We want renters to understand their rights

From: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Mishelle “Mickey” McMillan stood in a room full of housing advocates Saturday and yelled until her voice cracked.

“You see what I got? I ain’t new to this. Whoever got our affordable housing money, I’m coming to get you,” said the De Ruad Street Tenants’ Council president, her voice building like a preacher delivering a sermon as she listed the housing fights she’s faced across the county, before she collapsed in tears.

The inaugural Pittsburgh Union of Residential Renters meeting has been nearly two years in the making, but the gathering was underscored by the fact that Ms. McMillan and 17 of her neighbors were displaced last week by an apartment fire in West Oakland.

A five-alarm fire on Aug. 17 resulted in three of 11 buildings on De Ruad Street being deemed uninhabitable by the city. Those buildings included federally subsidized units for low-income renters.

“Ms. Mickey is still out here even after she’s lost almost everything,” said Celeste Scott, a housing advocate for Pittsburgh UNITED. “She is out here still working to make sure other people have things. … [Today] was a long time coming. It’s going to be a countywide tenant union, a region-wide tenant union, statewide, nationwide, global, whatever it needs to be because the housing affordability crisis is a crisis that needs to be heard and needs to be solved.”

Leaders from the Hill District, East Liberty and Manchester led the all-day workshop on tenants’ rights at the Allegheny County Human Services building in Downtown Pittsburgh.

“We want renters to understand their rights and know that they can form a tenants’ council,” said Jayla Rucker, president of Manchester Tenants.

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