Grassroots protest against worsening Housing across Europe

ACTION
As a consequence of the unsolved crisis and anti-social austerity measurements the housing situation of many Europeans has extremely worsened during the past five years. This is the reason why, before the coming elections to the European Parliament and to many local councils, housing grass-root groups of the “European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and to the City” are joining protests for a democratic and social transformation of the European structures and for a rights based approach in urban development. We urgently need an immediate stop of forced evictions which are the result of financial speculation and economic collapses.  And we need a general shift from the rule of financialized real estate markets to social housing policies. Below, we want to highlight two of the national protests.

In SPAIN economic growth for a long time was based on a construction bubble which was financed by the expansion of family indebtedness in favour of globalized investors. When this speculative model collapsed and unemployment increased many people became unable to pay the high rents and debts which were a result of the overvalued housing stock. Since 2007 more than 500.000 foreclosure processes were initiated. In 2011 more than 100 evictions took place every day.  While no national legislation and no European program protected housing rights the established crisis management mechanisms are still continuing to transform the livelihoods in Spain into financial assets, for example by selling the remaining public housing and bad bank (SAREB) property to global speculators.

Since 2009, mortgage victims have organized themselves in the “Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca” (PAH) with the purpose to mobilise and protect the right to housing from below.  PAH blocked thousands of evictions and occupied vacant properties, amassed by financial institutions, to relocate thousands of families that had become homeless. A judgment of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that Spain’s mortgage law was abusive and incompatible with European consumer rights seemed to back the positions of PAH. However, Spain’s government, headed by the Popular Party (PP), has mostly dismissed the court decision and only applied it partly. Government has also repeatedly blocked a Popular Legislative Initiative (ILP) presented by PAH and backed by 90% of the population.

At 9th May PAH in Barcelona and other cities will start actions which will inform voters and remind politicians on the pending legislation and their responsibility for leaving thousands homeless and indebted for the rest of their lives. The three demands on the ILP are now more needed than ever: (1) moratorium on evictions, (2) regulate Dación en pago for all debtors in good faith:  it means that mortgage debt must be cancelled as soon as a house is foreclosed and repossessed by the bank, (3) transformation of foreclosed properties in the hands of banks into affordable housing.

The new PAH campaign will demonstrate that self-organized citizens will be vigilant and combative again. Democratic politics are not those agreed in bank offices or behind the public eye, but those claimed by citizens – in the streets if necessary!

Similar to many other countries, property prices in FRANCE have doubled over the last ten years while rents have increased by 50%. According to the organization „Droit au Logement“ (DAL) this price explosion has been heated up by investor-orientated „urban renewal“-projects, privatisation of public land, tax reductions for real estate speculators and the deregulation of rents. Another reason for the price bubble is the inadequate number of new housing construction, especially of social housing.

„During the past five years the French state has abused public savings of 120 billion €, which originally were dedicated to social housing, for the support banks“, DAL says. „The social consequences have been disastrous: 30% of renters spend more than half of their income on housing costs, 120 000 eviction authorizations were made in 2012, 140 000 people have no shelter. That is twice as much as 10 years ago. Laws protecting the homeless and poorly-housed are ignored, and shantytowns are reappearing.“  As a consequence of the economic crisis and public deficit the French have to fear an increasing conflict with the European fiscal regime, which soon can result in further social degradation and housing shortage.

DAL together with other social movements like ATTAC will organize a march of protest against austerity.  On May 17 protesters will walk from the Place de l’Opéra in place of the Republic in Paris with stops at banks and institutions.

Many more protests against the European austerity will include slogans and actions against real estate speculation and for the Right to the City, for instancethe Blockupy demonstration in Düsseldorf, Germany, at 17th May. We call for participation.

HOUSING FOR PEOPLE, NOT FOR PROFIT!

STOP EVICTIONS AND EXPENSIVE RENTS!

 

The „European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and the City” since 2013 has been trying to develop new approaches for a transnational cooperation between multiple local alliances. Through parallel decentralized activities (European Action Days, Oct. 2013), coordinated solidarity action (against the criminalization of homeless in Hungary, Feb. 2014), targeted protests at business shows (“Anti-Mipim”, March 2014 in Cannes) and the development of concrete common European demands it intends to challenge the global real estate actors as well as the European austerity regime.

Contacts for this statement:

  • PAH International Commission – pahinternacional <at> gmail.com
  • Annie Pourre, DAL and No Vox, pourre.annie <at> orange.fr
  • Knut Unger, MieterInnenverein Witten, knut.unger <at> mvwit.de

published in reclaiming-spaces.org