A newly formed tenants union aims to target housing issues related to Binghamton University.
The Binghamton UniverCity Tenants Union has been established by The Stakeholders of Broome County, a housing advocacy group that works to fight for fair housing practices across Broome County, according to its Facebook page. As described by the tenant advocacy organization Home Line, a tenant union is a group of renters — city or building-wide — that work together to organize fair housing practices in their community, particularly when landlords are not upholding their part of the lease or conducting other illegal acts at the expense of the tenants.
The Binghamton UniverCity Tenants Union platform will be based on protecting students from predatory housing practices, as well as trying to limit the negative impact student housing has on the local community.
A member of the Stakeholders, who wished to remain anonymous, said the new organization will give students more opportunities for advocacy.
“There is a housing crisis in Binghamton, and student housing contributes to that in a very large way,” the Stakeholders member said. “There’s a number of students that want to be involved and have been involved in housing advocacy work already and we’re trying to expand that and raise more awareness and creating a vehicle for students to have positive change and have the University be held accountable for its impact on the local community.”
The union shared that it will also focus on the impact that changes in on-campus housing has on students. One example of this is the University’s plan to phase out residential assistant (RA) positions starting next year, to be replaced with a mix of both live-in and hourly positions, according to the union. As discussed in their last meeting, the union is looking to push back against this change, as they believe it will negatively impact low-income students who rely on the position’s compensation in order to attend BU.
Lizzy Taddeo, a sophomore majoring in English, said she was glad this new tenants union can work to the benefit of residential assistants.
“I have a couple friends that are [RAs], and since they already got the position, they get to keep it,” Taddeo said. “So I think that’s fair enough that the [RAs] that already have their job get to keep it, but otherwise I think it’s not great that they’re getting rid of [RAs].”
The union also shared its goal to “hold BU accountable for their role,” according to one of their meeting’s flyers. The union claimed that as on-campus housing continues to rise in price, students will flock to off-campus housing as a cheaper option, putting a further strain on the local community and encouraging landlords.
Further focusing on Binghamton’s landlords, the union hopes to disseminate information regarding landlords that may engage in “predatory practices,” such as withholding security deposits or having code violations on their properties. An example the union cited was Issac Anzaroot, a prevalent landlord in the Binghamton area who was arrested earlier this year and charged with code violations on several properties. Anzaroot owns dozens of properties in the Binghamton area.
The same anonymous member of The Stakeholders said they want the union to become more independent in the future and focus on their internal goals — separate from The Stakeholders.
“So the goal of the student tenant union is to create its own autonomous organization that doesn’t necessarily operate [under The Stakeholders of Broome County],” the Stakeholders member said. “It can be formed how students want to. So it’s not for us to dictate where it goes from here, but we just wanted to be the catalyst. I hope that a lot of students get involved with it and that whatever structure emerges allows [the Stakeholders of Broome County] to be less involved and let them create their own decision-making body.”