There are many reasons to organize a tenant council. The biggest one is that when we try to defend, assert, or expand our rights or position in society all by ourselves we are weak, ineffective, and constantly ignored. But when we stand together and make the same demands, we have power. We are much more effective and we cannot be easily ignored.

People come together in tenant councils for the same reasons they come together in labor unions, civil rights groups, women’s groups and many other kinds of organizations: because working together wins concrete improvements in people’s lives, builds a sense of community and personal power, and wins us more control over our daily lives.

When you make a decision to organize a tenant council, you are turning the day-to-day world of alienation, isolation, and greed on its head. By rejecting this model, you are making a commitment to your fellow tenants in the building to work together for the common good. At the same time, you are building community where community may not have existed before. If you organize well, personal issues and prejudices will no longer be able to keep you divided; as people organize, it’s quite common for these divisions to dissolve. This is another great reason to organize!

issues can we organize around?

Section 8 tenants often have similar issues that they choose to organize around. Following are some typical issues:

  • The government has just announced a huge cutback.
  • The government is not committing to low-income housing.
  • The owner is getting out of the Section 8 program.
  • The owner is not making necessary repairs.
  • The owner is discriminating against tenants.
  • The owner is selling the building.
  • The owner is choosing to pre-pay the subsidized mortgage.
  • The manager is entering apartments without notice.
  • The manager is giving better apartments to “friends”.
  • The manager is treating tenants disrespectfully.
  • The tenants have no sense of community and never talk.
  • The tenants feel left in the dark about the long-term security and affordability of their housing.