The Houston Tenants Union reports on the successful end to a rent strike that lasted two months. The strike began following the Texas ‘deep freeze,’ which left many homes and apartment complexes with broken pipes and uninhabitable conditions.
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.
“People just woke up, and found themselves in extreme, life threatening danger.” We talked to autonomous mutual aid and tenant groups across four different cities in #Texas to find out how they got organized in the face of deadly storms. https://t.co/E0jSKK3dna pic.twitter.com/iC4EVoLrD2
— It’s Going Down (@IGD_News) March 12, 2021
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.
Houston Tenants Union
Statement from the VDP Tenants Union
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.