Monday, December 1, 2014

On Political Action and Organizing

While I hate to have to admit it, President Obama's signature on the legislation giving all tenants at least 90 days to move after foreclosure was welcome. It was particularly important in those states where tenants had only a few days to move after the foreclosure sale. Senator Keith Ellison of Minnesota was a major proponent of this legislation, as was Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. California's Senator Barbara Boxer was a co-sponsor of the bill. However, California Representatives Tom McClintock and Darrel Issa both voted against the House version of the bill.

Now for the organizing part. Some communities have had notable success in preventing tenant evictions from foreclosed properties, either by putting pressure (picketing, demonstrations and the like) on lenders who want to evict the tenants or by legislation (eviction moratoriums). So in deciding on organizing strategies, you'll need to think through at least some of the following:

1. Do you really want to live at the property? If you don't want to stay, there's no point in organizing your neighbors and community to enable you to stay there.

2. It's more difficult, but not impossible, to organize to stay in a single-family house. Multi-unit properties are more likely to remain rentals anyway, so there's less reason to evict tenants in order to sell the building.

3. Are there already a lot of empty foreclosed properties in your community? You'll likely get more public support if there are empty, deteriorating properties around you. An occupied property is better for the community than an empty one.

4. Are your neighbors incensed at the thought of your eviction? If your homeowner neighbors respond to the news with an "oh well, too bad," you probably aren't going to get much help. But if they're putting up window signs denouncing your landlord's lender or calling your city council representative to demand action, you have a better shot. It has likely that it has never occurred to your homeowner neighbors that they could take action to defend the tenants in the neighborhood, but enough evictions and empty houses could spur them to action.

5. Are local tenant organizations or neighborhood associations interested in the issue? If they are, you might be able to organize some public protests or raise the issue of tenant evictions with local legislators.