From Infoshop: http://news.infoshop.org/article.php?story=2010100513590480
Tuesday, October 05 2010 @ 01:59 PM UTC
Contributed by: WorkerFreedom
A rent strike action started in Warsaw on Oct. 1. The strike has just begun and hopefully will spread to include more participants around the city. The strike is part of a series of actions planned to protest city housing policy and was called by ZSP. The actions will include local protests, assemblies and direct actions against administrative offices, courts and local politicians responsible for the situation.
Yesterday the first local protest was held in the Praga district of Warsaw. Although ZSP is promoting the idea of the strike and bringing housing under popular control, the protest included other postulates for the here-and-now including rent reductions, raising the income levels required to qualify for public housing, more investment in this area and an end to the corrupt practices of the administration and the privatization mafia. More protests are to follow throughout the week.
ON THE STRIKE AND BACKGROUND ON THE SITUATION
Oct. 1, 2010
Today the rent strike called by ZSP has started in the capital of Poland.
The strike was called in response to the horrendous housing policy of the city. For those not convinced of the necessity to strike, last night was the straw that broke the camel's back: the City Council blew off tenants who have been protesting for months and did not vote for the resolution prepared by them.
The Council session lasted until 22:30 last night. Hundreds of people jammed into the main hall; there was not enough room for everybody, so people also sat in the next rooms, watching on a big screen. The presentation made by tenants did not make an impression on the Vice President or most of the council, who just try to convince people that they have to accept that there will never be adequate public housing in this city. (These were almost the exact words of two politicians.) In the end, the Council just voted to let the President call a special group of "experts" to "consult" with.
The people know what a farce that will be. The arrogant and inhuman stance of the politicians convinced more people that radical steps, as proposed by the ZSP, are the only ones that make any sense.
Tomorrow starts the first of two protests scheduled in the next days. More direct actions will be held. A tenants assembly takes place tonight to discuss strategy.
A few hundred people have expressed support for these actions already.
In the meanwhile. ZSP has started to inform people about a legal loophole one comrade found which may delay eviction indefinitely. City authorities are livid but it will take quite a while for them to amend the problem and, in the meanwhile, rent strikers may use this.
The rent strike also comes after the Voivodship's recent decision which raises rents even higher, plunging more people into a desperate situation.
ZSP would like to see public housing come under popular control and politicians evicted from their offices. In the meanwhile, it has other immediate demands which include the reduction of rents to the pre-May 2009 rate, raising the income criteria to qualify for public housing, increased investment in repair and building new housing, providing new public housing to tenants in houses that have been reprivatized and ending all irregularities related to reprivatization and public housing procedures.
Below are a few issues related to the housing problem:
1. After the nazi bombings in WWII, there was little housing left in Warsaw. The owners of many houses had either left the country or were killed in the war. Many new buildings were constructed on land where there used to be private houses. Some houses which were of historic value or only partially destroyed, were rebuilt with public funds and often using the volunteer labour of the people who lived there (tenants) or future tenants who would receive housing in exchange for their labour.
The PRL government turned much formerly private housing into public housing and sent tenants to live there.
The reprivatization process has meant the return of formerly private homes, without the necessity to find substitute public housing for the tenants.
Reprivatization is often fraudulent. For example, some companies owned flats or part of a building. But these companies ceased to exist during the PRL period. However, due to legal absurdities in Poland, any pre-war company can be reactivated - with complete property rights - upon the presentation of "proof of ownership" - in other words, paper stocks. However, since paper stocks were worthless during the PRL period and did not represent ownership rights, they were treated as collector items, winding up in antique and used book shops. According to absurd Polish law, any person who collected these stocks can reactivate the company and treat these stock as valid.
Although there are some legal measures being taken against this type of fraud, the other legal absurdity is that, once a reprivatized building is sold to a third party, there is no possibility to annul the sale, even if the property was acquired by fraudulent means!
Another type of fraud is producing false papers; we have found many "heirs" of people who had no children or of people who already received compensation for their property.
The city does not properly check claims. They also do not inform tenants of claims started against their buildings and often tenants find out about this only after ownership of the building is transfered or sold to a third party. This means that tenants, some of whom are elderly and remember the original owners and many details of the ownership, cannot submit documents which may prove the claim false because they do not even know about the claim.
The city deliberately makes it near impossible for tenants to receive information about what is happening to their buildings.
2. After the reprivatization process, the new landlord can raise rents or try to end the rental agreement with the tenants. They often use slumlord tactics (cutting off heat, water, sanitation) to drive people out of their homes sooner. (They are required to give tenants a notice period, but many cannot wait to make money off their real estate.)
3. Much of public housing is deliberately neglected by the city, which mismanages public funds. Many houses are in dangerous condition, do not have heat or hot water, are infested by fungus or are falling down. The city inspectors often condemn buildings and their tenants are moved to worse housing, further away or with smaller space.
4. The income criteria qualifying people for public housing is far too low. There are no places on the market to rent for people who exceed this limit but are in the average income group. And the city keeps raising rents.
5. The public housing stock is also being deliberately depleted. (This is part of the city's "public housing strategy".) Every year, thousands of units are reprivatized, sold or condemned while very little is built. Thousands of families are on waiting lists and thousands more are housed in conditions which do not fulfill any norms (too little space per person, no toilets or facilities, etc. etc.).
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
We say no to speculation, no to profiteering off this basic human need, no to the anti-social policies and practices of the local administration and no to the assumptions of private property and inherited wealth.
We call on tenants to organize themselves, show mutual aid and solidarity to their neighbours and fight back against these housing practices which are ruining more and more people's lives!