A new group in Nelson hopes to give local renters more power as the housing market conditions get tighter.
The Nelson Tenants Union (NTU) is supported by the Rent Strike Bargain Campaign and held its first meeting on May 7. The group continues to meet weekly on Zoom.
Tenant union organizer James Barbeiro says they want to train tenants to be organized to deal with situations that could see them evicted.
“So the idea is that we want to be prepared for the crazy housing situations that we’re seeing and we want to be ahead of what we predict seeing in the future for housing in Nelson,” Barbeiro said in an interview with Vista Radio.
As far as collective bargaining rights, Barbeiro concedes there are no big commercial landlords but tenants could be neighbourhood collectives.
“We’ve be strategizing to do like neighbourhood associations because tenants live under single household landlords and so it becomes part of a broader solidarity,” he said.
Barbeiro says empowering tenants is important because, too often, they don’t fight for their rights under the BC Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) when facing displacement from “renovictions” or “demovictions”.
One thing the NTU would like to see is rent controls and vacancy controls tied to addresses rather than tenants, meaning a landlord couldn’t put a large rent increase in place once a tenant leaves.
Asked whether their lobbying would be better focused at the province, Barbeiro says they want to lobby at the municipal level, which could address the province. He says rental and housing control would be a “slightly more just system” if it was under municipal control, like it was prior to the BC Residential Tenancy Board (RTB).
“We want to build tenant power…so that we can lobby municipal governments and get local solutions presented because we sort of recognize that the RTB and RTA have some major flaws that leave a lot people misrepresented and feeling like there’s a massive lack of justice,” he said.
Barbeiro says the first NTU meeting on May 7 was “great, it was very energizing” with 35 renters at the Nelson Civic Theater and online. The group meets on Tuesdays for one hour, starting at 6 p.m. For more information on how to join email [email protected]