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Tenant unions gaining traction in Connecticut

A woman and child enter the Wedgewood apartment complex in Bloomfield.
Yehyun Kim
/
CTMIRROR.ORG
The Wedgewood apartment complex in Bloomfield. Including the Wedgewood union, at least five tenant unions have formed over the past two years to address issues such as maintenance problems, rent raises and evictions.

Tenant unions are on the rise in our state. Camila Vallejo and Ginny Monk, housing reporters for Connecticut Public and the Connecticut Mirror, found that at least five tenant unions had formed with help from the Connecticut Tenants Union (CTTU).

This hour, we hear from Vallejo and Monk, plus organizers with CTTU.

As Vallejo and Monk reported, "Tenants unions form as collective bargaining organizations to address issues such as maintenance problems, rent raises and evictions, among other disputes. Tenant organizing grew in popularity during the pandemic, notably in New York City where tenants organized to fight for rent cancellations."

A new ordinance in New Haven is the first in the state to allow tenant unions to barter with the city's Fair Rent Commission. A similar resolution was recently approved in Hamden, where renters at Seramonte Estates recently unionized.

A Connecticut law passed last session now requires cities with at least 25,000 residents to establish fair rent commissions that, according to the New Haven Register, are "vested with the power to adjust rents if they find any single landlord is pursuing abusive practices in setting rates."

Hamden's Fair Rent Commission is set to meet this week to hear four cases.

Connecticut Public contacted North Point Management Corps., the owners of Seramonte Estates, but did not receive comment.

While the Connecticut Coalition of Property Owners does not have an official stance on tenant unions, we also hear from John Souza, the organization's president and a full-time landlord, about why he feels organizing is "unnecessary," especially under "smaller landlords."

"Everyone is being squeezed by rising prices and inflation including us," Souza said. "The solutions are simple but hard to do."

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Katie is a producer for Connecticut Public Radio's news-talk show Where We Live. She has previously worked for CNN and News 8-WTNH. She enjoys Victorian novels and walks with her dog Sonny.
Lucy is the Executive Producer and Host of Connecticut Public's morning talk show, 'Where We Live.' She’s a longtime public radio reporter covering several beats including immigration, juvenile justice and child welfare issues, education, veterans affairs and the military.