Charlotte Residents Have One More Reason to be Thankful This Holiday Season

This Tuesday morning of November 1st Merenciana and Rigoberto Soastegui awakened to beautiful sunny day with one less care in the world. They knew that their family was no longer going to be out on the street and homeless. On Friday October 28, the Soasteguis received a notice signed by the property manager, stating that they were no longer going to have to leave their home.

The ordeal started, when on the 30th of September, the Soasteguis and 20 other families living in the Stonewall Jackson Homes residential community received notices from their landlords TriTex Realestate LLC, stating that they would have to vacate their homes by October 31st.

According to the letter, due to a need for necessary repairs to people’s homes, the tenants had “30 days . . . to vacate the premises”. Residents were not given any options on where to go nor were they told whether they could return after repairs were made. Many of these residents’ leases had not expired yet either.

Seeing the need to stop this great injustice, the Soasteguis and their neighbors contacted Action NC, in order to learn of any options that they may have to stop their ejectment. Within 3 days, a neighborhood meeting was held and various committees were formed, in order to stop the evictions and educate residents on their rights. Both, those being evicted and those staying elected to form an Action NC chapter and organize their neighbors. At this gathering, residents also began the work on putting together a rally for October 31st (the day by which they must vacate the premises).

Immediately after this meeting, residents of Stonewall Jackson began to organize more such meetings and the very next weekend a tenant know your rights workshop was held. After the workshop, various residents decided to participate in the Occupy Charlotte rally and at the general assembly meeting sought the support of the Occupiers. The very next night, the Occupiers, on a majority vote elected to stand in solidarity with the residents of Stonewall Jackson Homes in their quest to “Reoccupy Our Homes”.

The tenants of Stonewall Jackson saw the connection between their plight and that of others in their community. Everyday in our state people are losing their homes, either to foreclosures or to evictions. Many are living in bad conditions where their apartments are in disrepair or their landlords are less than honest or overbearing. In many cases tenants do not know their rights and landlords take advantage of this.

Seeing this connection, residents of Stonewall Jackson felt that they should support the movement. But, on a more personal level, they saw this as an opportunity to seek more support from the general community.

On Thursday, October 20th, the property was sold in an auction. But, the residents were still in danger of being ejected. That weekend, the tenants spoke out at the next Occupy Charlotte rally and invited those in attendance to support them in their Reoccupy Our Homes campaign and at the rally on the 31st.

In the end, over 100 calls were made to both TriTex and the new owners. Various complaints were registered with HUD and the Charlotte Community Relations Committee. An investigation has been initiated to see if this is a case of discrimination. On Friday October 28th, Stonewall Jackson residents began receiving letters telling them that they were no longer being evicted.

Residents have also been in contact with the new owners of the property. They have asked that residents draft up a list of concerns, so that they may be addressed and have pledged to improve conditions at Stonewall Jackson within 6 months of taking full ownership. Tenants are hopeful that this new administration will deliver and make much needed repairs to all of the apartments and the community in general.

This past Saturday October 29, Action NC members in Stonewall Jackson, voted unanimously to officially form an Action NC chapter that will meet once per month and elected to join their group to the general Tenants’ Rights Organizing Committee chapter of Action NC.

Members of Action NC have formed a Tenants’ Rights Organizing Committee, in order to educate and develop leadership from the ranks of renters and help them work toward better legislation that will support the interests of renters as well as provide more protections against bad policies.

The story of the residents of Stonewall Jackson Homes is just one story out of many. It is also a success story that will inspire future victories for tenants in Charlotte and in North Carolina, as they organize to educate communities on their rights as tenants and work together to effect legislation that will protect the rights of renters all over North Carolina.