Jul 20, 2021
Dozens of tenants across Miami rallied outside the Government Center on Tuesday, demanding increased protections against unsafe conditions and evictions, under the banner of a tenants bill of rights.
They chanted “Housing is a human right,” as a county committee meeting was held inside to officially launch a campaign led by the Miami Workers Center, demanding a Tenants Bill of Rights, a set of policies aimed at strengthening and expanding protections for tenants and their families in Miami-Dade County to reduce the widespread displacement and abuse they face.
Tenants like James Watley, a 74-year-old U.S. Army veteran who lives at New Arena Apartments in Overtown, explained that he has lived for years with flooding in his apartment which his landlord has refused to respond to – which cost him hundreds of dollars. out of his own pocket trying to solve the problem.
When he then received a water bill for $ 520, the landlord expected him to cover this payment in addition to his rent. When Watley deducted part of the cost of the exorbitant bill from his rent, the landlord served him three days’ notice, the precursor to a formal eviction notice.
“I want the people of Miami and our Miami-Dade County Commissioners to know that this is wrong… by the time I finish paying my rent, electric bill, and water bill, I have so little left… I’m 74 years old, I have health issues and I pay my rent… I deserve to be treated with respect, I deserve to be able to live comfortably, ”said Watley. “Just as landlords have rights, we tenants also have rights.
“I know I’m not the only one with the same complaints. They take our money when we have to suffer, and I don’t want to do it anymore. Today I speak on behalf of older tenants, veterans like myself. , in support of this campaign on the Tenants Bill of Rights. If we don’t make a change, these owners will continue to take advantage of us for the rest of our lives. “
Santra Denis, executive director of the Miami Workers Center – a membership organization run by a multiracial, multigenerational base that seeks to build power among poor tenants and the working class, especially underpaid women of color – explained the process that led the organization to launch the campaign.
“After knocking on nearly 2,000 doors throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to get in touch with tenants most vulnerable to evictions, abuse and displacement, we have decided to lead this campaign,” a- she declared. the experience of tenants living in Miami, from black women who have been discriminated against and prevented from accessing an apartment, to tenants who have had to flee their buildings due to mold and infestations … to tenants who tell us a story The eviction filed against them six years ago prevented them from having a decent apartment because this kind of discrimination remains legal and widespread. “
According to the Miami Workers Center, 1 in 20 tenants in the county’s black neighborhoods faced eviction during the pandemic. Meanwhile, the same communities most at risk of eviction also face extremely dangerous living conditions, both in private and public housing.
Tenant leaders and organizers have stressed that, especially in light of the massive Surfside tragedy, now is the time to increase the liability and protection of Miami tenants. They want to see the Tenant Bill of Rights policy package passed this year by county commissioners.
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