by Ashley Nguyen, Alachua County Labor Coalition Coordinator
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak upon Gainesville’s most vulnerable communities, several community members and students from the University of Florida have stepped up in efforts to alleviate the hardships brought on by these unprecedented times.
Gainesville Houseing Justice <https://wwww.facebook.com/GNVHousingJustice/> is a collective formed when it became clear that landlords within Alachua County would not be providing the rent relief that is integral to Gainesville’s adjustment to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the core of the group, composed of Gainesville’s most vulnerable tenants, is a mission to make housing a human right in Alachua County.
GNV Housing Justice exists to coordinate a diverse group of tenants as they organize with their neighbors, form tenants’ councils, and make collective demands of their landlords. These demands may differ based on individual needs, but they are ultimately all linked by common interests in lowered or frozen rent, relief of overdue rent, and collective defense against landlord retaliation.
The group has been able to secure legal advice and is working to build tenant power within the city of Gainesville.
In addition to GNV Housing Justice, students from the University of Florida had reached out to the collective in search of assistance regarding preparation for a possible rent strike.
A large number of students at UF have been locked into off-campus leases and will be forced to pay rent during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with little to no recourse. A significant amount of these students have left their homes and do not currently reside in Gainesville.
As the pandemic continues to pose negative economic impacts on many students and their families, students have petitioned for rent relief and are beginning to organize around tenants’ rights within their housing communities. As a direct result of organizing the UF Student Government is poised to pass a $500,000 rent relief bill.
As the COVID crisis is not going to be resolved any time in the next few months, there exists an urgent need for Gainesville tenants to organize together, specifically into tenants’ unions. Tenants unions allow for vulnerable renters to collectively act against landlords who are unwilling to provide rent relief during a crisis that has economically impacted all members of the Gainesville community.
To get involved in organizing your co-tenants or helping others get organized please fill out our housing survey at bit.ly/2Lc4f9E or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.