As they revive a long-dormant form of protest, rent strikers in London and San Francisco must learn lessons from the great strikes of the 20th century.
When you can no longer afford to pay your rent, only one course of action remains: stop paying it. On both sides of the Atlantic, tenants are militating against the unbearable pressure of the housing market via the only locus of power available to them — going on rent strike.
MIDTOWN APARTMENTS, SAN FRANCISCO
Jose LaCrosby was an African-American hair stylist to the stars. Nina Simone, James Brown and Miles Davis all frequented his San Francisco salon. Terminally ill at the age of 89, LaCrosby was told by his doctors that he should return to die among his friends in Midtown Apartments.
But the City of San Francisco had just hiked rents by up to 300 percent. If the Korean War veteran wanted to move back in to a ground-floor apartment it would now cost him $3700 a month. LaCrosby had lived in Midtown for two decades, but he spent the last 7 months of his life under fluorescent lights in an anodyne hospice ward, unable to afford the grossly inflated rent.
LaCrosby’s treatment is symptomatic of the way Midtown is being used as an asset to be stripped for cash, says long-time resident and Save Midtownorganizer Jay Majitov. “This community is being displaced by the greed and avarice of property pimps preying on the weak and the disenfranchised,” he explains. Many of Majitov’s neighbors moved into Midtown after being socially cleansed from other areas of San Francisco in the 1960s, on what they understood was a rent-to-buy agreement.
But though Midtown paid off its collective mortgage in 2007, the city reneged on its agreement to hand the building over to the tenants. Instead, Midtowners were hit with a threefold increase in rent, far outstripping the maximum increase set by San Francisco rent controls. Appalled by this betrayal of trust, the tenants of 65 Midtown apartments have been withholding their rent increase since August 2015. more……
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