The right to housing: stand together, win together!

BY: Mitchell Wilson| December 16, 2022
The right to housing: stand together, win together!


The fight for housing rights is heating up across the United States, especially when it comes to the issues of rentals and tenancy.

Members of the CPUSA in Northern Virginia joined a demonstration on Nov. 16 at the Southern Towers apartment complex in Alexandria, VA to support residents of the complex in their fight against the new management company, CIM Group. The action was organized by African Communities Together (ACT).

Research by ACT found that the Los Angeles-based real estate company bought Southern Towers for $506 million in 2020, financially supported by Freddie Mac and various public pension funds. Since then, residents have been experiencing rent hikes amid unaddressed rodent and insect infestations, and mold-spewing air conditioning units. Tenants in the building have also been served eviction notices that violate the 30-days’ notice rule established by the CARES Act.

“As the largest multifamily transaction of 2020 and one of the biggest in Alexandria’s history, CIM has also been one of the most aggressive landlords seeking to evict its residents,” ACT reports on its website. “CIM has led 27% of all eviction proceedings in Alexandria, obtaining almost half a million dollars in legal judgments against families unable to pay rent.”

ACT also highlighted the racist aspect of CIM Group’s activities. “Nearly two thirds of the residents of Southern Towers are Black, and over 60% of residents are foreign born,” the community organization pointed out.

The issues at Southern Towers are by no means isolated ones. Rent costs have been skyrocketing around the nation, pricing out many poor and working class communities. As is the case in Alexandria, the communities which are targeted by rent increases are often majority immigrant, Black and brown, or both. Evictions are also a huge problem being faced by tenants, as many landlords are kicking working class families out of their homes in order to make surface level renovations for higher-income tenants.

These rent increases and evictions are major drivers of gentrification, of the displacement and disruption of minority and lower-income families and communities. This process of replacing working class and majority Black and brown communities with higher-income and generally whiter people is happening in neighborhoods all across the country.

In Northern Virginia—as in the entire Washington D.C. metropolitan area—the problem has reached a crisis level. Fortunately, working-class and minority tenants are fighting back.

At the Nov. 16 demonstration, the Southern Towers residents and their supporters gathered outside of the building to make CIM meet with the tenants and hear their list of demands, stop the evictions, and provide crucial maintenance to apartments in the complex.

Chants were a main feature of the event and drew the attention of fellow tenants, as well as the management of the building. Phrases such as “The people united will never be defeated” and “We are the tenants, the mighty mighty tenants” echoed throughout the parking lot and courtyard of Southern Towers. It was a heartwarming show of solidarity between Black, brown and immigrant working class families, and other individuals and organizations which came to support the residents of the complex in their fight.

When we stand together, we win together!

If you want to support the residents of Southern Towers, you can head to ACT’s #ACT4SouthernTowers campaign website. Scroll down to see “How to support the #ACT4SouthernTowers campaign” module, and open the toolkit to learn what you can do.

Another way to participate in the fight for tenants’ rights is to organize your own community. Much like workplaces can be unionized, so too can groups of tenants living in a building together. Collective demands are a powerful way to improve your living conditions. If you live in an apartment complex or a rental unit, speak to your neighbors about their concerns. Is the rent too high? Are they being priced out? Is maintenance being ignored? Are they being threatened?

Make sure to learn your rights as a tenant under your states’ laws and stick together with others in your building. The HUD website contains a tenants rights page you can consult to find out what laws in your state tenants can use to protect and expand their rights.

Images: CPUSA Virginia


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