Militant Journalism

Los Angeles Tenants Union holds People’s Assembly to address housing crisis

On December 3, several hundred attendees participated in the first People’s Assembly organized by the Los Angeles Tenants Union since the pandemic exacerbated the housing crisis in Los Angeles. The union-wide assembly was held in the Student Union building at the Los Angeles City College. The Assembly represented local chapters of the LATU, including Baldwin-Leimert-Crenshaw, East Hollywood, Union de Vecinos from the Eastside, Lincoln Heights, South Central, Flower Drive, MacArthur Park, Vermont y Beverly (VyBe), and more. Each local presented their unique struggles, their tenants’ organizing tactics and tangible solutions for LA’s housing crisis. 

The People’s Assembly gave each local chapter an opportunity to define what the housing crisis looks like in their region, which led to common trends: mass evictions, rent increases, uninhabitable living conditions and harassment from property management and landlords. Groups of approximately 10 attendees brainstormed what necessary steps must be taken to fix the crisis. Each group volunteered one representative to then meet in a smaller committee group to flesh out a consensus on the themes people seized on and a common vision of what housing should look like in Los Angeles.

LATU South Central local organizer, Paul Lanctot, shared what he envisions for the city: “I envision a future together, an actual just future — not one where landlords can evict you, raise your rents, harass you, not make repairs — but one where we’re actually in control of our own housing as tenants and we determine what happens in our community. Shifting who controls our housing and our community instead of landlords selling it off to whichever corporation wants to buy it, whichever politician will sell us out, is my vision.” 

Kenia Alcocer, a member of the Union de Vecinos Eastside Local with 19 years of organizing experience, shared that in late February the eviction moratorium will come to an end despite the fact that a lot of her fellow LATU members have not recuperated from the pandemic or the current economic instability. Alcocer shares that, “A lot of the tenants here today have talked about the system we’re living in that doesn’t reflect the needs of the community. That system is capitalism. Our housing is held hostage to this system. Therefore, we’re looking for alternatives. We’re looking to dismantle that system and create something different that looks more like what our communities need, which isn’t just housing, but access to health care, living wages, access to food and basic necessities.” 

Zerita Jones, co-founder of the Baldwin-Leimert-Crenshaw local and Vice Chair of Liberty Community Land Trust, started organizing as a tenant in 2017 when she was subjugated to a lawsuit that attempted to illegally evict everyone from her apartment complex. Jones, also a member of ACCE Action and the Right to Counsel Coalition, shared her vision for housing in Los Angeles: “Everybody deserves a safe, clean, habitable home — whether that’s affordable housing, the housing department responding to habitability issues, tenant protections, anti-eviction protections, and anti-harassment and anti-discrimination laws — and anything that deals with housing so individuals can live happy and safe.” To get there, Jones emphasizes the need to create bridges between different organizations and put housing in the hands of the people in order for us to decommodify it.

The People’s Assembly concluded with the following list of housing demands and goals:

  • LATU pledges to support members in whatever means necessary to defend their housing whether that’s occupying spaces or organizing rent strikes
  • Recognizing that the housing struggle is intrinsically connected to other struggles
  • Utilizing community spaces and connecting with other organizations such as schools, churches and public health centers
  • Expanding LATU’s reach by sharing literature and resources
  • Organizing a general cancellation of rent increases that will eventually lead to rent cancellation as a whole
  • Seizing properties and ending vacancies to guarantee housing for all
  • Overthrowing capitalism

Like many of the attendees, Alcocer believes we need a new system that is based on communities having the right to self-govern and the right to self-determination: “We’re not asking for our poverty to be distributed. We’re asking for the wealth of everything to be redistributed to everybody.” Capitalism prevents people from controlling the housing and the land we inhabit, so a system that does not displace, prioritizes the collective good over the individual, and preserves the Earth is needed today.

Indeed, a new system is needed to be able to guarantee basic needs and human rights to all. Organizers from the Party for Socialism and Liberation participated in this People’s Assembly to build towards housing for all in Los Angeles. LATU is a diverse, tenant-led movement fighting for the human right to housing for all. LATU demands safe, affordable housing and universal rent control. They organize against landlord harassment, mass evictions and displacement. LATU works to strengthen tenants’ political power through education, advocacy and direct action. Find your local chapter and join today!

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