May 14, 2021
From Libcom
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Houston, Texas: VICTORY! Villas del Paseo Tenants Win After Two Months of Rent Strike

HOUSTON – In February of this year, the tenants of Villas del Paseo were without running water for 21 days after the winter storm. Due to these uninhabitable conditions, as well as conflicts with management, the tenants of Villas del Paseo chose to go on rent strike starting in March. Tenants collectively decided on a list of demands, which were delivered to management.

In early April, Comunidad Partners reached out to HTU and Villas del Paseo tenant representatives to begin negotiations. Negotiations lasted several weeks and have now concluded with a mutual agreement that fulfills almost all of the demands and has been agreed to by the tenants.

This victory was only possible through the strength and dedication of the community of Villas del Paseo and the work of the Villas del Paseo tenant organizers. Please read below for their full statement.

Signed,

Houston Tenants Union

VDP Tenants Union Reaches Agreement With Management

In February of this year, residents across Texas experienced an unprecedented winter storm. Failures of power led to debilitating cold and widespread shortages of water, power, food, internet—seemingly everything. In Houston, tenants were among the most vulnerable to the fallout from the loss of water and power; combined with widespread issues of burst pipes and flooding, this left them desperate and without resources for basic living. That was the situation for the tenants at Villas Del Paseo. In the midst of disaster and lack of resources, tenants looked to each other and the community for support.

As the magnitude of the crisis intensified, the residents of Villas del Paseo began to band together as a community to overcome these challenges. Tenants braved the cold to help each other get food, water, clothing and heat – and began to reach out to the broader community. As more people became aware of the plight of the tenants, the community responded. From organizations such as Houseless Organizing Coalition, IWW and Crowdsource Rescue, to aid from Harris County Precinct One, and thanks to the effort of countless individuals who donated and volunteered to help the residents. Notably, Patrick Gaspar, from the group Fist to Cuffs helped provide the connections to many other community organizations, and drove a water truck all the way from California to assist the tenants, a gesture for which the tenants of Villas del Paseo will be forever grateful.

Through this crisis, the key to tenants’ success has been our ability to organize — Haitham, a tenant at Villas Del Paseo, reached out to Houston Tenants Union to help him band together with his neighbors to organize around getting the water turned back on and repairs from the storm addressed. Tenants met together en masse and democratically decided on a list of needs, and to withhold rent until those needs were met. Tenants continued building connections with each other during community meetings and various events. The rent strike lasted throughout the months of March and April.

As tenants continued to build their power and raise their voices, we were able to get in communication with Comunidad Partners, the owners of Villas del Paseo. Understandably, there was some tension in the beginning; however, as the conversation continued, the tenants found the management of Comunidad receptive to our views and willing to negotiate in good faith. Although the talks were at times challenging for both parties, through the good faith and trust that was built, both tenants and management were able better understand the needs of the other party. The result is a comprehensive proposal that addresses almost all tenant needs. We feel that we have made great progress towards addressing the tenants’ issues and while there is much left to be done, we trust that this progress will continue as we work together to build a better future for everyone at Villas del Paseo.

The tenants of Villas del Paseo will not soon forget the hardships of the last few months. We went through hell, but we have built our power through organizing and are now stronger together as a community. To everyone in Houston and beyond who helped us—thank you, from the bottom of our hearts. To Comunidad Partners—we thank you for your good faith and candor, and the willingness you showed to hear our issues. We look forward to turning the page, and working together to write a new, brighter chapter for Villas del Paseo.

Signed,

The VDP Tenants Union

En febrero de este año, los residentes de Texas sufrimos una tormenta invernal sin precedentes. Los cortes de electricidad provocaron un frĂ­o debilitante y una escasez generalizada de agua, electricidad, alimentos, Internet… pasĂł de todo. En Houston, los inquilinos eramos de los mĂĄs vulnerables a las consecuencias de la pĂ©rdida de agua y electricidad; y junto con los problemas generalizados de rotura de tuberĂ­as e inundaciones, estĂĄbamos desesperados y sin las necesidades bĂĄsicas cubiertas. Esa era nuestra situaciĂłn como inquilinos de Villas del Paseo. En medio de la catĂĄstrofe y la falta de recursos, buscamos apoyo entre nosotros y en la comunidad.

