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Saturday, February 24, 2024
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Nonprofit tenant resource groups help tenants amid housing crisis

Amid the ongoing housing crisis in Madison, the Tenant Resource Center (TRC) and Madison Community Cooperative (MCC) aim to offer solutions to those who feel the effects firsthand.

The TRC is a nonprofit organization that has advocated for housing justice for over 40 years. They provide numerous resources to educate tenants, landlords and property managers on how to make well-educated decisions. 

The MCC is another nonprofit organization providing cooperative housing for low-income individuals.

Hannah Renfro, TRC executive director, said the group’s ultimate goal is to provide solutions that ensure everyone in the Madison community has safe and affordable housing.

“We want everybody to be educated and empowered,” Renfro said. “And that they are in a place where they’re in stable housing for them, their families and their children.”

John Parsons, MCC coordinating officer, shared a similar sentiment. He said MCC aims to provide affordable housing through cooperative housing, especially for underrepresented and marginalized groups.

“Our mission is to provide affordable low-income housing to the people of Madison, including underrepresented people, and provide a sense of community,” Parsons said. 

For those who face the impacts of the ongoing housing crisis, Renfro said a lack of education between tenants and landlords has a role to play. The TRC aims to provide this education to create a positive relationship between tenants and landlords.

“We really strongly believe that providing that education to both tenants and landlords about rental rights and having that positive landlord-tenant relationship is good for everybody,” Renfo said. “It benefits landlords, it benefits the tenants, it benefits the community when people are able to stay in their housing and find affordable housing.”

Olivia Pfeil, a University of Wisconsin-Madison senior, said she believes this type of education is necessary to avoid a negative relationship between tenants and landlords.

Pfeil said she experienced a negative relationship with a past landlord. She said her experiences and experiences she’s heard from others led her to believe it is rare to find a landlord who “genuinely cares about the well-being of their tenants and wants to form a connection with their tenants as people."

“I would say the power differences between tenants and landlords here are bigger than most other places due to the size of the student population, the size of the isthmus and how small it is and the fact that it is a college town,” Pfeil added.

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There are numerous resources available for tenants, landlords and service providers through the TRC, including legal documents, educational blog posts, landlord training and more. The TRC provides all of their services in Spanish and English.

Renfro said various TRC teams provide aspects of solutions for individuals within the community. 

Among these are a health and housing team, an eviction diversion and defense partnership team and a housing counseling services team. According to Renfro, the health and housing team works with individuals referred to the TRC by UW Health. Additionally, the eviction diversion and defense partnership team supports those in eviction court, while the housing counseling services team assists individuals visiting the TRC office.

The MCC provides low-income housing for tenants around Madison, while the cooperative homes span throughout the Madison area. Individuals can apply for housing through the MCC website

The organization also provides educational resources for tenants and maintains a community by affiliating with other cooperatives, non-profit organizations, schools and more, according to its website.

Parsons said although some people criticize the MCC, many have a great appreciation for the organization.

“Lots of people love MCC,” Parsons said. “Everybody always has some kind of criticism, but I think people are glad that they get to live in cool, 100-year-old houses. Also, people love living in a community, but the affordability is also part of it. It’s some of the last affordable housing.”

Renfro said it is often difficult for the TRC to receive feedback because it is not often individuals return to the organization on multiple occasions. However, she said individuals who use the TRC find it to be a valuable resource.

“The general consensus we hear from people is that having this information is tremendously valuable to them,” Renfro said. “What we hear from so many folks is just this, ‘I just didn’t know this information, and I feel like now I can not just advocate for myself, but I can tell my neighbors and my friends and my family members, which is really wonderful.’ That’s what we love to hear from folks.”

Pfeil shared this sentiment and said TRC resources inform tenants about the legalities of a lease and prevent a negative relationship between tenants and landlords.

“I think it’s necessary, especially for first-time renters, that there’s widespread education about the legal part of the lease,” Pfeil said. “Like people knowing what a lease is, and that it is a legally binding contract. It’s not just a casual thing, to lease an apartment. It’s a really big deal.”

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Ellie Bourdo

Ellie Bourdo is the features editor for The Daily Cardinal. Ellie previously served as associate news editor, where she specialized in breaking news and University of Wisconsin-System news reporting. She also works at WisPolitics. Follow Ellie on Twitter at @elliebourdo.

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