Pittsburgh: Developments in the Rent Strike

By Peter Cherry

On April 12, Serve the People-Pittsburgh, a housing struggle organization, held a demonstration at the home of slumlord Lara Washington, owner of the Allegheny Housing Rehabilitation Corporation (AHRCO).

Demonstrators pressed demands for immediate rent stoppage, an end to slum conditions, and the firing of property managers.

A surging number of workers who rent from AHRCO, the largest private landlord of slum units, have been unable to pay rent and continue to struggle around conditions of housing and harassment many of the women tenants receive from both the maintenance employees and predatory elements.

While Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has halted all evictions for the month of April, rent and bills continue to accumulate with unemployed and part time workers unable to pay. This has proven to be a mere formality, as the courts are only lacking in the staff required to process evictions. In spite of skyrocketing unemployment, decreased wages, and slashed hours, landlords, who do not work, continue to drain what little money workers have left from their meager paychecks.

Far before the economic crisis sparked mass layoffs, the slum conditions in AHRCO buildings, noted by tenants as some of the worst in Pittsburgh, have been a common experience for most tenants. Washington had faced angry activists and tenants after her neglect led to a fire at the DeRaud Apartments in August 2019, displacing 70 tenants. Fear over her buildings being death traps have spurred many spontaneous struggles in response to her intentional neglect over the years.

On April 10, Serve the People led multiple fact finding meetings to AHRCO properties on the Northside, the Hill District, and Homewood. Bringing forth exposures developed from months of agitation with other AHRCO tenants along with a banner, people came to their windows and outside to talk to the team. Many of the tenants emphasized the demands to fire property management.

Graffiti reading “AHRCO Rent Strike” along with flyers listing the demands had been pasted on the door and marked on the ground before the protests started.

If you have been threatened with eviction, reach out to Tribune of the People, and your information will be forwarded to advocates on the ground: Tribuneofthepeople@protonmail.com

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