Thursday, 25 June 2009

Warsaw - Capital of Homelessness 2010

June 24 the Tenants' Defense Committee and the Warsaw Tenants' Association held a demonstration under the City Hall against the city's housing policy. The demo was a response to the city's continued attack on tenants which included a recent rent hike of 200-300% and taking the topic of the city's new housing policy of the agenda of the last city council meeting where members of the two organizations were to speak.

The amount of public housing available in the city is becoming smaller and smaller due to reprivatization of public housing and letting many houses fall into such a state of disrepair that they literally start falling down on the tenants. At the same time, the demand for public housing is growing. The ideologues of the ruling party believe that people should be able to find housing on the private market, but they seem oblivious to the fact that housing costs more than in many European cities and the overwhelming majority of people have neither the creditworthiness to buy a flat, nor enough money to rent one at the exorbitant rates charged by local landlords. As a result of property speculation and gentrification, many are driven out of the city and into the suburbs or nearby towns for lack of any affordable housing options.

At the same time, many politicians have been able to buy up property owned by the city, state or former state-owned enterprises at a fraction of their value.

The City is always trying to raise its prestige by blowing money on lavish events like European Congresses, Euro 2012 or whatever and is also trying to get elected to different titles such as the European City of Culture. The city is trying to gentrify the whole downtown and fill it with ritzy shops and cafes that few can afford and to convince the world that it is a rich city. But we say that Warsaw will probably become the European Capital of Homelessness by next years since evictions are bound to increase and people have nowhere to go.

We think that, in order to prove this point, there should be a homeless city set up outside City Hall. Unfortunately there have been violent thunderstorms in town, so we couldn't even stay one night this time - although at least a couple of symbolic housing structures were set up. We also agreed that the President of the City needs to get a certificate honouring the city as the Capital of Homelessness and we vowed to deliver it to her and make sure it is on the walls of City Hall.

Tomorrow is a press conference of the two organizations on the problem and what we are demanding. Demands of the organizations include stopping reprivatization as long as the city does not have housing available for all people who will be displaced and who are already waiting for housing, cancelling the rent increase and civic control over public housing expenditures.

Some photos are here:

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