with neighbor on the common ground of their exploitation at the hands of their landlord, so that they can successfully fight back and defend themselves as a collective, despite the countless advantages afforded to landlords by the bourgeois state. We endeavor to foster each tenant association into acquiring their own momentum, sustainable without our constant direct administration. The ultimate goal for each tenant association organized is achieving rent-strike readiness, and coordinated mass rent-strike readiness under the San Diego Tenants Union.
  • We are currently attempting to organize no less than 5 complexes across the San Diego metro area. The number of complexes we’ve identified through our conversations with various precarious individuals as being strategically necessary to organize numbers twice that amount. Needless to say, we’re always looking to grow our organizing capacity here in the working group.
  • Plugging in tenants to an online community and resource repository. A Facebook group was created for tenants to plug into in order to both share their experiences as tenants with other tenants across the city, as well as access helpful information and resources. https://www.facebook.com/groups/tsn.sd/ 
  • Training new organizers and leaders. Necessary to the project is the constant growth of our organizing capacity. To that end, we provide the training to equip interested comrades with the tools for organizing tenants or fulfilling our administrative needs. A healthy project is always developing leaders!   
  • In the past, we’ve hosted a 2-day comprehensive training seminar covering everything from theory to practice with regards to tenant organizing. Expect more of these!
  • We also provide one-on-one training, or mentorship during fieldwork – sometimes you learn best by doing!

Anyways, If you wish to get involved, drop a message in our Slack channel #wg-met-housing-justice or message our current Housing Justice Working Group chairs. You can attend our weekly tenant organizing check-ins at 6:00 PM on Mondays – see the slack for details.  Again, we’ll train you! Don’t let lack of confidence stop you!