As a tenant, you may already know that laws and ordinances creating new protections for tenants have increased drastically throughout the U.S. since the onset of the pandemic. To be sure, tenants and advocacy groups were already working to pass protections in their jurisdictions before the pandemic, but the public health emergency increased pressure on many state and local legislatures to strengthen tenant protections. NLIHC has tracked more than 150 protections that have been passed in state and local jurisdictions since January 2021. Tenant organizers and advocates nationwide have played an integral role in the rapid growth of tenants’ rights legislation.
History shows that tenants play an important role in shaping housing policy during times of crisis. Power imbalances have probably always existed between owners of shelter and those who need access to this shelter to survive, but these imbalances changed during the era of rapid industrialization in the nineteenth century, when tenancy became more common in many parts of the U.S. Since then, tenant groups have formed to fight against unjust living conditions, high rents, and evictions – and that’s just to name a few concerns! In places with histories of tenant movements, such as New York City, the first tenant-related laws were passed as early as the 1860s, and new laws have been fought for by tenant groups ever since. These advocacy efforts have shown time and time again that tenants have the power to push for and enact essential protections, especially during times of crisis. We know tenants like you are eager to continue the struggle for long-term tenant protections, and we hope this issue of Tenant Talk will be helpful in that journey.
Members of the Editorial Board have been a part of this work at the national level for years, and most recently through NLIHC’s Tenant and Community Leader Cohort. NLIHC created the cohort in early 2022, and it includes members of NLIHC’s Board of Directors Resident Caucus and other tenant leaders in NLIHC’s network. The first of its kind at NLIHC, the cohort has already been very active. We first met as a group during a retreat in Albany, Georgia. We then went to the White House to meet with senior administrative officials to discuss federal tenant protections and housing affordability. You can learn more about this work from some of the articles included in this issue. The cohort looks forward to working with other tenants in the NLIHC network to ensure that we all have the protections we deserve.
In this edition of Tenant Talk, readers will learn about the various tenant protections that have been passed across the country, such as right-to-counsel legislation, anti-rent gouging laws, just cause eviction ordinances, and others. As always, we also include tenant perspectives on these issues, and we are excited to announce that this edition includes articles written by tenants with lived experience as well.
There is more work to do at all levels of government to ensure that tenants’ rights are as strong as can be and that every individual has access to an affordable and accessible home. Remember that the power to make change will always lie with tenants. Our goal in this issue of Tenant Talk is to provide new information about tenant protections and empower you to advocate for protections in your communities. We hope that you will continue to draw on the articles included in the following pages to aid in your organizing and advocacy for years to come!
The Editorial Board