Last semester UC Berkeley student Daniel joined the Tenants Together team as a Spanish Translation Intern. Dani spent the semester translating outreach and know-your-rights materials from English to Spanish and counseling on our Tenant Foreclosure Hotline. Born and raised primarily in Spain, Dani brought an important international perspective to our work. He is spending this semester abroad in France and sent us a few of the sociological observations he's made so far:
"I've been asking about tenancy in France, and apparently there is a real tenancy crisis here. That is, the cities, especially Paris, are overcrowded and people are being stuffed into small apartments while being asked to pay sky-high rents. There are those who search for an apartment in Paris for months and must face defeat. Some activist organizations even break into people's unoccupied houses and place tenants in need of housing there."
"Also, the requirements for tenancy are much different. If you go to an immobilier (realtor agency), they ask for a lot of private information, not just whether you have a job, but also your bank account, your last paycheck, your tax accounts, and a letter from your employer. It all seems a bit excessive, which is why a lot of people prefer to make private arrangements through online postings, etc."
"On the positive side, they have a rather nice law which says that you can't evict anyone during the winter months, even if they don't pay their rent! There is also a rather helpful social services branch called Caisse d'allocations familiales (CAF) which financially assists students and low income families so that they can pay their rent. Even as a foreign student, I can opt for this aid! So in this sense, the French government is very generous."
Do you have an international perspective? Landlord/tenant struggles share commonalities across borders, and it's always helpful to glean inspiration and lessons from fellow activists, wherever they may be. Please share your observations on laws and organizing models from abroad in the comments.