BASTA's tenant organizing and tenant rights in Austin
By John Henneberger
March 10, 2022
0:00 / 21:06
BASTA's tenant organizing and tenant rights in Austin
John Henneberger

I'm John Henneberger and I'm speaking today with one of Texas leading workers on the area of tenant rights, working to protect tenants in this state, which is a big job to do given the backward nature shall we say of tenant protections in the state? It's a tough job to be an advocate and Shoshana Krieger is the best.

Shoshana, welcome to A Little Louder.

Shoshana Krieger

It's lovely to be here. Thanks for having me John.

John Henneberger

You run a non-profit organization in BASTA that's on the forefront in this state on protecting tenant rights and helping tenants organize to exercise their legal rights under the law. Tell us about BASTA. What does BASTA stand for and what do you all do?

Shoshana Krieger

Yeah. so BASTA, building and strengthening tenant action or

we've been around for a little over five years and we work to organize tenants into tenants associations at multi-family properties, so that folks can organize around the issues that they're facing, and strategize to ensure that the solutions that they want got enacted. That can be anything from repairs on a property, to getting rid of a bullying manager, or at one mobile home park we worked with the residents to actually purchase, their community. So it's whatever the tenants who are on the ground want to be working towards, we will support them in doing so so long as they're doing it in a collective manner.

John Henneberger

The members of BASTA have had a number of important wins, like taking over that mobile home park I think ultimately to protect the ability of the people to keep their homes there and securing some, improvements or, or dealing with, the wake of the, the natural disaster, the big freeze we had a year ago. And there were a lot of tenants affected by that. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the things BASTA, activists have done?.

Shoshana Krieger

Yeah. So in the wake of winter storm URI last year, a lot of multifamily properties in Austin were without water for a week, two weeks, some even three weeks or a month. And so in the immediate aftermath BASTA, along with other nonprofit partners like Workers Defense Project, we orchestrated a volunteer effort to actually just bring water and food to those properties. And so that was the immediate disaster response. But then what happened as we were at the properties was that we started hearing lots of issues from tenants about the ongoing repair issues, which they had prior to the winter storm. And so it was no accident what were the properties, which didn't have water three weeks, a month out after the storm. Those were properties, which were in poor conditions before the storm itself. So we started working with some of the associations, some of the properties, tenants of properties, who we had been delivering water and food, for to organize and then fight for a longer term, and more structural changes.

So at one property. there were a lot of, mold issues. And so those tenants advocated with the code department, to get, citations issued and that was escalated to the building standards commission and we actually got the largest fines the BSC has ever given. At another property, which was actually without gas it's project-based Section 8 property, and we worked with those tenants to negotiate temporary relocation, which included both financial assistance for tenants a right to return and better communication in that process. Another property we're at, Rosemont at Oak Valley, which, is owned by a subsidiary of the county, there also were relocation issues of over six months after the storm itself. And we continue to work with that associations to ensure that there's justice for those families.

John Henneberger

those are lifesaving actions on the part of BASTA in those properties. I think about all of the multifamily properties and all of the really substandard multifamily properties around the state,