In an effort to inform Ypsilanti renters, the Ypsilanti Tenants Union hosted a Tenant Organizing 101 workshop on Sunday, Nov. 12.
The workshop, held at the Ypsilanti Farmers Marketplace Hall, welcomed residents on Sunday afternoon with information packets and a presentation to start the session off.
The Ypsilanti Tenants Union is an organization that exists to organize tenants, helping them create their own tenant associations and fight for material improvement in living conditions.
Founded on the guiding principles of class solidarity, collective action, and mutual aid, the Ypsilanti Tenants Union serves as a resource and network of Tenant Associations.
The workshop featured an interactive discussion on what a tenant association is; there were a variety of ways to describe the concept.
A tenant association, as defined by the union, is “a group of tenants living in the same building or development who choose to join forces in order to advocate for themselves, particularly when dealing with their landlord or management.”
Residents attending the workshop learned what they could do in a tenant association, including building relationships with neighbors, sharing resources, and advocating needs to landlords.
“Sometimes it’s easier to know your neighbors if you live in a complex, but sometimes houses are scattered everywhere and it feels very isolating,” said Em, a member of the Ypsilanti Tenants Union. “I think it’s really important that those people who are feeling isolated know that they’re not facing different problems than other people.”
The McKinley Tenants Association, local to the Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor area, cited issues including mold, mice, mildew, and flooded basements and laundry rooms, along with rising rent prices. They have a list of demands addressed to McKinley Properties, one of the largest multifamily owners/operators in the region.
The McKinley Tenants Association joined the workshop and shared their experiences of organizing. The association has gone to local government meetings to advocate for themselves.
Lisa Voelker, a longtime Ypsilanti renter, has faced similar challenges with the management of her home.
“The quality of our housing has gone down,” said Voelker. “I continue to feel like I hit kind of a dead end, and so I just wanted to be a little bit more educated and get a sense of who else is interested in organizing like this.”
The union promoted working together on issues in the workshop. The time ended with breakout sessions for attendees sorted based on property managers. Some included Barnes and Barnes Apartment Rental, Old Town Realty, and Beal Properties.
The main takeaway for the event’s organizers was the opportunity to bring tenants together.
“When you come together with people, it is a lot more powerful,” Em said. “There’s a lot more you can get accomplished if you are coming as a group.”