A medida que la magnitud de la crisis se intensificaba, comenzamos a juntarnos como comunidad para superar estos desafíos. Desafiamos el frío para ayudarnos mutuamente a conseguir comida, agua, ropa y calefacción, y empezamos a llegar a la comunidad en general. A medida que mås personas se dieron cuenta de nuestra situación, la comunidad respondió. Desde organizaciones benéficas como Houseless Organizing Coalition, IWW and Crowdsource Rescue, pasando por la ayuda de la Comisaría Uno del Condado de Harris, y gracias al esfuerzo de innumerables personas que donaron y se ofrecieron para ayudarnos. En particular, agradecemos a Patrick Gaspar, del grupo Fist to Cuffs que nos proporcionó las conexiones con muchas otras organizaciones de la comunidad, y condujo un camión de agua todo el camino desde California para ayudarnos, un gesto por el que nosotros, los inquilinos de Villas del Paseo, siempre estaremos agradecidos.

A lo largo de esta crisis, la clave de nuestro éxito ha sido nuestra capacidad de organización: Haitham, un inquilino de Villas del Paseo, se puso en contacto con el Sindicato de Inquilinos de Houston para que le ayudaran a reunirse con sus vecinos para organizarse y conseguir que se volviera a suministrar el agua y se abordaran las reparaciones de la tormenta. Nos reunimos en masa y decidimos democråticamente una lista de necesidades inmediatas, y también decidimos retener el alquiler hasta que se cubrieran esas necesidades. Seguimos estableciendo contactos entre sí durante las reuniones comunitarias y diversos eventos. La huelga de alquileres se prolongó durante los meses de marzo y abril.

A medida que seguimos construyendo nuestro poder y alzando la voz, pudimos ponernos en comunicación con Comunidad Partners, los propietarios de Villas del Paseo. Como es lógico, al principio hubo cierta tensión; sin embargo, a medida que la conversación continuaba, encontramos que la dirección de Comunidad era receptiva a nuestros puntos de vista y estaba dispuesta a colaborar de buena fé. Aunque las conversaciones fueron a veces difíciles para ambas partes, gracias a la buena fé y a la confianza que se creó, tanto nosotros, los inquilinos como la dirección pudimos comprender mejor las necesidades de la otra parte. El resultado al que se llegó es una propuesta integral que aborda casi todas las necesidades de los inquilinos. Sentimos que hemos hecho grandes progresos en la colaboración y en el tratamiento de los problemas de los inquilinos y, aunque queda mucho por hacer, confiamos en que este progreso continuarå mientras trabajemos juntos para construir un futuro mejor para todos en Villas del Paseo.

Los inquilinos de Villas del Paseo no olvidarĂĄn pronto las dificultades de los Ășltimos meses. Pasamos por un infierno, pero construimos nuestro poder a travĂ©s de la organizaciĂłn y somos mĂĄs fuertes juntos como comunidad. A todos en Houston y mĂĄs allĂĄ que nos ayudaron-gracias, desde el fondo de nuestros corazones. A Community Partners, les agradecemos su buena fĂ©, su apoyo y su franqueza, y la disposiciĂłn que mostraron para escuchar nuestros problemas. Esperamos pasar pĂĄgina y trabajar juntos para escribir un nuevo y mĂĄs brillante capĂ­tulo para Villas del Paseo.

– El Sindicado de Inquilinos de Villas del Paseo

El Sindicato de Inquilinos de Houston (HTU) es una organizaciĂłn de inquilinos en Houston, Texas, comprometidos con la acciĂłn colectiva, la autonomĂ­a y la democracia de base. El Sindicato se creĂł en Junio 2019, iniciado por organizadores de inquilinos que previamente eran miembros de Southwest Defense Network (La Red de Defensa Suroeste), Third Ward Defense Network (La Red de Defensa de Third Ward), la Campaña 2100 Memorial, los Obreros Industriales del Mundo (IWW) – ComitĂ© de Defensa General, y otras asociaciones dedicadas al movimiento inquilino y obrero.

Houston Tenants Union is an organization of tenants in Houston, Texas, committed to collective direct action, independence and rank-and-file democracy. Houston Tenants Union launched in June 2019, initiated by tenant organizers who were previously a part of Southwest Defense Network, Third Ward Defense Network, 2100 Memorial Campaign, Industrial Workers of the World – General Defense Committee, and other housing/tenant and labor movement work.




Source: Libcom.org