"Two months ago, if I needed something fixed, I'd send in a request but mostly just grin and bear it."
Lanell Espinosa, Tenant Leader
Lanell is a leader of the Santa Maria Village Tenants Association (TA) which began organizing with BASTA to campaign for overdue repairs and property mainttenance issues. Lanell talked with us
about life before organizing, working with her neighbors, and the next steps for the Santa Maria Village Tenants Association in our first BASTA Tenant Profile.
Intro to Organizing
Lanell has lived at Santa Maria Village Apartments for over 40 years, but before organizing, she says not much had changed. “Before, no repairs getting done and if there was repairs, they weren’t done right. Just all Kinds of problems, heating, air-condition, bad management.”
Fear of retaliation from management and a lack of resources kept many tenants from pushing for overdue repairs that continue to affect their health and safety. Now, the tenants are organized and Lanell is excited about their potential. "We’re really doing a lot of things that we didn't think we could do.”
“I’m really shy. I’m getting out there now because I was afraid to do anything, I didn’t want to rock the boat basically.” As a tenant leader on the TA Steering Committee, once-shy Lanell isn’t just rocking the boat, she’s helping steer the ship. Now, Lanell and other tenant leaders help develop strategy based on the tenant associations common concerns, represent the TA to external groups, and keep the tenants updated on the associations actions, “They’ll stop me like during the day when I’m going to get my mail, and they’ll stop me and ask questions about BASTA.”
Moving Forward Together
"We all got together and everyone spoke of their concerns and what they wanted. That's how we got started.
Lanell and other tenant leaders recently spoke in support of the sale of Santa Maria Village to new owner Texas Housing Foundation (THF) after securing committments from THF to make overdue repairs and property maintenance updates. These committments were a major win for the tenants, but Lanell notes that they need to continue organizing to see the promises through, “I think the priority would be mold. There's mold everywhere, I've got it in my house."
We're raising funds to send tenant leaders like Lanell to upcoming national conferences where they can network and develop their skills. Donate today at youcaring.org/BASTA to contribute to the Austin renter movement.
BASTA is a non-profit project dedicated to helping Austin renters work together to improve the conditions of their homes and communities.