Housing Right Coalition. Workshop on Financialisation

Qui di seguito potete trovare alcuni testi preparatori al workshop sulla finanziarizzazione, prodotti da alcuni membri della Coalizione Europea per il Diritto alla Casa e alla Città.

Here’s you can find some text useful to prepare the workshop on financialisation, produced by some members of the European Coalition for the Right to Housing and to the City.

What to expect from Urban Agenda

What to expect from the EU Urban Agenda without any change of policies of EU?

The contribution and the protest of urban social mouvements from some countries in the EU

PROTEST, PARTICIPANTS, PLACES OF ACTION AND PRESS CONFERENCE

The Pact of Amsterdam, to be adopted at an informal European Council of Ministers of the Cities on May 30th, will officially lauch the European Urban Agenda. The aim is to better take into account and involve urban areas in the definition of laws and the implementation of the EU’s priorities. But what are these priorities?

The document endorses a list of 12 priority themes of work around which will be set up “partnerships” lasting up to three years associating cities, states, experts, european organizations and stakholders that can be enterprises or NGO’s. This pact also doesn’t provide any new form of financing and has public private partnerships as a central aspect.

Among the priorities are Housing, Urban Poverty and Rights of Migrants and Refugees, however how can they face these challenges without changing anything in the European background policy, wich is one important cause that had led us to 1) more urban poverty, with the promotion of austerity packages and privatization policies; 2) has contributed to the deterioration of the rights of immigrants and refugees, investing more in the policy of border control than in the integration, puting workers and immigrants with the perception that they have to compete for social support and rights in regression; 3) and finally, has been negleting the right to housing with the commodification of housing turning it more dificult to access by the working class, liberalization of the market and unprotection of families from diferent types of evictions.

EU promotes the very ideological assumption of private property and market-driven capitalism. It promotes privatizations and the deregulation of finances and housing, which are very much connected. That is the main ideology we have to confront with if we want to develop social housing solutions. There are very concrete examples about the defense of the market paradigm and EU regulations with direct consequences on the provision of housing. It also blocks state aid to housing solutions at national or subnational levels. The market competition paradigm undermines all EU regulations.

The austerity imposed by EU is also reducing the expenditure availability for social services and housing by national and local budgets. This paradigm is in the Maastricht Treaty and in the fiscal compact and other treaties. So it is not just about a change of one policy but confronting with the EU’s constitutional elements. Even the social rights guaranteed in the European constitutional frame doesn’t recognize the right to housing, except for housing assistance in the Lisbon Treaty.

The Troika’s dictates had disastrous consequences on countries like Greece, Portugal and Spain. They openly forced the liberalization of rental market and the non-performing loans market. It was a direct pressure over housing conditions.

EU promotes commodification and financialization, and this one promotes inequality and exclusion from the housing market of an important part of the working class.

In EU, the growing influence on owner-occupation, with access secured through incorporation of households into mortgage markets, is part and parcel of the same process of residualisation of social housing. Mortgage loans and the rise of mentality of homeownership, gave rise to a spectacular expansion of mortgage markets, which accounts for the recent evolution of household indebtedness in the EU. But, by the same mechanism of homeownership through debt – that increases the prices of homes in general – for a significant part of the lower strata working class financialisation has instead meant less affordable housing, rendering housing a more important mechanism of inequality production and of marginalisation of those excluded from financial (mortgage) markets and the private rental sector. This points to financialisation that push further the disadvantaged groups into the margins, and a shift in approaches to social policy. Even the EU funds are oriented to urban regeneration programs that upgraid the cities for profit and not for social inclusion, giving subsidies to rehabilitation that, within liberal market, is raising the cost of houses and rents and is promoting gentrification.

The promotion of cut in social politics and obligations to sell the public provisions of housing in diferent countries – Netherlands was obliged by the EU to sell a part of the social housing sector in the name of market competition (there is also pression on Austria to do the same) – transforms social housing in residualised in the sense that it is treated as the exception not the norm, and is not part of a broader commitment to collective housing provision. On the contrary, its provision is couched in a narrative of personal responsibility, which takes material form in under-resourcing of social housing. The result is that social housing tends to be of poor quality and in short supply, and hence does not reduce inequality, and it’s far from a redistributive housing policy.

So what should we expect of this pact? Or why should we expect anything? We advise the Ministers and the EU to reflect on the structural policies and change it if they really want to adress this issues. Here some concrete testemonies from the ones who are experiencing what is going on in our cities in diferent parts of Europe and explains the impacts of EU policy in the deterioration of right to housing:

Italy

Italy is experiencing a dramatic housing emergency that the ongoing financial crisis has been exacerbating. Data provided by Ministry of Internal Affairs in 2015 clearly demonstrate it: 150 000 requests of evictions, 77 000 eviction measures emanated through judicial officers, 36 000 households evicted in 2014. This situation has been exacerbating by the concomitant dismissal of public housing system. Indeed, the latter currently corresponds to a residual stock, amounting to about 4% of national housing system and being totally inadequate to satisfy the increasing demand of affordable housing. The EU countries’ common trend toward the marketization of social housing sector is demonstrating to be failed, excluding progressively the most vulnerable share of people in housing need. At the same time, the austerity measures imposed by EU institutions have led to the extreme cost-cutting in the field of Italian social expenditure, being reduced of 91% between 2008 and 2012, depriving families under eviction of fundamental social protections. In this context, the Mortgage Credit Directive 2014/17/EU is going to accelerate the process of urban expulsion being related to the extraordinary increase of evictions, confirming the priority given to the stability of financial system to the detriment of citizens. Coherently with it, a new Italian Decree Law has thus stated the banks’ faculty to directly acquire the apartments of people in arrears without any guarantees for the latter.

