Tuesday, March 28, 2023

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TN Renters Organize for Better Living Conditions

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Tuesday, February 28, 2023   

After several years of work around housing rights an advocacy group for affordable and safe housing in Shelbyville, Tennessee, is celebrating a victory.

Bedford County Listening Project members, renters with the Shelbyville Tenants Organizing for Protection campaign, and the Shelbyville City Council have voted to establish a safe and affordable housing committee to study and make recommendations.

Sophia Tillett, a leader of the Bedford County Listening Project, said the Shelbyville Tenants Organizing for Protections campaign began when they spoke to neighbors and discovered many of them were experiencing substandard housing and continuing rent increases, despite the living conditions, which she noted were unlivable and unsafe.

"There were a lot of bug issues, there's a lot of mold issues," Tillett outlined. "The buildings are dilapidated and falling apart. There are holes in the floors and ceilings and leaks."

Tillett pointed out such were the living conditions at Canterbrook Village, formerly known as Bedford Manor, prior to a resident moving out. She noted the apartments were renovated, and the residents moved back in. She added there are still problems with the apartments, and the committee is working on setting up its first meeting with the Shelbyville City Council to discuss the issues.

Tristan Call, an organizer for the Bedford County Listening Project, said the committee is important because in the past, the Shelbyville City Council has been unresponsive to their recommendations. He emphasized they have tried to get the City Council to make certain changes to the codes-compliance process, and said currently, residents who make codes complaints are subject to being evicted.

"And we see it happen all the time. There are some things that we have managed to change, like now they say they'll at least keep the codes complaint open, even if someone gets evicted," Call stressed. "The landlord can't just get rid of it by evicting somebody entirely."

Call added they want the Shelbyville City Council to add rental protections for residents, so if they make a code complaint, landlords cannot initiate eviction proceedings on that basis.


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