North Carolina Tenants Union launches statewide

NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) – A union has officially launched with the goal of helping tenants fight for housing rights.

More than 1.4 million households across North Carolina rent their homes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Meanwhile, state housing experts say the number of evictions and other tenant concerns are on the rise, but help is available starting Tuesday.

Nine-year-old Dexsiah Henderson remembers the struggles her family faced to find good housing in New Bern.

“There was mold, roaches, rats, and ants,” Henderson said. “They kept coming in, and we tried everything to get them out and nothing kept the mold away.”

Years ago, after NC Housing Coalition Tenant Organizer Dinah Foskey’s mom passed away and she was left with nowhere to live while pregnant, her family was forced to move.

“It got real,” Foskey said. “I saw how everyone was living. I saw the living conditions, how things weren’t being fixed, how fires were happening, how there was mold and roaches. It was very unlivable.”

After living there for more than 19 years, Foskey was finally able to move and knew something needed to change. She believes the North Carolina Tenants Union could be a solution.

Officially launching Tuesday, with six local tenant unions and networks ranging from Charlotte to Asheville to New Bern, Executive Director Nick MacLeod said they fight for tenants to have rights to safe, accessible, and affordable housing.

“It’s really hard to be a tenant in North Carolina these days,” MacLeod said. “Rent has been going up so fast, they’re going up way faster than people’s wages.”

Macleod said they began to realize that landlords have more power, but because tenants are what landlords need in order to function, there is space for change.

“Together, the tenants have a huge amount of power and can really shift that,” MacLeod said.

The union has already faced obstacles, such as low attendance and retaliation against the tenants who speak up.

“It ranges from intentionally not doing repairs, with folks who complain, but also can be direct intimidation, and also eviction,” MacLeod said.

Although it might be a battle, it’s a battle Foskey said she fought and won for her family.

“United together, y’all won’t fail,” Foskey said.

Macleod said they’ve already helped more than 1,500 houses with major repairs, but have the end goal of expanding rights throughout North Carolina through state laws.

To find more information, or learn how to join the union, you can head to NC Tenants Union – NORTH CAROLINA TENANTS UNION