Essex County, MA
United States

Understanding housing security from the perspective of tenants and landlords who are immigrants to improve advocacy for additional aid.  

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Black and Latinx communities have faced a disproportionate amount of harm, including increased levels of housing instability. To combat high rental prices, families who are experiencing poverty and, particularly, who have undocumented immigrant family members, have been forced to house multiple families in one apartment, resulting in increased COVID-19 transmission and illness. The Essex County Community Organization, a multi-faith network of 59 congregations on Massachusetts’ North Shore, learned that Black and Brown residents want more focus on addressing housing instability. Their research revealed that many undocumented immigrants rent their homes from landlords who are immigrants. With this project, ECCO aims to collect data to understand how challenges for tenants and landlords who are immigrants are interconnected and in what ways these groups could collaborate to advocate for aid to stabilize rents.  

ECCO plans to take a participatory action research approach, which will allow Black and Brown leaders who are active ECCO participants and who are directly affected by housing instability design and own the research process. ECCO seeks to learn how common it is for landlords to be immigrants, what challenges these landlords face, and how families with undocumented immigrants might be different from other tenants. These grassroots community leaders will create and distribute surveys to both tenants and landlords and hold focus groups to further explore the issues made visible by the surveys. Community leaders can use the data to develop policy recommendations. incorporate the data into a community-organizing campaign, and disseminate the data through a report for campaign partners and the Lynn City government.  

ECCO’s goal is that the data and recommendations will be used to support directing additional local and federal aid to tenants and small landlords, to help keep rents down, to prevent displacement, and to decrease the need for multi-family apartment rentals. ECCO hopes that this project will provide momentum to continue to organize tenants of color and landlords who are immigrants to address other related issues like the racial wealth gap and developing community land trusts to create more affordable housing.