At WSCO, We believe that everyone deserves to live in safe, dignified, and affordable homes without fear of displacement. We envision and work towards a West Side where everyone lives in dignity and security. We organize with our neighbors to build power and create systemic change in our community.
We are grounded in the histories of displacement that have affected the West Side, from the forced removal of the Dakota people in 1851, to the destruction of the immigrant community on the Riverside Flats in the early 1960’s, to today’s displacement of low-income people of color due to gentrification.
We organize with renters on the West Side of Saint Paul to address repair issues, exploitation, evictions, and rent hikes, because housing is a right, not a commodity.
On November 3, 2021, Saint Paul voted YES for rent stabilization! Every single precinct of the West Side voted yes too. That's the power of the people! Led by the Housing Equity Now! St. Paul (HENS) Coalition, community organizations across the city succeeded passing a policy that will keep tenants, especially low-wealth and BIPOC households, from getting priced out of their homes.
“I remember a few years back we sat around a table and we were feeling the hopelessness and despair of so many neighbors (including several of us at the table with our own lived experiences of housing instability) and we were just like What IF, What IF we could just put a cap on the rent? Even if it was only a glimmer of hope. Fast forward to actually bringing those words, that hope, to life.” –Monica Bravo, Executive Director, West Side Community Organization
Here at WSCO, we're full of gratitude for all the West Side volunteers, neighbors, and organizers who joined the campaign to build power together so we can Keep Saint Paul Home. We're proud to be a part of the Housing Equity Now Saint Paul coalition leading the way for this historic housing justice policy!
Read the full statement from HENS: https://www.housingequitystp.org/election_night_statement
Above: West Side neighbors, WSCO staff, and more Housing Equity Now! St. Paul coalition leaders and members celebrate after a successful campaign to get rent stabilization on the ballot
West Siders celebrate a historic win
West Sider Myisha Holley stepped up to coordinate neighborhood volunteers for rent stabilization at out Get Out The Vote Hub. She reflects: “By passing rent stabilization, it allows families the ability to afford necessities that we had to forego. It will assist in keeping families from being displaced.” Fellow neighbor Carlos Garcia-Velasco shared, “I want to ground us in what this fight really means for a lot of us: rent stabilization to me is about renters having a voice and the power to vote YES on something that directly impacts our lives. Here on the West Side, like the rest of Saint Paul, 50% of us are renters. And if we say, ‘We love our community,’ well, then we don’t want to be run out. Renters deserve roots in communities.”
“What we're talking about is the importance of being good neighbors," says Marcus Troy, longtime West Side renter and WSCO board member. "Rent stabilization allows us to stay in our communities and meet new neighbors, become friends with new neighbors, look out for new neighbors. Rent stabilization solidifies the community– don't let people come in, buy up the property, and uproot us. Being stable in the community solidifies us as neighbors, as friends, makes sure we're all safe, and looking out for one another.”
Learn more about rent stabilization here.
The fight isn't over! Take action to protect our win by telling Mayor Carter and our St. Paul City Councilmember Rebecca Noecker to implement and enforce this ordinance according to the will of voters. Click here to learn more!
S.A.F.E. Tenant Protections
We are proud to have been a part of the 2020 campaign led by the Housing Equity Now! St. Paul (HENS) Coalition to win S.A.F.E. Housing Tenant Protections!
"Built on years of advocacy and groundwork by tenants and housing advocates, we organized community members across the city in a grassroots campaign to elevate the need for tenant protections as a racial equity strategy, centered BIPOC and renter voices in policy-making decisions. Together, we made sure our St. Paul City Councilmembers passed the strongest tenant protections ordinance in the state, becoming the first city in Minnesota to include just cause protections."– Housing Equity Now! St. Paul
Unfortunately, before these protections had a chance to go into effect March 1, 2021, the ordinance was stalled by a landlord lobby lawsuit against the city. We urged the City Council not to repeal this crucial ordinance, but our West Side representative, Councilmember Noecker, cast a decisive vote to repeal the ordinance that our neighbors fought so hard to win.
