Poznan (Poland): Conference “The cities for people – not for profit”

201511_Poznan_konferencja_lokatorska6th – 9th November 2015, Poznań, Poland

Greater Poland Tenants’ Association together with European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and to the are inviting you to the conference of tenants’ rights groups. The congress will take place in Poznań between 6th and 9th November 2015.

It has been many years since we can observe the expansion of precarity of housing condition all over the world. The neoliberal policies are forcing increasingly larger clusters of a society to outlay more and more: privatisation of common resources, welfare cuts, limiting citizens’ rights, mass evictions, gentrification and proliferation of banks on the housing market. These techniques are of international scope – the results, with varying dynamics and at different stages are discernible everywhere in the world. It is absolutely essential to create a network of solidarity in struggle for decent housing conditions. We are obliged to expose the radius of human rights violations, including the right to decent living, that shall not be aligned neither with one’s economic status nor their origin. We have to reveal the genuine character of EU and UN-Habitat policy (UN-Habitat Conference, Quito, Ecuador, October 2016) aiming to blow “the right to the city” and “the right to housing”.

The meeting of the European coalition is meant to become a platform for sharing knowledge and strategies crucial in local struggles for tenants’ rights. International speculations have an ever stronger impact on everyone’s life. The banks and private owners hire companies specialising in mass evictions. This is rapidly emerging market in Poland – so-called “house cleansing” – hence violent and illegal evictions are a common occurrence nowadays.

The conference in Poznań is an aftermath of the meeting that took place in Athens on 20th and 21th May this year. The convergence aims to integrate groups engaged in struggle for tenants’ rights operating in countries of Eastern Europe. During the conference we will analyse current state of affairs in several countries undergoing hasty urban metamorphoses – Serbia, Romania, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. These nations have similar historical, social and political background, therefore a common field naturally occurs – we are able to share experiences and tactics and to shape a joint political reference. We will discuss issues regarding the influence of global mechanisms on tenants’ situation in given countries; we will deliberate how to compose the means of resistance as well as how to engage in international solidarity for it to hold relevance with actions taken locally. We will speak about founding a joint almanac of knowledge concerning the matters of inhabitants of particular cities and the methods of self-organisation, equally on international and local level – under the plight of rolling crisis.

The event is divided in two sections: conference, open to the public (6th and 7th November) and internal meeting of European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and to the City (8th and 9th November).


 

PROGRAMME OF INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE FOR TENANTS’ RIGHTS
“THE CITIES FOR PEOPLE – NOT FOR PROFIT”

FRIDAY, 6TH NOVEMBER

From 12pm onwards the registration for participants is open.

12:00  PRESS CONFERENCE, Centrum Kultury Amarant

14:00 – 16:30 BUS ACTION: „MIEJSCA WARTE POZNANIA” (Places worth of Poznań/Places worth  knowing).

The rented bus will take participants to places that exemplify the dynamic changes that have occurred in the space of Poznan over the last years. Displaced and gentrificated buildings, substandard social housing on the outskirts of the city and workers’ hotels, which each year are resettled evicted Poznanians.Guides through those awkward for local authorities places will once evicted tenants or are currently residents who are involved in fighting jointly with WSL (GTA).

16:30 – 17:00  Dinner break.

17:00 – 21:00  FILM SCREENINGS AND DISCUSSION ABOUT GENTRIFICATION IN BERLIN.

MOTHERS’ STRIKE, by SzumTV i Think Tank Feministyczny 2010/23 min./Polish and English subtitles

Documentary on living and working conditions of women in Wałbrzych. They describe the circumstances of their daily life without permanent income, local politics, nursing work they endure and methods of resistance they undertake.

CONTAINER, by Kontrplan 2013/15 min./Polish and English subtitles

Documentary on social housing in containers.
Container housing projects explicitly show that the value of a human is their economic precondition. Low socio-economic status of a person is a primary criteria and justification for instruments of exclusion, simultaneously being the determinant for implementation of a housing sub-standard. Derogatory conditions and spatial isolation are the only offer local authorities are capable of spelling out in response to social housing insufficiencies in Poland. This is the voice of class hatred obscuring self-defensive, critical stance expressed by inhabitants of containers. Collective knowledge gathering, self-organising and apprehension of the fact that container ghetto’s problem may soon affect many people are the first steps towards popular resistance against container housing.

RENT REBELS – the resistance against selling the city away, by Gertrud Schulte Westenberg, Matthias Coers 2014/78 min. /English, Italian, French and Spanish subtitles

Berlin has changed a lot in recent years. What were once unappealing flats now became the focus of major investing. Rent prices skyrocketing and real estate annexation by new owners is a daily phenomenon nowadays. Tenants’ protests directed at shortfall of affordable housing are happening on a regular basis.”Rent Rebels” is a coverage of tenants struggles against their expulsion from housing cooperatives. Ranging from city council occupation to a camp in Kottbuser Tor – the emergence of anti-eviction protests and in protection of elderly inhabitants is vivid. The discussion with the authors will follow.


