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FHO In the News: Foundations buoy a new movement of renters’ activism

In a recent article, FHO Deputy Director Jennifer Angarita discusses the critical impact philanthropy can have by shifting power to organizations led by people who are most impacted by housing injustice to reimagine and create the thriving housing futures we all deserve.

"After years of rising rents, a group of Kansas City, Missouri, renters came together in 2019 to form KC Tenants, armed with an annual budget of $30,000 and demands for a bill of rights to protect renters from rising prices, unjust evictions, and landlord abuse.

Four years and one pandemic later, KC Tenants is a nonprofit tenants union with a budget that grew almost twentyfold and a track record of advocacy victories. For instance, the group got its bill of rights enacted by the city and is working to make sure all tenants have the right to a lawyer when facing evictions.

Tenants unions are membership-based groups that advocate for the collective rights of renters, often at the local level. Many operate similarly to labor unions by charging member dues, offering member benefits, and appointing tenant leaders.The progress at KC Tenants comes as a growing number of foundations are working with a revitalized tenants movement to confront the nation’s housing crisis. The current wave of organizing is the country’s most significant since the 1970s, when inflation and momentum from the Civil Rights Movement led to rent strikes across the country and new policies like rent control.

Now rents are rising again, and tenant organizers, who led the fight for pandemic-era eviction moratoriums, have turned toward new permanent protections for tenants.

The pandemic 'exposed a live wire about the lack of protections and vulnerabilities tenants face,' says Jennifer Angarita, of Funders for Housing and Opportunity, a grantmakers group. After losing their jobs during the pandemic, many tenants struggled to pay rent and would have lost their homes without eviction moratoriums.

Angarita says an increase in national grantmakers’ support for local tenant movements is part of a broader shift in philanthropy that prioritizes support for the people most closely affected by social issues."

This article was written by Sara Herschander for The Chronicle of Philanthropy and syndicated by the Associated Press.


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