In the words of Bob Craft, long time West Side Community Organization volunteeer and neighbor:
"I am astounded that the City Council would retreat from protecting tenants with the proposed repeal of our Safe Housing Ordinance. The Council had to know the landlords would litigate the matter. Giving up without a fight because of one judge's opinion indicates both a lack of resolve and a misplaced concern for legal expenses over human rights. Claiming that other protections and resources are available insults the testimony of all those who supported the ordinance because those resources fail tenants time and again."
WSCO, with our partners at the HENS coalition, will continue to push for strong renter protections to replace the repealed ordinance and demand accountability and action from our City Council.
From left: HENS leaders Tram Hoang from the Alliance, Shaquonna Jackson from the Southeast Community Organization, and Michael McDowell and Monica Bravo from the West Side Community Organization
Want to organize your building, or tenants with the same landlord as you? Do you want to host a Know-Your-Rights training for your community? Maybe you’re not a renter but committed to working in solidarity for an affordable and dignified West Side? Contact our Program Manager, Genevieve, at [email protected] to learn more. Other ways to connect:
- Join our Facebook group; West Side Housing Justice to find out about upcoming events
- Join the Housing Justice Action Circle
- Participate in monthly West Side tenant assemblies
- Organize for rent stabilization in St. Paul
The right to organize
The Twin Cities is in the midst of a serious affordable housing crisis, and more than ever residents affected by rising rents and substandard living conditions need to come together to advocate for substantive change. If you feel fed up and ready to take action, you can organize your building and neighbors to demand better living conditions, whether that is requesting repairs from a landlord, beating back a rent hike, forming an tenant’s union, or working to pass rent stabilization and other affordable housing measures.
Together we are powerful! Join us!
- How to Make a Housing Complaint: a how-to guide for residents to work with the City's Department of Safety and Inspections
- Sample form letters from HOMELine: these letters "help you communicate and document your rental housing issues. The forms are are not legal advice. If you have a legal question about your situation or need advice about using any of the forms, contact our tenant hotline 612-728-5767 (or 612-255-8870 en español).
- Housing Justice Center: lists resources, reports, and litigation related to housing justice in Minnesota
Tenant organizing resources
- DSA-NYC Tenant Organizing Manual
- Chicago ATU tenant organizing How-To zine
- HOME Line “Form a Tenant Association”
- MN Tenant-Landlord law resources
- Tenants Together
WSCO is not a direct service provider. However, we do our best to help refer you to available resources:
HOMEline is a free legal-aid hotline for tenants across Minnesota: 612-728-5767 or 612-255-8870 en español
Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) is a legal aid organization that can help low-income individuals on tenant and other issues : 1-888-575-2954
Neighborhood House: Family Centers can offer support and assistance if you are facing a housing crisis; call their intake number to set up an appointment: 651-793-7340
Housing Link: information and resources to find affordable and subsidized housing
Minnesota Housing Finance Agency: resources and contact information to help people who need rental assistance, affordable rental housing, or shelter.
Housing Benefits 101: information on how to access homeless services in your county, keep your housing, and change your home. You can also call, email, or chat online with resource experts.
www.mnhousing.org Rental or energy assistance to help prevent utility shut-offs or an eviction.
Resources for landlords
Are you a landlord invested in housing justice? Do you have questions about how to get involved? Contact us!
- Landlord 101 course: From the City of St. Paul, this class provides foundations for the development of property management skills and to better understand tenant, landlord relationships and responsibilities.
- Resources for Tenant & Landlord Issues (City of St. Paul Page)
- Landlords and Tenants: Rights and Responsibilities - The rights and duties of landlords and tenants in Minnesota law.
- Rental Rehabilitation Loan Program - Landlords can get help preserve existing affordable rental housing options in Saint Paul.