Writing from the annual meeting of INURA at Essen in the Ruhrgebiet. Sitting in the garden of the house where we are meeting – a garden with wi-fi and fireflies at night. It’s a residential centre for youth activity (and I am scarcely youthful enough to climb the 3m ladder to my sleeping balcony each night). It is so interesting to see the residues of industrial capitalism and social democracy in this region – the scattered settlements separated by forstes and hills, the grimness of the industrial history sanitised by disuse and forest… wonderful public transport and other public infrastructure……
Conference info at http://www.inura-rhein-ruhr.de
First day was excursions in the region. I skipped it to prepare my talk for the next day. The whole day was a very well-schemed programme organised by Sebastian Müller, with just 6 or 7 speakers in a whole day – and a very strong focus on the rapid entry of venture capital funds and other financial institutions into the built environment, most recently the wholesale sale of social housing to these investors.
Good talks by Thomas Rommelspache the regional planner, more thoroughly embedded in the SD thinking than anyone I have heard for years. Then Lydia Krüger from Attac-DE who was excellent and could have talked usefully for hours, Sebastian analysing the German trends… Roger Keil extended the whole scope of the day by zooming out to a global geopolitical level and talking about impending public health thretas to the world, contrasting the cooperation and collective actionpossible and essential for all that with warmongering and domineering practices of Bush etc. Bush versus Mrs Brundtland.
Then me reporting from the Athens ESF and giving some account of what I thought was going on, and possible actions.[ Powerpoint here as PDF 3.1mb. ]Then Knut Ungers (HIC) on tenant struggles against privatisation in Ruhr and another Ruhr activist reporting on a two-tier housing syndicate they have implemented here which enables collectively-owned housing schemes to be effectively proofed against sale or private/individual purchase. A bit like the structure at Coin Street. Very encouraging.
MONDAY – some notes
Marvi Maggio talking about a housing project in florence and the problem of what line to take on levels of rent… whether to support a rent reduction of 25%?? the work was published in several web sites and sone for tenants groups in Florence. Feels uncomfortable now with Inura ??, Rent seems natural… but without power shifts, how can you begin to change the l;evel of rent. In florence we have 1000 people squatting dwellings, many of them immogrants; + we have people fighting for centri sociale and there is a tension between these 2 groups. Actually the problem is rents. Employers do demand that nothing can be afforded because of the need to remain competitive. But in fact it is a problem of rent / land values. Means can include zoning protection of housing space, stop using state money to support privatisation, supporting collective property ownership, supporting rent control. Some discussion but not enough time to do it properly. Issues include theorisation of rent versus wages, basis for campaigning, language to use in campaigns, detailed instruments and demands against rents. Links to her text (in Italian for example http://www.globalproject.info/art-8749.html.
KNUT Ungers on proposals for a research collaboration on Real Estate watch… Should we limit to housing, or extend to real estate market as a whole; or keep it very global and massive in scope? Most recently elaborated in Vancouver meeting this summer. Now proposed a collaboration including INURA about this.
Q on data collection problems – because covert, hidden nature of investment funds, and also the corruption linked with real estate… What is a REIT? (short answers given. What is the status of Knut’s proposal? Proposal is to tackle the global enemy, and its local effects and forms. Competition between governments (eg UK and D) to be next European country to introduce. There was a 3-page outline circulated on paper. Massimo 1. Richard lee in london asks for info on lex constructionis. 2. On north south issue – we wanted the framework open so people could later add their part of the world. Avoid closure. 3. LSF involved with cleaners wages campaigns at DB in London.
Louanne – supports this – and has some experience of “watch”movements. But real estate is an octopus… Learn lessons from campaigns by unions and others to get their pension funds to disinvest from non-ethical organisations. Can put a real fear into the culprit organisation. Michael: data problems not totally insuperable. Arie: good to develop toolkits to help local groups learn about the comapnies active in their area… Big capital used to focus just on offices, malls, etc; then move into utilities began to bite on citizens direct… now housing…. Martina (Vienna)- very important isue that previousl-local struggles like water, howing, now become global… How do we analyse the enemies? Also need new models. Britta: do you have examples that corporate watch have actually helped in campaigns. (Alun recalled their vsiist yesterday to an estate where tenants had confronted Annington to some effect.. by campaigning and publicity. ) Roger – cf patrick bond durban, toronto could help maybe to get a researcher financed, infrastructure crucial (c.f. graham and marvin splintering urbanism issues). One case study could be hotel workers. where campains now against Hilton…Link with wages in general very important.
Knut responds with strong support for the potentialities of these “watch” systems. Need to start by web pages which profile key companies etc…. and have ownership shared among many organisations.
Bob C: Important to get local planners to feed in data, because planning locally is often the interface…
Jorgen adds. See that the water companies tried but were disappointed and are now pulling out. Maybe the funds will be disappointed in housing. But housing is poison because people can organise democractically…. ARound 1900 this was a big issue and it helped get private owners to give up and the social organisations to move in. Housing is poison too because of local culture: they should beware of getting into destruction of local culture.
LORENZO AND IACOPO on CoMMA
Project was not evaluated because the Commission decided it was not in the scope of the programme. Bid was Florence + Bartlett + Vienna + Spactacle + ?Citymine(d) + etc. Tension of trying to being different bodies of knowledge and expertise together (Laura) but important to do it. Mark: do persevere because then there is a good chance of winning in the end. Note that all funds expire this year with new ones start next year. Often at the changeover there is spare money floating around.
Try the “Media +” call, which could be relevant because it is about media archives. We need to set up infrastructure for making bids, contract forms and all that. Then we could move faster once the calls come out.
Showed us the web site www.cartografiaresistente.org which has wiki-type text + image + map areas. Have PLACE category, Links to local notes, struggles etc.