Carr Square celebrates 1969 rent strike for public housing

Carr Square celebrates 1969 rent strike for public housing

CARR SQUARE – Hundreds of current and former Carr Square Village residents came together Saturday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1969 public housing rent strike. 

The commemoration was in conjunction with the annual Carr Square reunion at the neighborhood’s Loretta Hall Park.

Attendees were treated to complimentary barbecue and beverages with seating under a large canopy. Others set up their own grills. There were basketball games, bouncy houses, skating and ponies. A horse-drawn carriage took riders on a tour of the historic public housing complex to see improvements that have been fought for over the years. 

“It’s good to see the neighborhood, and everybody is doing well and coming back to support the old neighborhood because it’s more of a family than a neighborhood,” said Robert Wiles, whose grandmother was the second tenant to move into Carr Square Village, 1521 Carr Ave., when it was built in 1942. 

They are not strangers to coming together for work or for play. 

In 1969, they came together for the nine-month rent strike. They were protesting ignored complaints of deplorable living conditions at the now-historic housing project. 

They combined their efforts with other complaining public housing tenants, amassing 1,000 total protesters. Together the tenant-protesters withheld more than $650 million in rent from the St. Louis Housing Authority for nine months. That’s the equivalent of $4.5 million today. 

The strike, which drew national attention, lasted from February until October of that year, when the SLHA conceded and the tenants won several concessions.

  1. Tenant management corporations and affairs boards were formed. 
  2. A new SLHA board of commissioners, included two public housing residents, was formed. 
  3. There were increases in federal funds to public housing, nationally. 
  4. The Brooke Amendment to the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1969 capped rent ceilings at no more than 25 percent of household income. 

Some residents who were a part of the strike still live and work in the neighborhood. They – as well as new residents – are proud of the rich history. 

Alderwoman Tammika Hubbard (5th Ward) is among those whose families grew up in the area. Members of her family were instrumental in getting some of the public housing guidelines changed. Hubbard sponsored a city resolution, Recognition of the 1969 Public Housing Rent Strike.

“I don’t do resolutions for anybody. … I feel that it should only be given to causes that are very worthy,” the alderwoman said. “And so when I look at the strides that came out of the 1969 rent strike … I couldn’t think of a moment in time which spurred everything that we’re sitting here doing today.” 

Her father, Rodney Hubbard Sr., who coordinated the celebration, is director and resident manager of the Carr Square Tenant Management Corporation. All members of the Carr Square Tenant Management Corporation were given copies of the resolution. 

“What that resolution means is that when you look into the archived history of St. Louis, you will have a documented place and time of history of honoring the rent strike,” Hubbard said. 

Another Carr Square Villager, Priscilla Richie, was honored for lengthy education stint in day-care centers in St. Louis’ public housing complexes. The schools were also a result of tenants’ fighting for better living conditions. 

“The only job that I have ever had was in public housing. … I accept this award on behalf of the many thousands of children that I have taught, including my son,” Richie said. 

Rodney Hubbard said there were many good children today because of Richie. 

“If they had people nurturing children like Miss Richie was nurturing children, we wouldn’t have the problems we’re having today, and she does it because she loves it,” the elder Hubbard said. 

To the “villagers” and other in attendance, he said, “I’m telling y’all from experience, don’t let the outside people try to tell y’all what to do. … do what you know is best.”

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