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Word Count: 1,438
In the first decade of this century New York City was facing a housing crisis The great influx of immigrants from all over Europe had created a sellers market and tenants who previously could protest objectionable actions on the part of their landlords by simply moving were left with few options Families of eight or more members were sharing tiny three room apartments and paying up to 100 of their income on rent Landlords would raise the rent every month and tenants lacked the protection of long-term leases Tenants created informal groups they called tenants unions and started rent strikes refusing to pay increases They distributed leaflets encouraging others not to rent from bad landlords By the winter of 1907-08 widespread rent strikes hit Manhattan and Brooklyn and tenants from New Jersey were looking to New York as a model There were few long-lasting effects of these early movements and no regulatory response however World War I caused the next serious housing crisis in New York City as war efforts had a monopoly on building materials and severely limited the building of new housing and the improvement of existing housing Tenants continued to live under the threat of huge rent increases and eviction without recourse In April of 1920 in response to organized efforts of political parties and labor unions New York passed emergency rent laws giving tenants limited protection from rent increases and eviction By the late 1920s however increases in available housing caused most rental units to be exempted from these laws and the laws eventually expired During the Depression tenant advocacy reached its height as the housing market was in chaos and socialist and civil rights forces were able to organize previously fragmented tenants unions to fight for rent control and public housing Using the dual tactics of eviction resistance and rent strikes they were able to affect some limited success in a city whose judicial system was too overburdened to handle
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