TWU first organized in the mid-1980s in response to the scheduled mass evictions of thousands of low-income renters in the Arlandria neighborhood of Alexandria. Wrongly assuming that residents would simply leave their homes to make way for gentrification, developers sought legal and illegal means to force people out. But the tenants stayed, they studied, and they organized. Together, we won a class-action lawsuit, staving off the evictions and giving us an incentive to keep organizing.
We translated our desire to stay into a “politics of permanence.” This meant finding a solution to the problems of eviction, soaring rents, and powerlessness. Following our initial organizing victories, we began a nearly ten-year campaign to create limited-equity cooperative housing in Alexandria. And we did: the Arlandria-Chirilagua Housing Cooperative (ACHC) is a 282-unit, limited equity housing cooperative, owned and democratically controlled by predominantly low-income residents.
Purchased by residents with support from the Federal Reserve Bank, the City of Alexandria, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the ACHC effectively removed a bloc of housing from the ravages of the market – and created a new bloc of homeowners and stakeholders in our community. From those beginnings in one neighborhood fighting for affordable housing, TWU expanded to city-wide issues such as access to healthcare and excellent public education, and has now grown into a regional organization that is fighting anti-immigrant policies in Prince William County and supporting day laborers in Fairfax County.