Tenant Power: Developing Tenant Organizing Tools With Movements for Housing Justice

Authors: Eric Robsky Huntley*, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Topics: Urban Geography, Geographic Information Science and Systems, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: housing justice, digital geographies, scholar-activism, mapping
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 22
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The already-acute housing crisis in Massachusetts has been radically exacerbated by COVID-19. While formal eviction proceedings have been on hold since April 2020, landlords have nevertheless successfully unhoused renters through tactics ranging from neglect to abuse. Even Massachusetts renters who until recently were protected by a state-wide eviction moratorium that substantially strengthened the national CDC rule now lack that protection: the moratorium lapsed several days before I submitted this abstract. Activists are currently bracing for a 'tsunami' of evictions throughout the state.

This paper will share the results of one effort to build tenant power and organizing capacity: a tool called Tenant Power, developed with the Housing Justice Working Group of Mutual Aid Medford and Somerville (MAMAS). Building upon and contributing to a long line of activist research---including that of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, JustFix NYC's Who Owns What, and several post-COVID efforts by organizers in the United States---this paper will primarily serve as documentation of our methods and as a reflection on our approach. We used supervised machine learning to deduplicate property records, a method that proved fairly robust if also predictably fallible (and subject to various biases, as I will discuss). Finally, I will reflect on the tensions of working between technical constraints, activist communities, and scholarly identity alongside one of many communities struggling towards housing justice.

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