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Protesting for affordable housing

Activists fighting for tenants rights
7 min read
Last update: Apr 15, 2023

People all over the world protest for affordable housing. On Activist Handbook, you can find resources on how to organise yourself effectively.

Guides for housing activists

We have written a chapter on how to build a movement, which you can use to learn how to organise yourself effectively to fight for tenant rights together. Before getting right into it by organising a housing protest, we recommend you to think about your long term strategy. Make sure to prepare yourself for a long run, because it can take a while before politicians finally start to hear you. This is why it is also important that you do not burn out your volunteers.

Most people immediately think of a protest march, when wanting to bring attention to a cause. However, you can also get creative and check out our tactics chapter. You will need to promote your action beforehand. If you do not have a large audience on your movement's social media yet, you use the network of your active volunteers. And remember: your fight against exorbitant rent prices likely does not end after one action. You can use actions to recruit new people, so that you can mobilise more for the next one.

The municipality may sympathise more with landlords, and try to intimidate you with a large police presence. It is good to know, however, that you have certain legal rights as an activist. Even if you get arrested, there are certain things that the police may and may not do to you. We also recommend to find a lawyer with experience defending activists to support your movement.


Here are a few creative words and phrases that you can use to refer to landlords and the housing market:

  • "Pocket-filling leeches" - This phrase evokes the idea of landlords sucking money out of people's pockets without providing any value in return.

  • "Capitalist cockroaches" - This phrase uses a metaphor to compare landlords to pests that are hard to get rid of and that thrive on exploiting people.

  • "Housing hustlers" - This phrase suggests that landlords are scamming people and taking advantage of them for financial gain.

  • "Rent gougers" - This phrase implies that landlords are charging excessive and unreasonable rents, and taking advantage of people's need for housing.

  • "Property parasites" - This phrase suggests that landlords are feeding off of the housing market and taking advantage of people's need for shelter.

And here are some more tips for formulating a message for affordable housing activism:

Start with a clear, concise, and compelling message: Your message should be easy to understand, and it should clearly and concisely communicate the problem you are trying to solve and the solution you are proposing. Avoid using jargon or technical language, and focus on explaining the issue in simple, relatable terms.

Use emotion to your advantage: Affordable housing is an emotional issue, and it can be powerful to tap into people's feelings and emotions when crafting your message. Consider using language that evokes feelings of frustration, anger, or compassion, and try to connect with people on a personal level by sharing stories and experiences.

Frame the issue in a way that resonates with your audience: The way you frame the issue can have a big impact on how people respond to your message. For example, if you are trying to convince policymakers to take action on affordable housing, you might frame the issue as a moral imperative or a social justice issue. If you are trying to engage with the general public, you might frame the issue in terms of the economic benefits of affordable housing, or the personal impact on people's lives.

Use creative language and imagery: A creative and memorable message can be a powerful tool for getting people's attention and engaging with your audience. Consider using metaphors, analogies, or other forms of figurative language to make your message more interesting and engaging. You can also use imagery and visual aids to help people understand your message and to make it more memorable.

Get public support: One of the most effective ways to get your message heard is to build a broad coalition of supporters who can help amplify your message and increase its visibility. This can include other activists, community organizations, politicians, celebrities, and others who share your goals and can help you spread your message to a wider audience.

Affordable Housing Protest Rally, at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Sunday, May 24th 2015. Vancouver British Columbia, Canada. Photo by Mark Klotz.

Action tactics

Inspiration for your next action

Here are a few creative action ideas that affordable housing activists can use to draw media attention:

Host a "rent strike": This is a tactic where a group of tenants withhold their rent payments in order to protest against unfair or unaffordable housing conditions. This can be a powerful way to draw attention to your cause and to put pressure on landlords and policymakers to address the issue.

Use public theatre to make a point: Activists are dressed in yellow protective suits with oxygen masks. They pretend that landlords are cockroaches. They have also made a big house from papier-mรขchรฉ and there are people playing landlords in suits holding suitcases full with money.

