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Mount Vernon Group Helps Empower Tenants

MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – Mount Vernon United Tenants (MVUT) provides services to members of the community who may not know where to go for help if they run into trouble with their landlord.

“I believe in political empowerment because of the disparity of wealth and because poor tenants are constantly behind the eight ball,” said Dennis Hanratty, executive director of MVUT. “We are the only funded and staffed tenant association in Westchester County. Our 30-year track record is strong. We know the laws and regulations and have a strong reputation in the city.”

The MVUT helped prevent more than 180 evictions and provided housing assistance for more than 30 families and individuals last year, Hanratty said. It also provided technical assistance to more than a dozen buildings to help tenants secure improved services and affordable rents and to lessen landlord harassment, he said. Still, it is hard for the MVUT to function on what he called its small budget, Hanratty said.

“We should have gotten a state grant on July 1, but we still haven’t gotten it, which is hurting us,” Hanratty said. “We are running by the skin of our teeth.”

Even though money is tight, Hanratty said the organization is still able to serve tenants in Mount Vernon, whether it is through direct intervention or a tenant action program that allows the MVUT to organize buildings to better represent themselves. Hanratty said power in today's society is derived from property ownership, which many tenants in Mount Vernon don’t have.

“We’ll deal with the harsh power differential where the landlord has the power,” Hanratty said. “Tenants are not seen as having rights, but we can collectively help them organize.”

For more information, visit the MVUT website.

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