By Shafiqullah Aziz, TCHC Tenant, Cataraqui (Scarborough)
As the current situation with TCHC unfolds – Bill 140 threatening to throw open the door to the privatization of social housing, the firing of all members of the former TCHC board, the approval by Ootes to sell 22 units, with a one-man TCHC board occupied by Case Ootes, among many other actions – it is clear that the working class tenants of TCHC housing are being bombarded from all sides by provincial and municipal governments.
So the question arises, what should we do about this? What should the working poor TCHC tenants do about the possible privatization of the management and ownership of their homes? The answer lies in the tested, tried, and true method of grass-roots community organizing, led by tenants, for tenants, and to the benefit of the greatest amount of tenants as possible. Not only is this one of the only methods that can be effectively used by tenants throughout the city, it is by far the strongest.
What does grass-roots community organizing actually mean? It basically follows the idea that we as tenants, as individuals separate from any existing NGOs or governmental bodies, can effectively launch a massive campaign to bring the threat of privatization of our homes to a grinding halt. There are many ways that this may come about, and the key principle here is to empower ourselves to take control of matters that will directly affect our lives. Currently there are approximately 165,000 tenants living in TCHC housing, and with numbers of this size, there is a lot of progress that tenants can make by working together in one large, united collective.
Essentially, tenants would reach out to their neighbours, family and friends who all live in TCHC housing to stop the possible privatization of our homes. This approach must be used in as many communities as possible throughout the city. Spreading the word by going door to door, carrying conversations with community members, posting agitational materials throughout your neighbourhood, urging tenants to join in the struggle to keep our homes from being privatized are all tactics that may be used to gain support and solidify the power of the tenants.
These efforts and strategies must be guided by an organization whose general membership and leadership is comprised of TCHC tenants. Here are some guidelines to think about for the creation of such an organization:
1. The organization must have an authentic TCHC tenant leadership that represents the interests of the whole and not of a few individuals.
2. Meetings, discussions, town halls, etc., must be held in a manner that will respect the voices and concerns of the people; any disrespectful facilitators and rogue leadership that may lead the people astray must be questioned, and if necessary recalled to avoid the division of our collective efforts.
3. Those tenants who volunteer to take on a leadership position must be embraced and not excluded from the activities of this tenant-organizing group (especially women of colour, youth, queer and transgendered people, and other marginalized peoples representing various segments of our diverse population)
4. The leadership of such an organization must be subordinate to the greater general body of tenants within the organization; the leadership is only in place to carry out the wishes and demands of the tenants, which must be approved by and can be overturned by majority votes during meetings.
5. Individuals or groups which have a vested interest or may financially/politically gain from defending the former TCHC board and maintaining the former corrupt system, must not be allowed to co-opt the movement for their own personal benefit.
6. A genuine, independent tenants’ organization must follow the mandates set out by the democratic process advanced by TCHC tenants. The strategy devised by the organization must always emphasize and represent the interests of all TCHC tenants; the organization must appeal to the largest amount of TCHC tenants it can gather throughout the city; and the tasks assigned by the organization must be carried out in a time-efficient and effective manner at the initiative of the mass membership.
Tenants need an organization of our own. The time for the mass mobilization of TCHC tenants is now! We must use our strength as a unified force of tenants to exercise our democratic rights, and refuse the privatization of our homes. If we are not able to organize at this point in time, or homes and communities face privatization, leading to the selling off of our homes, massive increases in rent, unaccountable management, and the general deterioration in the quality of our homes as private owners aim to increase profits, not serve the people.
We must fight to attain control of our homes and our lives. No longer will we be idle as Rob Ford, Case Ootes and City Hall sells off our social housing.
There are many organizing efforts by tenants at this time. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to start organizing around these issues.
FOR PUBLIC HOUSING! FOR TENANT POWER!
TCHC HOMES ARE NOT FOR SALE!