Working on renters’ issues in Lyndale called to me through the lens of an educator. I live for the challenges and little victories I experience every day at our community school not because I have patience and hope but because continuity is on my side. When a family gains understanding of the ins and outs of our school, when teachers are able to collaborate about the skills and needs of a child as they progress to the next grade level, when we are able to construct a shared foundation of knowledge as educators and students, we have the advantage of successful learning relationships.
Recently, I’ve heard an increasing amount of personal accounts from our families about stressful and costly evictions, tenant-landlord miscommunications that could be avoided, and building conditions that need to be improved. These circumstances result in high mobility that undoes progress at school and in our neighborhood as we lose these residents’ stories, skills, and companionship. When this is combined with rising rents our community becomes less stable and Lyndale faces the potential loss of our neighborhood’s cultural and economic diversity.
A group of us has begun working with people who are referred to the Lyndale Neighborhood Association (LNA) looking for answers and wondering if other people in those buildings might be confronting the same situations, and if so, how can we possibly serve them? In additions to referrals we have also been making calls and doorknocking to bring people together.
On Friday, August 22nd we met for the third time with a group of community members who are teaching one another about the rights and responsibilities of a renter-landlord relationship including how to document their housing situation before, during, and after their stay by maintaining and understanding copies of leases and letters between parties, filling out condition reports upon move-in, and taking photos.
We also have had many queries about repairs and have been filling out and sending formal requests in order to have them carried out in a timely matter. We’ve discussed security deposits, problems with common spaces, and obtaining proof of utilities paid by the landlord as a basis for shared billing. We’re learning to consult with Legal Aid, Home Line and their wonderful publication “How to be the Smartest Renter on Your Block.” Apart from this concrete knowledge we’re starting to build visions of great rental properties and great landlords because we want more of them!
Hopefully, when these efforts are articulated and carried out they’ll become part of LNA’s ongoing work, they’ll help us build proactive, positive tenant-landlord relationships and eventually the long-term stability of neighbors-that-rent will mirror that of neighbors-that-own. Especially in a community where there are 2,587 renter occupied units and 791 owner occupied units, let’s make continuity an opportunity for everyone, and participation from residents representing various living situations a priority for LNA. After all, diversity is what brought me to Lyndale in the first place, and its preservation is what keeps me here today.