member districts a political possibility just waiting to be stirred up. Annexation, an important issue in the upcoming elections, may raise this issue of representation. If large areas of predominantly white residents are annexed, the provisions of the Voting Rights Act, which protects minorities from dilution of voting power, will surely be invoked. Council members would then have to be elected by district. Areas of Austin which have high concentrations of renters would have a good chance of electing their own representatives. There appears to be an increasing sentiment for single-member districts in Austin. According to George Stone, renter grievances are increasing dramatically, as the number of adequate rental units shrinks and rents go up. The Austin Tenants Council is getting more and more complaints 30% to 40% are grievances about failure of the landlord to make necessary and timely repairs. Complaints about rent increases have gone up dramatically in the past year and are being combined with repair complaints. Tenants who previously accepted raises in rent have evidently reached their limit of capability to pay and are demanding that repairs be made if they are expected to pay the high rents. We get a lot of complaints by phone from the elderly, mainly about rent increases. Many of the older renters are on fixed incomes and have reached the limit of ability to pay. Some have to make critical decisions this time of year whether to “eat or heat” the rent has to be paid. The same holds true for poor families with children they must have shelter. . . . After rent increase and repair problems, failure to have security deposits returned is most frequent. Evictions, lock-outs by the landlord, and women worrying about security measures are also frequent complaints. Paradoxically, the one group you would expect to have the most complaints the minority poor don’t come in too often, mainly because they’re afraid of retribution. Being at the bottom of the economic ladder gives them less mobility than other renters, who can move if they’re unhappy with the situation. . . . During the past year we have started getting a lot of complaints from a new group of renters middle-income, young professionals the people who are most able to help themselves in controversies with landlords. Linda Phillips and other neighborhood workers at the East Austin Multi-Purpose Center have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people with housing prob lems. “For example,” said Phillips, “in November 1981, we had practically none. This past November we had 185. It’s been running about 5 or 6 visits a day just for housing problems. And these are people who have exhausted every other outlet for assistance. “Mostly it’s simply the matter of minimum wage jobs not paying enough for the rents now being charged in this area. Most of the rental housing is substandard, and in some, there are no utilities. Such a place might still cost $200 a month. But the people are afraid to complain; they have no place else to go.” . . . tenants who previously accepted raises in rent have evidently reached their limit of capability to pay. When asked if he believed Austin will see the tenants organize and become an effective political force, Stone said that two events could trigger a tenant uprising. “First, when middle-income renters resign themselves to non-ownership, realizing they will be long-term tenants, and then become determined to better their renter status, things will begin to happen.” The second, he said, is when the majority of renters reach a point of “outrage.” Rents in Austin have increased steadily since the mid-’70s at about 12% per year. “At one time, 25 % of disposable income was supposed to go for housing. That has gone up to 40 % and over for many tenants, meaning the difference has to come from some other cost of living,” Stone said. Hendricks doesn’t believe the tenant situation is critical enough to warrant any organizational attempt such as Santa Monica experienced. “First, Austin doesn’t have the large fixed-income population of Santa Monica. Also, the University students swell the tenant percentage out of proportion.” He said there would be no renter candidate in this year’s city election. “There’s not enough time.” But he admitted that the current tax bills with their major increases, all levied at the same time, might cause a flurry of interest as the tax increases are passed on, many at the same time. Whether a leader emerges from the tenant ranks to rally a coalition or a major candidate identifies with the tenant movement in campaigning for the city council, Stone believes the success of an Austin renters’ revolt will come from existing organizational skills among the tenants themselves. “There’s a tremendous organizational talent within the groups,” Stone said, “which would become a part of any tenant coalition. A good example is the Gray Panthers, who have a great number of renters in their group. Those people have the talent, the time, and are motivated. The new middle-income tenants include many young professionals, also experienced at working with organizations. “At some point, the rent increases will clash with economic conditions, and tenants will say, ‘Enough.’ That point might come when tenants are paying over 50% of their income on housing; I don’t know. But it looks like it’s bound to happen. “E Bill Groce is a graduate student at the University of Texas in Austin. Chuck Caldwell’s 1731 New Hampshire Ave., N.W. Washington, D.C. 20009 Dupont Circle/Embassy area Spacious rooms Coffee shop Parking Best buy in D.C. Present this ad when checking in and receive a’$10 introductory rebate. CALL TOLL FREE 800-424-2463 994 FROZEN MARGARITA IRISH COFFEE 9 AM UNTIL MIDNIGHT HOT DOGS HAMBURGERS STEAKS CHICKEN RESTAURANT 511 RIVERWALK ACROSS FROM KANGAROO COURT SAN ANTONIO. TEXAS 225-4098 12 MARCH 11, 1983 ON,
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