SATURDAY, 7TH NOVEMBER – TENANTS’ RESISTANCE IN EASTERN EUROPE
Among the most important subjects we wish to discuss during the conference are the issues of political transformation and their relation to common goods. Central and Eastern European countries were enduring the transformation onrush more or less concurrently and it included measures like: privatising the health services, reducing job placements and exacerbating accessibility of social housing. The discussion will include also analogous housing issues in regard to refugees from Middle East.

The subjects to be demonstrated are:
– private and national sector interdependence measures
– urban regeneration/gentrification
– EU funding functionality
– strategies and actions of tenants’ movements in response to housing and refugee crises

09:30 – 10:30  ROMANIA.

Post-socialist housing policy has been determined by definitions of “appropriate” housing and “convenient” living conditions. At the dawn of sixties various mortgage programmes surfaced in behalf of socialist government encouraging middle class to private housing at the expense of other housing schemes. Right after the revolution in 1989 the first social democratic powers instantly rejuvenated the concept of a house as private property. Majority of community housing estates were bought off by Romanian citizens whereas the government  has forsaken the future construction of social accommodation units. In consequence affordable housing eroded – it was pretty much limited to old, abandoned houses from inter-war period. The shortage of flats for low-income population (including those previously evicted) as well as speculations on a housing market (with a notion on its incoherence with peoples’ incomes) have produced circumstances that are absolutely insupportable     for the poor. Apart from small faction of Romanian society, its upper class, majority of population is sustaining troubles within their housing situation.

10:30 – 11:00  Discussion.

11:00 – 12:00  SERBIA.

Current housing policy in Serbia is an aftermath of breakup of Yugoslavia and forthcoming structural turnover – specifically in regards to transition from public domain to private property. Housing law (the buy-up scheme) was conceived in 1992.  A frenzy privatisation took off quickly,  90% of flats and houses were sold and the income has been allocated for military expenditure. During following years real estate prices were constantly rising, the flats turned out to be a desired commodity. The further consequences include: difficulties met by  current owners to perpetuate their ownership status, overcrowding, lack of basic infrastructure (homelessness level reached 10% – that is people without the roof over their heads or in temporary or dire conditions). The state continues to invest towards improvement of living conditions of above-minimum income part of population, meanwhile helping the poor on an overtly erratic basis. It resulted in the ousting of Roma community from wild camps to container settlements on the outskirts of Belgrade. The living conditions of inhabitants of ex-social housing programmes are particularly troubling. People who are not able to afford rent are under constant threat of eviction, with no systemic solution and no support. In today’s Serbia there is no common understanding for individual’s problem and that makes tenants’ struggle undeniably demanding.

12:00 – 12:30  Discussion.

12:30 – 13:00  Coffee break.

13:00 – 14:00  HUNGARY.

Hungarian government is not getting engaged in construction of housing units since 1980s. After private housing boom in 1990s, in the wake of pre-crisis mortgage buying spree it is still believed one should own its house. Question of housing is a question of personal property. Such approach results in deepening social inequalities. Rent sub-market (both private and public) is highly limited and the quality of housing offered is exceptionally low. There is no institutionalised response thus homelessness is escalating. Currently the main reason for evictions are unpaid mortgage loans and rents.

We will report on activities of our group The City is for Everyone and we will portray current state of affairs in Hungary. We are grassroots initiative focusing on homelessness and poverty issues.

14:00 – 14:30 Discussion.

14:30 – 15:30 Dinner break.

15:30 – 16:30 CZECH REPUBLIC.

16:30 – 17:00 Discussion.

17:00 – 18:00 POLSKA,

According to available data the number of claims to recover the property (that is to evict the inhabitants) filed between 1995 and 2014 has steadily oscillated in 30 to 40 thousand range. Above 600 thousand of claims have been received by courts from 1995 until today. It has affected approximately 1,8 million persons. If the judgement is already passed large share of tenants move out on their own initiative – those resisting are evicted by force. In given period the bailiffs have undertaken 150 thousand evictions (approx. 400 thousand persons) whereas in the primary phase 70% of the evicted were not assigned to social accommodation. Following Constitutional Tribunal judicial decision banning evictions onto the street still circa 40% were de facto onto the street, in as much as people were assigned temporary accommodation: dilapidated workers’ hotels, old barracks, abandoned warehouses. Therefore it is the number of claims filed being the most convenient source of data on scale of this phenomenon. Nonetheless there is no record whatsoever regarding the quantity of persons evicted with omission of housing law. So called “house cleansing” is happening en masse, affecting thousands of families in Poland.

18:00 –  SPEECH BY MARGIT MAYER.


SUNDAY, 8TH NOVEMBER – THE CITIES FOR PEOPLE, NOT FOR PROFIT

10:00 – 12:00  DISCUSSION AND SUMMARY:

How can we combine the local struggles in particular countries of Eastern Europe on European-wide, international level?

12:00 – 13:00  Coffee break.

13:00 – 19:00  International Coalition of Tenants’ Movements meeting – first part.


MONDAY, 9TH NOVEMBER –  INTERNAL COALITION MEETING

11:00 – 13:00  Working groups section.

13:00 – 14:00  Dinner break.

14:00 – 16:00  Coalition meeting – future actions planning.

Location: Centrum AMARANT / Dom Tramwajarza
ul. Słowackiego 19/21, Poznań

https://radar.squat.net/pl/poznan/rozbrat
http://www.rozbrat.org/