Tenants face eviction and bad living conditions during COVID as some landlords exploit their plight. Organizers better serve and mobilize communities by crowdsourcing their grievances.
How can grievances be reported and mapped easily? How can this be done quickly, without much technical expertise or money? How can surveys be customized for different communities? How can photos of the conditions be collected at the same time?
Center For Common Ground (CCG) empowers tenants to report bad living conditions by crowdsourcing. It's fast, easy and the details are immediately visible for everyone to see. CCG also plans to use this community service as a means to engage with the residents and collectively organize them.
Center For Common Ground shares this survey in the form of a link (https://arcg.is/1zav0L0) share through social media and volunteers. The survey was created with Survey 123 and allows residents to include details of their housing condition, location and photos. Residents can complete the survey from any smartphone without having to instal an app.
Community organizing by crowdsourcing concerns
"Community organizing involves mobilizing people to combat common problems and to increase their voice in institutions and decisions that affect their lives and communities. It involves neighborhood-based efforts to improve an area’s physical and economic condition, such as the construction or rehabilitation of housing.
Community organization includes public safety, tenants’ rights, abandoned housing, and housing discrimination; environmental and public health issues, such as toxic waste dumping, smoking, lead paint, and pollution and municipal services delivery." - Hudser
Community organizers can better serve residents by streamlining complaint collection and raising their visibility with crowdsourcing apps.
How crowdsourcing works
Crowdsourcing takes a big task and divides it amongst many people. Crowdsourcing apps make it easy for tenants to report their own grievances rather than having canvassers go ask tenants individually. This collects more information, in more detail, faster for less money. The process is automated and has fewer manual errors. Grievance reports are geo-tagged with a location, time stamped and can include pictures as well.
Center For Common Ground used ArcGIS Survey123 for this project to collect tenant's grievances. It is an affordable, form-centric solution for creating, sharing and analyzing surveys. Surveys can be completed on a phone, tablet or laptop even when disconnected from the Internet. The results are collected immediately and can be selectively displayed on a map or dashboard. Surveys can also be analyzed to see which words and issues are most commonly used.
Exploiting the disadvantaged
"Why do the poor pay more for housing? That’s the question at the heart, and in the title, of a detailed paper published in the American Journal of Sociology on the actual housing costs paid by Americans in low-income urban neighborhoods. Its two authors, Princeton’s Matthew Desmond—who wrote the award-winning 2016 book Evicted—and MIT’s Nathan Wilmers, track the rent burdens and levels of exploitation faced by those living in concentrated poverty. They also uncover the staggeringly high profit margins made by the landlords who own properties in low-income areas." - Bloomberg
"Renters in Virginia have legal protections under the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (VRLTA) that include the right to a decent and safe place to live. This Act applies to apartments, public housing, Housing Choice Vouchers, Section 8 housing and other federally subsidized housing run by HUD. (Renters in subsidized housing may have certain rights from the VRLTA that HUD doesn’t list.)" - VHDA
Report bad landlords
"Hundreds of landlords have been fined and/or debarred from doing business with the federal government as a result of failing to provide safe and decent housing for the poor, while enriching themselves on taxpayer-funded subsidies. Tenants have been forced to live in terrible housing, and neighborhoods have suffered from housing eyesores. HUD calls this a double crime: one against both tenants and taxpayers. To report a bad landlord to the Multifamily Housing Complaint Line call toll-free at (800) MULTI-70 (800) 685-8470) / TTY (800) 432-2209." - H.U.D.
Center for Common Ground educates and empowers under-represented voters in voter suppression states to engage in elections and advocate for their right to vote. CCG has established Democracy Centers in several states to provide permanent, peer-to-peer voter services, education, dialogue and opportunity for participation within the political process at the local, state and federal levels, in partnership with underserved communities.
These centers provide infrastructure, training and digital tools to empower communities during times of accelerated change and challenge. Citizens need a place to gather, learn about national, state and local policy/politics so they can make educated decisions about their leaders and how to make change on every level.