Wuppertal seminar "cross_solidarity"

Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung #rosalux international meeting. One morning worksop and one in the afternoon. http://www.rosalux.de/event/48108/cross-solidarity-internationale-solidaritaet-in-der-krise.html Some English material at http://cross-solidarity.net/wordpress/?page_id=558

The first part of this is notes on a Workshop “we are all bank tenants”. Later are notes on a second workshop. Do not rely on an statistics or other stuff in here: check with original authors etc. Please do send me corrections or add them as comments at the end.  M

Facilitator: Grischa Dallmer

Vanessa Valiño: Forced evictions in Spain: from the fraud to a new constitution

Public housing only <2% in Spain; rest private (mortage) or private rent (15%)

Summarises importance of private ownership in the Franco period and its survival. Most ownership-dominated place in Europe, but actually it is the banks which own the housing. Enormous speculative housebuilding industry.  Typical mortgages 40 years with low initial interest; mortgages of then 120% (of what?) family debt reached 143% (of what?) in 2008. Debt biggest problem for poor, young, migrants.

Abusive practices:

Adjustable rates, with low start. // False guarantees // symbiosis between notaries, agents, valuers // preventing people from benefitting whe interest rates fall.

Unemployment grew from 8 to 27% 2007-13, esp immigrants 30% and young 48%

Fall in property values often exceed the mortgage.

Evictions result from non-payment of mortgages and of rent. (Lots of detail which my Spanish is not good enough to catch. She is going faster and faster.)

Since 2007 we had 400,000 evictions (source Council of judciary) now running at 93,000 per year. Bank can re-posess at 60% of the value at the time of purchase (?)  Borrower still responsible for the whole of the loan. No second opportunity.

Rescue packages for financial institutions under EU Memorandum. Help for banks, not borrowers.

Citizen campaigns for debt forgiveness / to enable people to become social renters / stop evictions /

Then a good short video on Spanish situation afectadosdelahypoteca.com

Michael Edwards comment:

Wages static or falling for most people in all countries – since 1970s

Capital invests in production in western Europe no longer

Money capital moves into housing, land, and other assets which….

This is to a great extent a bubble….


People relate to banks in differet ways:

– people buying housing wth mortgages pay interest and repay loans

– people in rental co-ops and real social housing often do the same, but collectively, and then they are absolute owners

– people in most housing companies/ associations contine to pay after the loans are finished.

and associations increasingly acting LIKE private bodies. Houses become “Assets”; rents reflect market levels now rather than historic costs.

– some people are outright owners. Finished paying

The dynamics of this sytem increases inequality: tenants and buyers with debt are enriching landlords, banks and established owners. This also is divisive between generations, with young tending to suffer most, and the old (IF they own) benefitting most.

The housing can thus be made a permanent way for owners to ‘milk’ the society through of rent/sale value long after it is paid for!


Scarcity of housing pushes up the price of housing and of land, so much so that a new house can cost double or treble or more of the construction cost.


Thus landowners, banks and property firms become very powerful, so do individual house owners


they influence or control city governments and planning. Often they control the way we think.


We have to challenge all these relationships

– with banks

– with property companies etc

– with city govts, planning

– with ways of thinking

BUT it is so hard because these DIFFERENT ways of relating to banks is divisive…. Divisive.

and if we attack everyone who owns any housing we attack old people who rely on rent for income (very impotant in some countries, especially in this crisis); and we challenge the % of people who have bought a house to rely on in old age.

Walter Rapattoni 

explains the Unione Inquilini (renters association?) in Italy and its challenges to the law governing housing. (Too difficult to follow the Italian and Spanish)

[I am dreaming a bit, having lost the thread. Thinking of the antagonisms between housing tenure groups as being like the rats in cases, or people elbowing onto a crowdwd train. It would all make a good animation – Harvey style.

In a way I’m having that experience of being excluded from a lively and important discussion (because it is in Spanish, Italian and German mostly) – which must be the very common feeling of all those who don’t have English. Chastening I guess. ]

Knut Unger

explaining something about the penetration in Germany of housing by investment funds, private equity funds etc and the struggles which begin against all this. Linking to general growth of neoliberal economic policies since Thatcher.

Links it all with EU/Troika memoranda and demands on debtor countries and explains proposal we worked out at previous days’ meetings


Greek comment: Troika has stopped banks from doing evictions and within a year they will be free to start evictions. I commented that UK is in a rather Greek situation in this respect: our banks are being very very patient and NOT evicting people much for no-payment of mortgages. Clearly this is something they can afford to do in exchange for the elephantine amount of money which everyone tin the UK has given to the banks (via the government). Most of our evictions so far in UK have been for non-payent of rent by tenants. That is growing, leading to homelessness – though we still have a law which requires local municipalities to find housing for priority cases (families with children). I think Vanessa is commenting on how they defend people in Sapin including action with trade unions of bank workers (I think). Italian comment about physical pickets of evictions. Many short comments in Spanish, Italian, German and I am rather lost.  Clearly some quite midddle-class people, respectful of law and order, are becoming willing to resist. Something on how many people lack the esperience, confidence, consciousness, to take part in any solidarity action….

Knut explain slogan ” No profit in housing” and proposal to make a campaign across Europe on housing rights. (I’ll try and get a text to paste in here). Chris calls for help from everyone in the logistics of all this.

