Campaign: Tenant Organizing

In 2021, Reclaim RI began a Homes for All campaign to combat the housing crisis. We are working to mitigate the problem through legislation by passing the Create Homes Act—but poor and working-class tenants are suffering now and need immediate relief. When we learned that one of our members was stuck renting from an egregiously negligent and abusive slumlord, Pioneer Investments LLC, we decided to help her organize with her fellow tenants. 

Pioneer belongs to a Massachusetts couple who own roughly 60 multi-family buildings in RI. They are slumlords as a side hustle—they also have high-paying jobs. They buy up buildings in deep disrepair and rent them to tenants whose only other option is often homelessness. Their “shut up or get out” business model relies on the broader context of the housing crisis to pressure desperate families into accepting deplorable conditions and keeping their mouths shut to avoid eviction. Knowing that tenants have nowhere else to go, Pioneer’s proprietors jack up the rent—repeatedly. A tenant’s rent might go from $1250 to $1950 in a year or two—all while they live with rats, broken windows, holes in the wall, heat that goes off for days or weeks at a time, and lead paint and mold that make them sick. 

The goal of our campaign is to force Pioneer to properly repair apartments, lower the rent until repairs are completed, and forgo further rent increases. We want to force Pioneer to negotiate with and be held accountable to a council of their tenants—instead of unilaterally raising rent and deciding when, if ever, to make repairs. To accomplish this, we are employing tactics from the labor movement and waging a union-style pressure campaign. Organizers working on the campaign—including current and former Pioneer tenants who have become leaders—knock doors, talk with tenants about problems in their apartments, and work to transform their righteous anger into action in solidarity with their neighbors. 

An organized base of poor and working-class tenants is taking shape as Pioneer Tenants United—and it has the power to pressure cities, towns, and the state to take meaningful action to protect and expand tenant rights. In the longer term, we envision a Tenant Bill of Rights developed and won under the leadership of our state’s most vulnerable tenants.



Want to become a tenant organizer? You don’t need any experience to get started. We have many experienced organizers working on the campaign and we will train and support you. The baseline commitment is 2-5 hours per week. Join us and help hundreds of vulnerable tenants win fair rent and decent living conditions. You can also donate to an eviction defense fund to help keep courageous tenant organizers in their homes.



Are you a tenant dealing with a negligent or abusive landlord? Below, we’ve assembled some resources on your rights and options for holding your landlord accountable. You can also contact Reclaim about getting legal representation.