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Statement: Choose Food Over Rent

The following is a statement from the Americas Coordination / Coordinadora de las Américas, a joint project between Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation (U.S), Solidaridad (Chile), and Acción Socialista Libertaria (Argentina).

Originally published by Black Rose Anarchist federation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated an already difficult situation for working class tenants everywhere especially affecting women and migrant communities. Over the last decade, neoliberal policies coupled with gentrification have turned affordable housing into a crisis, leaving many families houseless. Following several months of unemployment or underemployment, incomes are drying up and landlords are demanding their rent, pushing tenants to organize rent strikes through their tenants unions or associations. Some cities in response to public pressure have enacted temporary eviction bans. Others have simply suggested “guidelines” to landlords. The pandemic itself has forced most housing courts to close, whether they wanted to or not.

While the current crisis caught working people off-guard, the past five years of tenant organizing in cities large and small has proven invaluable in fighting back against evictions and the demands of landlords. Nevertheless, the pandemic has made the most common organizing tools — the mass meeting, the protest march, the in-person one-on-one conversation — largely unavailable. Video and phone calls have filled the gap, and groups are experimenting with car-based caravan rallies as well as hanging rent strike signs from their windows to show solidarity. But when evictions take place, often technically illegally, we’re not afraid to blockade those evictions and move people back in, if need be.

But the housing court closures and eviction bans won’t last. We are now in a relatively brief window of opportunity for us to build the organizational and social forces necessary to resist what will otherwise be a catastrophic tidal wave of evictions that would accelerate existing gentrification trends.

In Chile, a Latin American country with a high rate of 75% private debt in housing and with its own housing cataloged by the Chilean chamber of commerce as unreachable, the payments for rent is a fundamental link in the chain of the payments to capital. Not paying rent is a form of self-defense in this crisis.

In Argentina, the government has prohibited evictions and the rise of rent. Even though the price of the rent was stable, the capacity of families in this economic crisis has become unviable, placing them in ever higher debt to be able to afford daily life. At this moment, while mass evictions are not occurring it is clear that once those restrictions are removed, the struggle around housing will become a major effect of the coronavirus. Debt, evictions, homelessness, etc, will be a common theme of this social crisis. While always a part of everyday working peoples struggles, they will inevitably feel these struggles with more intensity.

We need to take advantage of these opportunities to both help renters stay in their homes and encourage them to fight for a world in which housing is free and available to all.

Rent strike! Huelga de arriendos!
Stop evictions! Basta de desalojos!
Abolish Rent. Social Housing For All. Abolición de los alquileres! Socialización de la vivienda!

For resources on tenant and rent strike organizing see here.

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