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Homegrown housing crisis: A fight for basic rights

Mel Rising Dawn Cordeiro

Managing Editor

photo taken by Mel Rising Dawn Cordeiro

Tenants and former tenants of a West Warwick apartment building protested to demand better living conditions on Oct. 2. These people reached their breaking point and took their voices to the street outside their Pioneer Investments building on Washington Street. Their requests were simple: working appliances, fixed windows, fire exits and other basic repairs.

Protests such as these are occurring more frequently. The cost of rent has gone up exponentially, there is no excuse for allowing someone to live without having the basic needs met. I too have recently had this struggle with my rental agency, as it took almost three weeks to get in touch with someone to fix my broken heater. I was lucky enough to have the ability to call a lawyer, who sent a letter to the agency and ensured my heater was properly fixed. Not everyone has that luxury. I am still waiting, after two months though, for someone to fix my shower.

In an April press release by ONE Neighborhood Builders, Margaux Morisseau, deputy director of the Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness stated that, “Currently 1,318 people are experiencing homelessness in Rhode Island. Our state’s rental vacancy rate is at an all-time low, causing market rents to rise out of control. People who were housing burdened are being priced out of their homes and ending up needing shelter. Our shelters are full to capacity and because of the lack of affordable housing, people living in shelters have nowhere to move to.”

The unfortunate reality of this situation is that no state has an adequate supply of affordable housing, no matter the financial gap.

That does shed some light on why rental prices are high, which, no doubt, also surged out of control due to the pandemic. But this doesn’t explain the landlord and/or rental company’s refusal to fix their properties. One possible explanation is that companies and individuals are buying too many properties and are having trouble affording their mortgages as well as general upkeep. Unfortunately, there is no proper answer. There can be many excuses and explanations, but none of them are good enough. Tenants are often met with radio silence, afraid they’re going to be retaliated against and possibly evicted.

If you are renting, please be aware of your rights to a livable place. Please also be fully aware of your rights to rental repairs and maintenance. Neither of these sources are meant to be solid legal advice but serve as great guides. Before taking action against any landlord, please consult with a lawyer who has experience in tenant law. They will be able to properly guide you through your next steps. Legal services, such as LegalShield, are also great resources.


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