With the Eviction Moratorium expiring, millions of Americans are now in greater danger of losing their housing. In late September, ACER Organizer, Fadumo Mohamed, and tenant leader, Awa Dolley, went to Washington D.C. to advocate for an extended eviction moratorium and push for a tenant’s bill of rights to protect renters. Here’s what happened:
On Monday, September 20th Fadumo and Awa arrived in Washington with a tenant delegation from various states. For about several days, the House Guarantee Tenant Delegation and organizers from People’s Action, Hoosier Action, Kentucky Tenants, PLAN Nevada, Miami Workers’ Center, NWBCCC, and KC Tenants met with members of Congress, The White House, and Treasury to advocate for tenant protections and renter rights.
There was a lot to do the whole week, but organizers got to work right away:
The tenant delegation held a press conference with Rep. Cori Bush (MO) and Sen. Warren (MA), as they introduced the Keeping Renters Safe Act of 2021, which aims to be a REAL eviction moratorium informed by the demands of renters; the bill calls for a ban on all filings, writs, and hearings, it covers all evictions, not just ones for non-payment of rent, and is automatic.
The tenant delegation, including ACER Organizer Fadumo, met with House Financial Services Committee Chair Rep. Maxine Waters. The delegation called on Rep. Waters to co-sponsor the Keeping Renters Safe Act AND to hold hearings so tenants can voice their support for a National Tenants Bill of Rights in the House Financial Services Committee by the end of the year. Rep. Waters did not agree to any of these demands.
The group met with Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, Wally Adeyemo. Adeyemo is one of the officials responsible for ensuring rental assistance money gets into the hands of tenants across the U.S. The tenant delegation explained, from their personal experiences, how the rental assistance program was failing to meet its goals and what Mr. Adeyemo could do to improve the program:
- Establish a Tenant Advisory Board to advise the Treasury Department’s implementation of the remainder of the rental assistance program
- Commit to issuing guidance for states and cities to require landlords who receive rental assistance money to: not evict tenants for a year, not increase rent for a year, renew the leases of tenants, and disclose their investors and holdings to the government
Mr. Adeyemo did not make any initial commitments based on the demands of the tenant delegation. The key takeaways from this meeting are that The Treasury continues to pass the buck off to cities and states for running poorly managed programs rather than taking the initiative to make the rental assistance process easier for renters. Additionally, The Treasury seems unclear about what’s going on with their own program. They did not have a clear idea of what kind of hoops tenants are forced to jump through to get assistance from their program or that people are unable to even find basic information like phone numbers or emails to follow up with local assistance programs.
The delegation met with Gene Sperling and other key officials at the White House. Mr. Sperling has worked for the Clinton and Obama administrations and is now leading the Biden administration’s recovery efforts. The tenants asked Mr. Sperling to engage the White House in pushing Congress to pass the Keeping Renters Safe Act of 2021. Mr. Sperling did not make any commitments regarding the meeting with the tenant delegation, but the delegation hopes to engage further with the administration in the upcoming weeks.
ACER’s trip to D.C. was a lesson in organizing and building people power. We have learned that we need to build a strong base of tenants from all corners of the country who can wield SERIOUS people power and put pressure on the beltway insiders in our nation’s Capitol. We also need a movement built on achieving Long-term Renters’ Rights. We need to win additional rights in the long-term to correct the balance of power between tenants and landlords. ACER will continue to organize and build power for Housing Justice in Minnesota and the broader United States.