Organize a "homeless sleep-out": This is a tactic where activists spend a night sleeping outside in a public place to raise awareness about homelessness and the lack of affordable housing. This can be a powerful and emotional way to engage with the public and to draw media attention to your cause.

Create a public art installation: This could be anything from a mural or street art to a sculpture or performance art piece. The key is to make it visually striking and thought-provoking, and to tie it to your campaign message in a way that is both creative and memorable.

Host a music festival or concert: Music can be a powerful tool for activism, and a well-organized music festival or concert can be a great way to draw media attention and engage with your audience. Consider partnering with local musicians and bands, and use the event to promote your campaign and its message.

Organize a "housing lottery": This is a tactic where activists create a fake lottery in which the prize is a free or affordable home. This can be a fun and engaging way to promote your campaign message and to draw attention to the lack of affordable housing in your community.

Real-life examples

๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Dutch housing protests: There is a huge shortage in affordable housing in the Netherlands. In 2021, over 8000 people in Rotterdam protested for affordable housing. The protest was covered widely across news media, because of the disproportionate police violence used. After the protests, several municipalities announced they would start requiring people to live in the houses they buy, to counter slumlords (โ€˜zelfwoonplichtโ€™).

๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช German housing protests: In Berlin, 10.000 people went to the streets to demand an end to the soaring rent prices.

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How can I get involved in housing protests?

There are a few different ways to get involved in housing protests. One way is to join an organization that is fighting for housing justice, such as a tenantsโ€™ rights organization or a homeless advocacy group. Another way is to attend rallies and demonstrations organized by these groups. Finally, you can also start your own protest or direct action in your community.

What are the goals of housing protests?

The goals of housing protests vary depending on the specific issue being fought for, but they typically involve demanding more affordable and accessible housing, better living conditions for tenants, and an end to discrimination and displacement.

Who is being targeted by housing protests?

Housing protests typically target landlords, developers, and government officials who are seen as complicit in the housing crisis. In some cases, protests may also target specific properties or businesses, such as luxury apartments or gentrifying businesses.

What kind of tactics are being used in housing protests?

There is a variety of tactics used in housing protests, depending on the specific goal of the protest. Some common tactics include picketing, sit-ins, blockades, and occupations. In some cases, protests may also involve more direct actions such as property damage or violence.

How can housing protests be more effective?

There are a number of ways to make housing protests more effective. One way is to build coalitions with other groups fighting for related issues, such as workersโ€™ rights or immigrant rights. Another way is to use a variety of tactics, both peaceful and disruptive, to keep the issue in the public eye. Finally, it is also important to make sure that the demands of the protest are clear and achievable.

What are the risks involved in housing protests?

Housing protests can be risky, especially if they involve direct action tactics such as property damage or violence. Protesters may also be at risk of arrest or police violence. In some cases, protesting can also result in eviction or retaliation from landlords.

What are the potential benefits of housing protests?

Despite the risks, there are also potential benefits to housing protests. Protests can be an effective way to draw attention to the issue and build public support. They can also pressure decision-makers to make changes, such as passing new laws or increasing funding for affordable housing. Additionally, protesting can be a way for people to connect with others who are fighting for similar goals, and to build power and community.

Are there any negative consequences of housing protests?

Housing protests can sometimes have negative consequences, such as violence or property damage. Additionally, if protests are not well-organized or do not have clear demands, they may not be effective in achieving their goals. Finally, protesting can also result in eviction or retaliation from landlords.

What are some ways to make housing protests more inclusive?

There are a few ways to make housing protests more inclusive. One way is to make sure that the goals of the protest are clear and that everyone understands how they can contribute. Another way is to provide childcare and transportation assistance to make it easier for people with families or other commitments to participate. Finally, it is also important to reach out to communities that have been traditionally underserved or excluded from the housing justice movement.

External resources


We used OpenAI to come up with some creative action ideas.

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