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Apr 8, 20

West Philadelphia Tenants Declare Rent Strike

Statement from group of tenants renting from the Constellar Corporation who have declared themselves on rent strike.

A group of tenants in the West Shore neighborhood of West Philly, all renting from Constellar Corp, are initiating a rent strike in response to the current public health and economic crises. Most of us have lost our jobs outright or seen huge reductions in working hours. Meanwhile, we are expected to pay or owe rent on properties managed by Constellar and owned by Hast Investments, owned by a millionaire real estate developer named Guy Laren.

We have attempted to collectively communicate the need for total rent forgiveness to Constellar, and were offered none. To be clear, deferred payment is not going to work for us. We cannot possibly know when we might be able to regain financial security during an ongoing pandemic, and we should not be expected to prioritize rent payments over our other immediate needs such as food and healthcare.

Most of us are rent burdened just like so many Philly tenants, and are unlikely to find employment that would allow us to resume regular rent payments on top of back payments — let alone to a man who once stated, “I buy stuff and figure it out later,” and whose net worth exceeds the cash and assets of all of us combined. It’s time for him to figure out that there is no ethical argument against full rent forgiveness for the duration of this crisis. The financial distress to Laren, Hast Investments, and Constellar Corp does not compare to that faced by poor and working people.

We hope that Laren and Constellar recognize this urgent need to move toward rent forgiveness. We also hope that the city council and state government move in the same direction and implement a moratorium on rent collection.

In making the difficult and stressful decision to go on rent strike, we join others in cities and towns throughout the country and world. We extend solidarity to and draw strength from fellow strikers in New York City, San Francisco, Montreal, Atlanta, Chicago, Toronto, Austin, and more, including those whose fight is happening behind bars.

In the hope of avoiding retaliation, the 13 households currently on strike have opted not to sign our names on this open letter. We continue to organize with other tenants of Constellar throughout the city, including commercial tenants, and with other renters in our neighborhood. We’re very excited to coordinate with other renters in the city organizing on their own terms and can be reached through the contact information below. Media inquiries can be addressed to the same contacts.

Solidarity, and spread the strike!

– West Shore Rent Strikers

[email protected]

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