Where Are They Now? | The Hill District Consensus Group Tenant Rights Workshop Series

Jan 31, 2019

With the support of a Neighborhood Allies Catalytic Grant, the Hill District Consensus Group (HDCG) began an extensive renter’s rights and leadership program to provide tenants with the training and resources needed to organize neighbors, block clubs, and tenant councils to collectively and effectively advocate for more affordable housing.

  • Residents of the Hill District attended the Homes For All Renter Week of Action and Assemblies in 2017, one opportunity given to attendees of the renters rights workshops.

The program entails monthly renter’s rights workshops, connection to local and national training opportunities and provides direct technical assistance to block clubs and tenant councils to help strengthen their work. Each monthly workshop covers a new topic, such as escrow accounts, credit building, state tenant laws, privacy rights, fair housing and disability laws, eviction process and prevention, community land trusts, development without displacement, and more. Ultimately, the sessions are tailored to the specific needs of the residents living in the Hill District and always take into account the unique challenges each attendee may face. The underlying objective of this initiative is to cultivate a cadre or resident leaders who are knowledgeable, skilled, respected and able to work effectively with property owners, community stakeholders, government agencies and other to:

  • Help sustain the existing stock of rental units that are decent, safe and affordable in the Hill District;
  • Limit the number of unnecessary evictions and displacements that are happening in the community;
  • Improve the living conditions of tenants who currently reside in units that are unsafe/inhabitable

Residents listening to speaker Paul Abernathy of FOCUS Pittsburgh and discussing how lack of afforable housing, displacement, cost burdens, and inadequate housing lead to systemic trauma.

“Much of the available affordable housing is deteriorating and some low-to-moderate income residents are being displaced from unstable or aging housing structures. People in need of affordable housing are remaining on wait lists for more than 2 years. In light of these trends, there is an urgent need to find an antidote that will foster inclusion, equity, and much needed tenant education and policy change that ensures everyone can benefit from the equitable housing development in their community,” said Carol Hardeman, Co-Director of the HDCG.

“There is an urgent need to find an antidote that will foster inclusion, equity, and much needed tenant education and policy change that ensures everyone can benefit from the equitable housing development in their community.”

– Carol Hardeman, Co-Director of HDCG

Members of the HDCG Tenants Right Workshop Series at the Homes For All Renter Week of Action and Assemblies in 2017.

While primarily an educational tool, the workshops also serve as a community gathering space and a catalyst for change for Hill District residents. At a session early on, the residents were asked to share their dreams for their community. The workshop segment allowed for residents to discuss community issues and then begin to organize around common goals.

For example, the group, concerned with the creation of affordable housing, became deeply involved in the national Homes For All Campaign, which aims to protect, defend, and expand housing that is truly affordable and dignified for low-income and very low-income communities by engaging those most directly impacted by this crisis through local and national organizing, winning strong local policies that protect renters and homeowners, and shifting the national debate on housing. In 2017, the group attended the Homes For All Renter Week of Action and Assemblies in order to further their knowledge about renter rights and show their support for the values of the Homes For All Initiative.

The HDCG’s tenant protection program is also very much aligned with Neighborhood Allies’ equitable development work and has already elevated the impact and reach of our All-In Pittsburgh Housing Action Team.

“Carol is a true champion of the people in the Hill District and an invaluable member of our All-In Pittsburgh Equitable Development Collaborative. Her work helps ensure that our policy agenda is informed and shaped by the people in our neighborhoods,” said Shad Henderson, Director of Equity and Community Partnerships at Neighborhood Allies.

Above all, the HDCG wants to serve as an amplifier of resident voice. The tenant rights workshops serve as a venue for meaningful collaboration, inentional community support, and hope. HDCG has been at the center of the grassroots anti-displacement work in housing justice in the Hill District and continue to act as a support network, organizer, and resource center for residents. Yet, the important work of advocating for affordable housing in the Hill District and throughout Pittsburgh could not be done without the engagement, cooperation, and insight of residents.

“It’s about the people’s power. We’re just the catalyst.”

-Jamilah Lahijuddin, Community Program Manager and Environmental Justice Organizer at HDCG

“Participants of the workshop are learning effective communication tools, leadership capacity and strategies and being provided with an interactive experience in identifying tenant rights,” said Hardeman. “They are gaining a true understanding of the importance of collective social justice work as tenants.”

The Tenant Rights Monthly Workshops occur on every fourth Thursday of the month at The Hill House Association from 6-8 p.m. The next workshop will be held on Thursday, February 28th. Follow HDCG on Facebook and Twitter for updates and announcements.

The Hill District Consensus Group builds the leadership and power of low-income and working class residents of the Hill District to advance racial and economic justice in our neighborhoods, our schools and our city. We are building a community of hope, justice, and opportunity – a community where all residents have access to living wage jobs, family-supporting benefits, affordable housing, high-quality education, and a voice in the decisions that affect our lives.

Neighborhood Allies’ Catalytic Grants Program provides awards ranging from $1,000 – $75,000 to support ideas that make Pittsburgh area neighborhoods healthier, safer and stronger. The program is open to nonprofit organizations and partnerships serving low-to-moderate income communities in Allegheny County.

Top Header Image Photo Credit: Prototyping Larimer Stories by artist John Peña, photo by OPA