Tenant organizing builds collective power for tenants to stand up against neglectful landlords, rising rents, and poor living conditions. Practically, it can range from anything like creating a demand letter for residents to sign and send to management to creating a tenants association for an entire building, or buildings, across the city.
Yes! Tenant unions, from individual buildings, neighborhoods, and entire cities exist in Kansas City, Los Angeles, all over the country and the world. Philadelphia has its own city-wide tenants union too: the Philadelphia Tenants Union. They’ve won major victories, including negotiating a five year, affordable lease with a new landlord in Boston, tenants forming a cooperative and purchasing their building in DC, and winning city council seats for their leaders and endorsed candidates in Kansas City.
Rent is out of control in Philadelphia. Check out our interactive map below of Fair Market Rate rent increases by zip code over the past year. Fair Market Rents are assessed at the 40th percentile of rent, so these represent below-average rents.
This is a map of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development's Small Area Fair Market Rents for 2022 and 2023 in Philadelphia. Fair Market Rents are calculated by the federal government every year to measure the 40th percentile of rents paid by recent movers in a given area. Fair Market Rents are slightly lower than the median rental price in the area. Landlords review Fair Market Rents every year to make sure they are charging an adequate amount for their property. The Philadelphia Housing Authority uses Fair Market Rents to determine the payment standards for Housing Choice Vouchers (also known as Section 8). For data source, see the HUD data access portal.
Philly is in the midst of a housing crisis, especially for low-income, working-class tenants. Between 2016 and 2021, the percentage of cost-burdened renters (when a tenant pays more than 30% of their income in rent) in Philadelphia increased by 13% for households earning between $35,000 and $50,000 and increased by 12% among households earning between $50,000 and $75,000. People are being priced out of their neighborhoods and forced to choose between paying rent or leaving their communities.
Tenants in Philadelphia have little power against landlords. A 2022 report by Community Legal Services, which provides legal services to low-income Philadelphians, found that fewer than 8% of tenants surveyed who faced eviction won their cases in landlord-tenant court. Landlords also aren’t held accountable by the city–only 7% of rental units in the city are inspected each year by the Department of Licenses and Inspection (L&I).
The Renters’ Justice Collective (RJC) builds tenant power to confront landlords who put profit over people. We work alongside other tenants to organize buildings and demand necessary repairs are made. In addition to active building organizing efforts, we hold open monthly meetings and canvasses to strategically explore conditions in buildings across the city. RSVP for one here!
We will fight to win better conditions for renters and to create a Philadelphia where housing is a human right, not a commodity! Landlord and developer lobbies will fight tooth and nail to uphold the power imbalance between landlords and renters. The only way we are going to win is with a broad base of organized tenants who are willing to take on slumlords, greedy developers, and establishment, corporate-backed, anti-tenant politicians.
Want to get involved? RSVP for an event or fill out our interest form here.
While we aren’t a legal services organization, we have a resource guide to help connect tenants to the services they’re looking for.
Also check out this guide with more specific services here.
The RJC became an official Philly DSA campaign via this resolution in October, 2023.
The Housing Committee meets monthly for updates, political education, and community-building. RSVP to an upcoming meeting here.
In Winter/Spring of 2023, we pursued a Rent Control campaign to push mayoral candidates to talk about the struggles Philly renters face. Learn more about that campaign here.
Check out this report we published with Philly Power Research on campaign contributions from the Real Estate and Building Industry sector in the 2023 primary election.
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