Housing Strike Spreads

On July 15, 1972 the Atlanta Voice printed an article by Boyd Lewis on the Atlanta Housing Strike. The article features Mrs. Louise Whatley, a tenant of Carver Homes and leader of the rent strike against the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA). The tenants wanted to improve their living conditions in all the housing projects in Atlanta. This article is reprinted from Atlanta Voice: Extra, an archive of our print news stories. Read more at Newspapers.com and every week on our website!

AHA denies any effect of protest
July 15th, 1972
by Boyd Lewis

A city-wide rent strike by public housing tenants, which began as a dozen or so residents picketing new units in the Bedford Pine community June 30, has now spread to 15 out of 22 projects in Atlanta, the organizer of the Georgia Tenants Organization said Tuesday. Mrs. Louise Whatley, a Carver Homes resident and leader of the tenant movement, called the rent strike successful, “very much so.”

Many public housing tenants are still withholding their July rents which became due nearly two weeks ago. An estimated 600 tenants from around the city came together Monday night at the Carver Homes Community Center to state their grievances and their support of the rent strike. 

Mrs. Whatley said the 8 p.m. meeting had to move to nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church because of the overflow crowd, which heard from Rev. Andrew Young, ” a congressional candidate, and John Calhoun, former coordinator of Economic Opportunity Atlanta programs in the Model Cities area. 

Tenants were told that the rent strike will continue “until further notice from the Georgia Tenants Organization,” said Mrs. Whatley, And that notice won’t come until the Atlanta Housing Authority begins to actively move on tenant grievances which include poor or seldom done maintenance, unjustified increases in rent, managers unable to relate to tenant problems, apartments infested with rats and roaches, lack of grass or topsoil in some projects and others. 

She said picket lines are still up at six projects, Mrs. Whatley admitted the closing of several manager’s offices has curtailed services for some tenants but she said: “We won’t let any tenants suffer.” 

“If there are any emergency, cases, we’ll find a way to get to them even if we have to do it (emergency repairs) ourselves. That’s what they trained us to do.” Mrs. Whatley, who led tenants in a take-over of dedication ceremonies June 30 at a new public housing site, said the strike will only be called off “when we see some action from the housing authority.” Residents in leased public housing and in the older projects especially need the services of painters, plasterers and other maintenance personnel, she said. 

Tenants themselves, and not the tenants organization, padlocked the office doors at some projects, she said, and the GTO hasn’t moved into a projects “unless the tenants say to come. They’re doing it, not us.” 

She said Carver Homes tenants originated the idea to strike daring the last week in June and were soon joined by residents in other projects and in leased housing. 

Tuesday afternoon, a near riot broke out at Bowen Homes in Northwest Atlanta when tenants threw stones and bottles at the rental office. Police cars and paddy wagons converged on the project and one tenant, Mrs. Delorise Elder, was arrested for criminal damage to city property. 

David Warner, assistant to AHA director Lester Persell, told the Voice Tuesday that no project remained close due to the tenant protest, (However, management offices were seen padlocked in a number of locations ‘ Techwood, Eagan Homes, Carver Homes, Betmar-LaVilla, Palmer House, Bowen Homes and Hollywood Courts.) 

Of 11 projects that the Voice could reach by telephone Tuesday afternoon, only three could report that they had not been hit by either picketing or closing down during the dispute. AHA urges tenants to bring grievances to the authority’s attention, said Warner, but so far, protesters have refused to meet with AHA officials. Tenant organization members failed to show up for a meeting scheduled for July 6 with housing authority representatives, he said. 

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July 15th 1972

Alexis Grace is a recent graduate of Clark Atlanta University and a current Graduate student at Agnes Scott College. During and after her time at CAU, she has worked and interned for several publications...

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