Apartment tenants in Dallas, working with the coalition Dallas Stops Evictions have served their landlords with a list of 24 demands to be met by mid-November. The tenants of Estelle Village apartments are calling for ceased evictions per the CDC moratorium, an end to restrictions on parking in the complex, and an end to harassment by private security, to name a few demands.
Just a few months before, DSE and the residents of Estara apartments in far east Dallas successfully stopped an eviction, provided tenants with paperwork and court support, and connected tenants to facilitate further organizing in their complex.
Landlords on notice as tenants build power across Dallas
Dallas Stops Evictions formed in August 2020 just weeks before the end of the COVID eviction moratorium. The moratorium was ultimately extended, but landlords defied this, and tenants across the city reported multiple illegal evictions. Alongside this, despite CDC guidelines against it, the city of Dallas has continued to sweep homeless encampments. Dallas Stops Evictions ultimately decided to organize two fronts: the unsheltered community and tenants.
For DSE, at-risk tenants and the homeless community in the city, aligning the struggles of people without homes and people at risk of being evicted is essential. Both communities are aware of how closely their interests are aligned. Many from the homeless community are on the streets as a result of being evicted from their homes. Those in homes at risk of eviction know that only organizing can keep them in their homes. Both need access to immediate resources like sanitary supplies, clothes, and food — which have become increasingly difficult to acquire due to the looming financial crisis — and both recognize that the government is little-to-no help in providing these essentials.
Outreach is central to the organizing of DSE. Communities always meet DSE door-knocking, community meetings, and discussion with enthusiastic support.
Estelle tenants demand better housing
From Dallas Stops Evictions’ successful eviction defense work at Estara apartments, an Estelle village tenant named Amanda contacted DSE. Amanda informed DSE that several tenants at the complex were being denied parking passes due to new management rules that required the tenants to present registration, insurance, and driver’s licenses in order to claim a pass. Many residents were not able to meet these restrictive requirements and as a result, several of their cars are being towed every day. DSE sent three members that night to talk with Amanda about the situation, and after a lengthy conversation with her and some other tenants who came out, the tenants put together a list of the many offenses by management.
The following day, DSE gathered a group of tenants and went door-to-door talking to neighbors about their experiences. Several residents at Estelle shared that they were having the same parking issues Amanda had originally called about, in addition to other issues.
Some tenants faced the threat of illegal eviction. DSE assisted several tenants in filling out CDC forms to have those evictions delayed.
That same day, DSE and leading tenants like Amanda gathered over 50 people from the complex at the playground in Estara. By the end of a few hours of discussion, the Estelle Village Apartments created a list of 24 demands, including keeping income-based rent, stopping evictions, better parking and an end to incessant towings, better pest control and cleaning of the complex, better lighting in public areas, and an end to private security harassment.
These demands were typed up and formally presented to the front office with the added ultimatum that if these demands were not discussed with the tenants or met within 30 days, further action would be taken.
The same week, a press conference was held at the complex to increase pressure on the management to take action. One tenant, Mr. Jackson, told the gathered crowd, “I’ve been here 35 years and I’ve never seen it like this.”
A tenant leader, who has been involved in organizing her co-tenants, said of the conditions, “it’s like we’re paying them to imprison us.”
The management company for Estelle Village is a notorious slumlord. Silver Tree Residential “acquires, rehabilitates, and permanently preserves affordable housing communities which were originally developed under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs” according to their website. In other words, they work to privatize and profit from public housing. Many of their properties specifically target seniors and low-income families.
Safe housing for all!
As capitalist presidential candidate Joe Biden said, the upcoming elections won’t “fundamentally change” anything for tenants fighting for safe and affordable housing. The power of the working class does not lie in the ballot but in their organization. Only the organized tenants at Estelle, as well as the organized homeless community or other tenants, can win the demands they are asking for and deserve.