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Push for ‘Tenants Bill of Rights’ Amplifies Tenant Voices in Boyd County

Celina Culver, an Eastern Kentucky SURJ field organizer, observed that many Boyd County residents, especially tenants, voiced their housing challenges during the canvassing. (Photo: Google)

Many tenants, often overlooked when it comes to soliciting their input, enthusiastically engaged with canvassers to discuss their concerns, with housing issues ranking at the forefront of their discussions on the tenants bill of rights.

The organizers selected Eastern Kentucky for its change potential and dedication to rural and small-town communities. (Photo: Google)

Community organizers in Boyd County, Kentucky, were pleasantly surprised by residents’ openness to discuss their lives, including topics related to the tenants bill of rights.

According to an article published by Daily Yonder, community organizers in Boyd County, Kentucky, were pleasantly surprised by residents’ willingness to engage in discussions about their lives. Many renters, despite being less commonly asked for their opinions, eagerly talked to canvassers about their concerns, with housing issues topping the list.

The Appalachian People’s Union, an organization born from this grassroots effort, will initially focus on housing concerns in the region, addressing the tenants bill of rights. Boyd County, situated in a metropolitan area alongside Huntington, West Virginia, faces industrial and fossil fuel production challenges in a predominantly rural context.

Beth Howard, one of the organizers, emphasized that bringing people together is the first step towards change and building a sense of belonging in the community while advocating for the tenants bill of rights. The organizers chose Eastern Kentucky due to its potential for positive change and their commitment to rural areas and small towns.

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The region’s history of working-class resistance and organizing also made it conducive to creating a large coalition, facilitated by Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), the parent organization of the Appalachian People’s Union, which concentrates on economic and racial justice and advocates for the tenants bill of rights.

According to an article published by Igor News, Celina Culver, an Eastern Kentucky field organizer for SURJ, noted that many residents in Boyd County, particularly tenants, shared their housing struggles during the canvassing effort. They spoke of enduring long periods without heat, pest infestations, and landlords neglecting repairs, all of which took a toll on their well-being and underscored the pressing need for a tenants bill of rights.

The fear of confronting landlords in a dwindling affordable housing market left them feeling powerless, emphasizing the importance of implementing a tenants bill of rights to address these issues. In response, the Appalachian People’s Union organized a housing rights rally in Ashland, attended by over 70 people.

Attendees donned red bandanas, symbolizing solidarity reminiscent of the historic “Redneck Army” from the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921. The group’s next goal is to advocate for a “Tenants Bill of Rights” at the local council to offer renters more housing protections. They envision future collaboration on various issues, believing that addressing material needs can lead to broader societal transformations, including the implementation of a “Tenants Bill of Rights.”

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