By Cristina Cabada, Alachua County Labor Coalition Coordinator
It’s no surprise that Gainesville has been suffering from a housing crisis for decades. However, the almost radioactive effects of the covid-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession have led to the worst housing crisis of the century.
The statewide eviction moratorium has effectively delayed hundreds of evictions from being filed. In spite of this, as soon as Governor DeSantis’ order expires on Sept. 1, hundreds in our community will be facing wrongful evictions.
Housing is a human right, to strip someone of this right through the filing of an eviction during a public health crisis and an economic recession is both inhumane and wrong. Gainesville residents deserve better than this; they deserve to be protected from unjust evictions.
Before the eviction moratorium is lifted, we need to prepare and organize. Landlords and developers have had far too much influence in Gainesville, it’s imperative for tenants to rise up and build power to fight against corporate and private interests.
The Alachua County Tenants Association was formed out of the Alachua County Labor Coalition housing project to empower tenants in Gainesville and ensure that every person is granted their fundamental right to safe, affordable and sustainable housing.
Gainesville Socialist Alternative is an integral part of the group and its members have stepped into leadership with organizing enthusiasm. No person deserves to face an eviction – it’s an indefensible process for a tenant that only makes it harder to find future housing as they are deemed risky. Moreover evicted tenants will be burdened with another security deposit, additional fees and, at times, first and last month’s rent payment to secure housing for themselves.
The Alachua County Tenants Association is made up of the canvassing, data, and mail teams. The most essential team is the canvas team which goes door to door to people who have evictions filed against them to explain their rights as a tenant, provide them with resources to help them fight their eviction and for the team to get a better understanding of the needs of the community.
The mail team sends out letters with resource information to households facing eviction every week. We are connecting people with Three Rivers Legal Services who are providing free legal services about evictions and the eviction process. The mail team is also providing information about the Alachua County Cares Act and other resources to help people stay in their homes.
Right now we are addressing the eviction crisis reactively, as we are only reaching out to people who are already facing evictions. However, we want to transition our strategy to aggressively attack the problems tenants face in Gainesville.
Our next steps are to begin flyering and surveying neighborhoods with high numbers of evictions and to identify the properties owned by landlords who are filing a large number of evictions. The information gathered here will allow us to better understand the housing crisis here in Gainesville and allow us to tailor strategies to prevent people from being evicted in the first place. We want to facilitate neighbors organizing with each other to establish long term tenant power within Gainesville.
Help us build tenant power in Gainesville and join The Alachua County Tenants Association to tackle the current evictions crisis. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to get involved.