Spurred in part by COVID and by a growing housing affordability crisis, tenant organizing is picking up in not just expected places like New York, but in mid-sized cities like Austin and Baltimore, and even smaller cities like Louisville, Kentucky, and Portland, Maine. Increasingly, tenant organizing is not just winning battles against landlords, but changing public policy. For instance, rent control was passed in Portland, Maine, last November.

In this 90-minute webinar, cosponsored and co-moderated by NPQ and Shelterforce, tenant activists shared their stories, both in direct tenant organizing and policy advocacy.

Moderated by NPQ Economic Justice Senior Editor Steve Dubb and Shelterforce Editor in Chief Miriam Axel-Lute, the participants in this wide-ranging conversation are:

  • Anneke Dunbar-Gronke, who works at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. They live and work in Baltimore, representing tenants, supporting tenant organizing, and developing community land trusts and housing cooperatives.
  • Gabriela Garcia, who is Project Coordinator at BASTA (Building and Strengthening Tenant Action) based in Austin, Texas.
  • Wes Pelletier, who is a tenant organizer with the Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, which has run campaigns establishing and expanding tenant protections in Portland. He helped establish the Trelawny Tenants Union, which represents hundreds of renters in Portland.

Among the themes explored are the following:

  • What is tenant organizing and what is the work that tenant organizers do?
  • How do tenant unions build power?
  • How do location and political context affect tenant organizing?
  • What role can tenant organizing play in changing city and state housing policy?
  • What would be the best advice to give to anyone facing the threat of eviction?
  • How are tenant organizations pursuing community ownership of real estate as a longer-term strategy?
  • How can other sectors connect with tenant organizing?


  • Miriam Axel-Lute, editor, “Tenant Power Returns” (multi-article series), Shelterforce, November 14, 2022 (through May 4, 2023).