The Tenant Class

The Tenant Class

By Ricardo Tranjan


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  • Foreword INDIES Award, Adult Non-fiction, Political and Social Sciences, 2023 (Short-listed)

In this trailblazing manifesto, political economist Ricardo Tranjan places tenants and landlords on either side of the class divide that splits North American society.

What if there is no housing crisis, but instead a housing market working exactly as intended? What if rent hikes and eviction notices aren’t the work of the invisible hand of the market, but of a parasitic elite systematically funneling wealth away from working-class families? With clarity and precision, Tranjan breaks down pervasive myths about renters, mom-and-pop landlords, and housing affordability. In a society where home ownership is seen as the most important hallmark of a successful life, Tranjan refuses to absolve the landlords and governments that reap massive profits from the status quo.

The tenant class must face powerful systems of disinformation and exploitation to secure decent homes and fair rent. Drawing upon a long, inspiring history of collective action in Canada, Tranjan argues that organized tenants have the power to fight back.


“In this provocative and persuasive book, Ricardo Tranjan reveals that there is no ‘housing crisis.’ Rather, there’s a rigged market in which powerful landlords ruthlessly exploit tenants with the full support of political leaders and the dominant homeowner class. This intriguing book will leave you realizing that the housing market operates just as it’s meant to – in the interests of landlords. That won’t change by offering ever more generous incentives to builders but by tenants taking collective action – and Tranjan provides an inspiring account of the little-known history of such collective action in Canada, dating back to before Confederation.”

– Linda McQuaig, author of The Sport & Prey of Capitalists: How the Rich Are Stealing Canada's Public Wealth

The Tenant Class counters the capitalist claptrap of columnists, policy wonks, and real estate interests. Against supply and demand narratives, Tranjan documents how landlords buy rental units to increase their market power and raise rent prices to maximize profits. His inquiry into the composition of the Canadian landlord class annihilates the myth of the ‘mom and pop’ landlord by revealing that capitalist enterprises and wealthy investors control eighty-eight percent of the country’s rental units. The Tenant Class hones in on the class antagonism that defines the landlord-tenant relationship and suggests tenants pick up their side of the class struggle.”

– Cole Webber, Community Legal Worker, Parkdale Community Legal Services

“The Tenant Class makes a compelling case for pushing back against the idea of a housing crisis, and instead viewing the system as one fundamentally set up to exploit tenants and enrich landlords. Tranjan provides exciting examples of the long history of tenant organizing in Canada, reminding us that resistance is possible and ongoing. This book explodes entrenched myths about renters and landlords, and will change the way many people understand the injustice of the housing system.”

– Leslie Kern, author of Feminist City and Gentrification Is Inevitable and Other Lies

“From now on, every time someone tells me that we just need to build more housing, I’ll tell them to read The Tenant Class. Then let’s talk about the realities of housing justice in this country. Tranjan offers a powerful rallying cry against the struggles tenants face and the organizing required to push for needed solutions.”

– Mike Morrice, Green Party of Canada, Member of Parliament, Kitchener Centre

“Tranjan’s book cuts through the carefully crafted myth that those in economic and political power are seeking fair solutions to a mysterious ‘housing crisis.’ People who rent the homes they live in are up against a system that has been developed to serve the profit needs of landlords, developers, and bankers. In the face of this, tenants must draw on their own rich history of resistance, challenge that power structure, and fight for their own rights and interests.”

– John Clarke, former organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), presently Packer Visitor in Social Justice, York University

“This isn’t just another book about housing policy. It is a rallying cry for anti-colonial and anti-capitalist tenant organizing replete with stories of struggle from the late 1800s in Prince Edward Island to recent rent strikes in Parkdale and in Hamilton. This is a must-read for anyone interested in building working-class solidarity and achieving housing justice for all.”

– Fred Hahn, President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario

“With clarity, precision, and passion, economist Ricardo Tranjan debunks the myths that allow real estate interests—including the fast-growing, ravenous financial behemoths known as Real Estate Investment Trusts—to treat renters as cash cows, thereby deepening Canada’s ongoing nightmare of housing insecurity and homelessness. Through portraits of historic and current-day initiatives, The Tenant Class also shows how tenant activism can tame the beast of unbridled profit-seeking and promote non-market solutions for renters, a distinct ‘class’ to which roughly forty percent of Canadians belong.”

– Stephen Dale, author of Shift Change: Scenes from a Post-industrial Revolution

“Renters: Read this! Ricardo Tranjan combines evidence with outrage to advocate for abundant social rental homes and strong regulation of housing markets, while challenging the oppressiveness of the landlord system. He makes a strong case for politicizing the housing crisis and, in doing so, transforming our society.”

– Anna Kramer, assistant professor, Urban Planning, McGill University

“In The Tenant Class, Ricardo Tranjan offers a cover-to-cover account of the corporate capture of our Canadian housing market by the real estate investor and banking class. Tranjan provides an important detailed history of tenant organizing in Canada and exposes the asymmetrical power dynamic between those fighting to keep a roof over their head and those continue to treat housing as their personal piggy bank.”

– Matthew Green, NDP Member of Parliament, Hamilton Centre

“Tranjan’s The Tenant Class is a rare and welcomed work from a housing professional who is bold enough to admit ‘inequality is a constitutive aspect of housing markets’ and improvements to living conditions are not found at ‘community consultations’ or through bureaucracies, but through class struggle.”

– Josh Hawley, founding member of Herongate Tenant Coalition

“The Tenant Class is a timely and accessible account of the failings of the profit-driven residential rental market. The book debunks the commonly shared narratives of the roots of the housing ‘crisis’ with its account of the exploitive nature of the financialized rental housing market. With an understanding of the how this market operates to the detriment of tenants, Ricardo Tranjan challenges readers to re-assess the solutions commonly put forward to address inadequate rental housing in Canada.”

– Dania Majid, housing lawyer


Introduction The Housing Crisis That Isn’t
One Tenants, a Social Class
Two Myths about the Tenant Class
Three But What about the Landlords?
Four A History of Struggle
Five Tenant Organizing Today
Six Pick a Side