Our take on the state of the region

Building a tenant-led movement in Vallejo

Author: Cristál Gallegos

Forbes Magazine recently ranked Vallejo as the sixth-best California city to live in. But the lived experiences of vulnerable communities Vallejo Housing Justice Coalition organizes tell a different story.

Knocking on hundreds of doors in South Vallejo and beyond, we hear countless accounts of tenant exploitation and abuse. One mother and her family have been forced to live with colonies of mushrooms growing inside their home. Renters in a notorious, corporate-owned apartment complex are kept awake at night by raccoons fighting in the walls. A South Vallejo worker temporarily out due to illness worries about becoming unhoused, but cannot find any local or regional resources to help.

New data presented by the United Way of the Bay Area confirms the reality of racialized renter injustice we see every day; the south Vallejo zip code (94590), which is home to the largest percentage of Black residents in the county, ranks among the worst health and housing outcomes in the region. Their analysis also shows how Solano county is significantly under-resourced compared to the other eight counties in the region, receiving the fewest grant dollars of any county. In 2018-2020, Solano county received just $168 per capita in grant funding, compared to $11,211 for San Francisco.

These experiences are why Vallejo renters must organize to fight for basic respect and strong tenant protections. VHJC works to overcome the fear that runs deep in hearts and minds of the most impacted communities through education, leadership development, and collective action. Which is why last month we launched our first Vallejo Leadership Cohort (VLC) with 16 Vallejo tenant leaders. VLC participants learn concrete skills, from the importance of effective documentation in landlord-tenant communications, to understanding one’s own conflict and communication style, to practicing role playing true-to-life tenant scenarios. The VLC helps leaders connect their experiences to the structural drivers of housing inequity and learn how to win lasting victories through transformative organizing. After the first two workshops, it is clear that there is no lack of tenant leaders in the city of Vallejo, just a lack of meaningful investment into the development of these leaders and the community that they love so much.

In addition to the VLC, VHJC continues to work towards building tenant unions and associations across Vallejo through door knocking and developing strong relationships with the community. We host events and workshops with allies such as Legal Services of Northern California and Fair Housing of Northern California for tenants to better understand their rights as renters and beyond. And we’ve partnered with the Northern California Land Trust and BARHII to create a community land trust for community-owned, permanently affordable housing here in Vallejo.

Make sure to visit our website and follow on social media (Instagram and Facebook: @VallejoHousingJusticeCoalition) to stay updated on our events.