 Workshop on solidarity etc

Hatice Kursuncu

(Real) Social Housing hardly exist in Turkey, and there is a decline; and mega projects are reducing quality of life of people and generating huge indebtedness. We see large movements which are faced with problems. How could international solidarity help?

Shows her fine map of 2010 showing areas which are supposed to be destroyed, with evictions. 22 neighbourhoods and many more are now added. Huge power of TOKI which can sell to private investors; it can develop public buildings, malls, offices, schools, mosques even  a police station. Its main function is to evict people from areas and make them move to “social housing” in the periphery where they have to “buy” housing and incurr debts.  [talk in Turkish, interpreted into German, then from German into English. Slow and dodgy. Better than nothing. ]

Disaster Prevention law (against quakes) hugely speeds up the development process, removing the power to stay/delay eviction. Large parts of Istanbul have now been declared catastrophe areas and there the state has even greater powers. Anti-democratic tendencies much increased. There are many vacant new apartments, however.

Gives detailed examples, 2 from istanbul, one from Ankara. In Ankara a successful campaign managed to stop a development project.

Shows 3 mega projects:  #3 bridge over Bosphorus and second city “Eco-Istanbul” // 3d Airport // Olympics 2023 bid // City centre transformation in Beyoglu Tarlaba Taksim Okmeyda.

She works in the group IMECE – toplumun sehircilik haraketi

Sylvia Brennerman

from Duisburg whom we met yesterday, and she is speaking about their neighbourhood Brukhausen with high unemployment and many empty houses. plan to abolish 400 houses and build a mall/outlet centre; in adjoining neighbourhood Thyssen-Krupp which is having trouble complying with environmental standards and thus the adjoining district is to be destroyed!  Our resistance is quite strong. No armed police yet, but strong threats with letters etc.  High vacancy level makes people feel insecure and also leads to actual crime. Mainstream media tend to ignore us, and/or call us “anti-islamist”. City’s approach to protesters much tougher. (something about mosques?) (Chair taken to task for the way he spoke of shrinking city: Brukhausen is shrinking only because of evictions)

Pat Turnbull

Explains UK Council Housing. Pressure on tenants in London from rising rents; very severe in private renting; but quite bas in social housing. Many dependent on social benefits to pay rent, and these benefits are now being limited or cut.  In addition there are losses of social rented house: RtB, sell-offs, clearances and very little new building.  Common experiences:  social housing areas portrayed as poor, dangerous, ugly. Many major social housing estates now being erased by court actions and evictions which exhausts our resistance sometimes.

Carpenters Estate at Stratford was initially happy to hear that the Olympic games was coming to be beside them, but now find that they will be displaced by a UCL Campus – though they are fighting back and supported by many UCL students (and staff, Pat).  The Heygate Estate at the Elephant and Castle is another dramatic case…  Ferrier Estate  in SE London where 1900>>4300 homes of which only 700 to be at really affordable rents. Some flats for sale at over £1m.

Some vital tasks:

  • (i) better tenant organisation
  • (ii) better connections between affected estates so people can support each other, and international contact so people can see they are not alone in this crisis. We should link the Duisburg and London housing areas so they know more about each other.

Chair: a common experience is that housing is given a bad name, labelled as low quality. Max Taut the architect of Zinken Platz:  some flats are uninhabitable but that is because of the condition in which they have been permitted to fall. Authorities claim there is not enough available social housing to remove people and rehouse them properly.

Agnes Verweij Rotterdam:  very hard to mobilise people into a struggle and having heard from Istanbul I think I can surely now get our own people interested and more optimistic about the possibilities of action. Maybe we can invite people from istanbul to explain and encourage. Hatice replies – we do have migrants too in Instanbul.  Many young people like me working with migrants (e.g. on language classes).

Claudio Javier Pulgar Pinaud Santiago de Chile (All in bursts of rapid Spanish and I lost it) Some Chile history clearly; Milton Freedman mentioned…..

Vanesa stresses the need to connect urban struggles with agric workers’ struggles, and then a lot more…

Agnes asks for more discussion… What do you all think about “No profit from housing” ? Discuss it and  let us know. We are campaigning on that this year.

XX  What about construction workers.  We have a housing co-op which also constructs housing, and does not have the profit model. It destroyed an old structure while saying it wanted to keep the rents the same as before, so I would ask what kind of housing do we want to organise and on what basis.


       Note on the journey home – a train passing through Aachen

Meeting useful? Some good networking and new contacts, e.g. Charlotte might be interested in Inura which needs French input and Vanesa should certainly cooperate with Sona Arbaci in Barcelona.

Good parallels between evictions here (Duisberg areas where we visited, but apparently other Ruhr areas too) and UK cases. In some ways more like northern towns (HMR) than London but the fact of slow decimation of communities is very like Carpenters.

Quite strong support in the housing group for a simple blog to act as a hub for info exchanges etc, data. What a good simple idea.

Another idea is to link up national lisings of events (like the UK’s “false economy” lists). However, despite the very wide age range of the people at the meetings (from 20s to 70s) no-one actually offers to DO any of these things. Pity.  I am resolved not to offer: trying to do less, not more. I have 4 blogs to run already.

I discused with an organiser from the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung the seeming under-use of IT in germany and by them in particular. She didn’t seem to get it. Apparently Twitter little used in D, not  even facebook. No wonder attendance at their event was thin.

Author: Editors


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: