This year’s general meeting of Vonovia SE, the largest housing company in Europe, will only take place virtually on the internet. But this does not stop a broad alliance of tenant organisations and critics of the company from demonstrating against the business practices and the growing power of Vonovia, LEG and similar companies. On Saturday, 23 April 2022, they want to take their protest to the streets of Bochum. Starting at 12.30 pm in front of the main railway station.
The worsening housing problems in European cities are an important part of the general EU crisis. The EU treaties guarantee the free movement of capital (Art. 26 & 63 TFEU), the free competition of undertakings (Art. 107 TFEU) and the restriction of public budgets (Stability and Growth Pact, European Fiscal Compact).
Without a strong social counterpart, these constitutional principles protect and promote the abuse of property for the construction of globally traded financial assets.
Housing, however, is a basic need for everybody and thus a human right that is protected by international law. As far as the treatment of houses as financial assets threatens its affordability, accessibility, security of tenure, adequacy or habitability, the EU-member states are morally and legally obliged to control and socialise property for the benefits of their people. If the framework of the EU prohibits such social regulating, it becomes an institutional challenge to human rights. We want the opposite. We want the EU to become an internal and external stimulator, promoter and guarantor of the right of every person to have a secure, decent and affordable place to live.
For too long many people in Europe have endured the systematic abuse of land, homes, infrastructures and budgets for the increase of private profits, whilst those engaging in social action to protect the right to housing have found themselves on the defensive. There are hopeful examples, however, of successful emancipatory popular struggles for radical social changes in the housing system. In Berlin, for instance, a popular grassroots initiative is currently initiating a referendum for the expropriation of houses owned by landlords who own more than 3,000 apartments and the socialisation of their properties into democratic public entities. But the struggle cannot be won as long as it remains fragmented and only reduced to local and regional levels.
The housing crisis will never be overcome, unless the following policy changes are made:
- The adoption of the international right to housing as a fundamental duty of all EU institutions, member states and business and the concrete implementation of this basic human right in the form of a European housing strategy.
- Allowing, guaranteeing and supporting publicly regulated segments of democratic not-for-profit housing for broad strata of the population outside EU competition rules and financial capital flows.
- An EU-framework that allows, encourages and supports the strict social regulation of profit-oriented private landlords, market rents, land markets, mortgages, transparency, facility services and the consequences of mortgage default.
- Protecting, encouraging and supporting the engagement and organisation of tenants and other inhabitants for their rights and the needed structural changes in housing, land and real estate.
Bond Precaire Woonvormen and Globalinfo (Netherlands), MieterInnenverein Witten (Tenant Union Witten, Germany), Habita! (Lisbon), Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt (CADTM, Belgium), Union Antiauctions Initiative and Stop Auctions (Greece), Observatori DESC (Barcelona)