Each quarter, the Center for Health and Environment: Education and Research spotlights members who make significant contributions to work in health and the environment. This month, we spotlight our community partner, BASTA.
BASTA (Building and Strengthening Tenant Action, or Buscando Acción y Solidaridad que Transforme el Arrendamiento) is a project of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid dedicated to helping Austin renters work with their neighbors to improve conditions in their homes and communities.
Originating in 2016 after longstanding community frustrations over substandard housing and corresponding landlord impunity, BASTA has worked alongside renters to organize over 30 tenants associations at multifamily properties, supporting those associations in identifying the most pressing issues they want to work on and then collectively strategizing on the best ways to achieve their desired solutions.
Over the past seven years, BASTA’s organizing support has reached over 5,000 households; secured hundreds of repairs; resulted in the resident purchase of a mobile home park community and the replacement of bullying managers; revised unfair community and towing rules; and aided in the provision of relocation benefits, among other victories.
BASTA has collaborated with CHEER in building awareness of some serious and widespread problems affecting the health of thousands of renters, including mold and pests (such as rats, mice, bedbugs and cockroaches). In addition to providing information about the signs of these harmful in-home issues and their health effects, BASTA works closely with tenant associations at properties across Austin, supporting campaigns based around repairs.
In 2019, BASTA formed Tenant Advocates Defending Healthy Housing — a group of tenant leaders from all over the city who work to ensure robust enforcement of existing building and safety codes, and to change the culture around repairs for tenants, landlords and officials.
In addition to tenant organizing, BASTA works to address renters’ immediate needs, increase knowledge of the problem of eviction in Travis County and test creative solutions through tenant outreach activities, monitoring and tracking evictions, and developing community education materials, which have benefited over 25,000 tenants in Travis County.