Inquilinos Unidos has its origins in the tenant advocacy of Dino Hirsch, a retired machinist and union organizer, who, from 1979 to his death in 1988, dedicated himself to advocating for tenants living in the Pico Union district of Los Angeles.
Dino introduced tenants to advocacy before the City Council, kept the media engaged, and joined tenants in confronting, and negotiating with, landlords.
After Dino’s death, a group of housing activists determined that it was critical that the work of Inquilinos Unidos continue. Thus, in November of 1988, Inquilinos Unidos was incorporated as a non-profit organization and subsequently obtained its 501 (c) (3) status.
In 1998, IU allied with other tenant groups to pressure the Los Angeles City Council to create the Systematic Code Enforcement Program (SCEP), a program to inspect the City’s over 700,000 rental units for electrical, plumbing and structural housing code violations.
IU has also been instrumental in the development of the 100 million dollar Housing Trust Fund for the City of Los Angeles and in the creation of the Rent Escrow Account Program (REAP), a City-wide code-enforcement program and partnership with the Los Angeles Housing Department designed to engage tenants and compel negligent landlords to make much needed repairs.
IU was the organizing force behind the Cambria tenant cooperative and responsible for several major legal settlements against some of the more notorious slumlords in the city. To date, IU has been responsible for over $11,000,000 being awarded to tenants through litigation. IU also is credited for the development of the Tenant Group Empowerment Training (TGET) program, Tenant Organizing Committees (TOCs) and slum tours, and has done significant advocacy and policy reform work on major rehabilitation evictions, relocation benefits, code enforcement, and rent stabilization standards and operating procedures.
Recently, IU partnered with state and local coalitions, and with local community based organizations to defeat Prop 98, a state-wide anti-rent control initiative. We did this through endorsements, coalition building and planning, educating and organizing, precinct walking and phone banking, media awareness, community forums and demonstrations.
In 2008, IU also partnered with the City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission and the Los Angeles Police Department to provide mini-workshops on housing and tenant’s rights to police officers during roll call at local divisions. Worskhops were designed to increase awareness, prevent misinformation and improve community relations with local law enforcement. A total of 433 officers received these workshops.
IU continues to work with Call to Action on tenant protections, slum housing litigation and legislation, the Healthy Homes Collaborative on health and environmental issues in slum buildings, and with Housing LA in the development of a city-wide plan around affordable housing preservation and production that includes a permanent source of funding for the Housing Trust Fund, limiting apartment demolitions and conversions, enforcing rent control laws, and a mixed income policy.