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NC renter advocacy groups form statewide tenants union

Apartment building
Apartment buildings like this have sprung up across Charlotte, and North Carolina, in ever-increasing numbers.

For the first time, North Carolina renters will have a statewide organization specifically focused on lobbying for tenants' rights.

The newly formed North Carolina Tenants Union is made up of six local tenant advocacy groups from Asheville, Charlotte, New Bern, New Hanover, Raleigh-Durham and Winston-Salem. The group officially launched on Tuesday, according to a news release.

"What we want to do is dramatically expand tenants rights in North Carolina," the group's executive director, Nick MacLeod, told WFAE.

Examples of possible legal protections the group could pursue include capping rent increases, ending arbitrary evictions, and explicitly requiring landlords to clean up and prevent mold.

MacLeod said the group will also aid renters around the state who want to unionize their apartment buildings, mobile home parks or public housing, "so that they can negotiate leases together and advocate for repairs as needed."

The statewide union will also seek public funds that could be used to provide legal representation to renters in eviction court — something nearly all currently lack.

More than 1.4 million households in North Carolina rent their homes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That's equal to a third of households in the state. In Mecklenburg County, about 44% of households are renters, not owners.

Roughly a quarter of all renters in North Carolina spend 50% or more of their income on housing, according to analysis of U.S. Census data by the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency. Some 46% of renters in the state spend at least 30% of their income on rent.

MacLeod said the creation of the statewide tenants union represented a milestone in the fight for stronger protections for renters around the state.

"I think we're on the precipice of really fundamentally changing what it means to be a tenant in North Carolina."

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Nick de la Canal is an on air host and reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal
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