Portugal

Portugal met with the Masstricht Agreement and the opening of EU financial capital market an unprecedented process of housing financialisation that led to the increase of household debt as well as huge externa private debt of the country which gave rise to intervention of troika later. The more credit the more expensive the houses would be and become less accessible to those who stayed out of the mortgage credit market. 30% of the people with less than the medium wage (700 euros) is spending more than 40% just on housing rent, it is very hard to live with the rest…. Many people live in overcrowded houses, many are still in shanty towns and the number of evictions are increasingly in all the housing sectors. With the entrance of Troika, Portugal is forced to a full liberalization of rental market opening space for fast eviction (with any social support) and the entry of investment funds operating through speculative real estate activities. Portugal has 2% of social housing, enormous waiting lists of people that will never have an answer. However, there is no EU funds for social housing, but to urban regeneration with direct and indirect subsidies to private owners and medium long term gentrification

Hungary

Due to a lack of resources, urban regeneration projects are almost exclusively implemented using EU structural funds in Central and Eastern European countries. Investment in social housing is only realized through these projects; Hungary’s government does not spend money on the housing of lower classes. Thus, the EU has a responsibility regarding the kind of urban regeneration projects that are made possible in these countries. While local housing movements are constantly putting pressure on their local municipalities and governments; denouncing urban regeneration projects that promote gentrification and diminish the stock of social housing, EU funding priorities could also play an important role in orienting how these funds are used. The European Commission should take a stronger stance on the „social” usage of funds available for urban regeneration, and the funds available for the housing of poor urban populations should be significantly increased to the detriment of financing projects related to „competitive”, „innovative” and „smart” urban development.

Financialisation Cities: Blackstone (by Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca)

Financialisation CITIES: BLACKSTONE

When an indisputable asset object necessities for the population as is the housing, the process of financialization of the economy becomes almost exclusively a commodity, a product of trading and speculation, has reached our cities, and certainly the is transforming .

This occurs when the investment is made primarily by financial profitability criteria, and not the productive capacity and meeting needs of the project in question, said in technical terms “capital accumulation without the mediation of commodity production.”

What are the consequences of that housing will become a commodity?

Social segregation: The rise in housing prices has completely repositioned the class maps in large cities, stimulating a new process of segregation by the abandonment of the middle and upper incomes of socially sensitive areas, leaving that space to a fundamentally new immigrant and low-income population.

This financialization has been completely asymmetrical and generated effects of social inequality. Changes in interest rates and fluctuations in the price of housing has resulted pay more (mortgage payments) so finally worth less (fall in the value of housing), and of course someone has won and others have lost This process.

Gentrification: They are guilty of gentrification of cities, buying entire buildings and even entire neighborhoods and forcing people to leave the floors, causing the deterioration of neighborhoods with abusive practices such as not maintaining buildings, inflexibility of payments, rising prices and empty them completely and then rehabilitate them and put them in rent to higher prices and ensure that it is inhabited by people with higher incomes. finally expelling the natives and poor neighborhoods to the periphery.

And who is Blackstone?

Blackstone is one of the main protagonists of this story, one of his more accurately writers, as plans how has been developing this process. Blackstone venture capital giant, has become the most active real estate company in the world. Taking advantage of ailing states, beset by debt triggered by successive bailouts to banks. It is the international leader in enrichment by dispossession, putting hundreds of lives at stake to increase their profit margin.

This expansion model had already been tested in early 2000 in New York when funds were launched to rents large-scale waiting to raise prices to sell and while entering credit and enough to pay bondholders money. And 200,000 rent-controlled buildings were lost and went to the free market. With the proliferation of subprime mortgages (mortgages granted to citizens without any real possibility of returning them and turning them into financial assets packaged into bonds) spill over the world.

In Spain, for, example, he bought nearly 2,000 social Madrid City Council housing and managed under the company Fidere, and also bought 98,000 toxic assets portfolio Catalunya Caixa (redeemed with 12,000 million euros of public money without any social consideration to change) before being acquired by BBVA of which 40,000 are residential mortgages and managed under the company anticipates.

In Barcelona, rents were up 17% and that is where was the business of Blackstone but these intentions were dashed by the entry of the Law 24/2015 of the Catalan Parliament approved unanimously, which requires banks or companies before of evicted to make a social rent a maximum of 18% of the income of the household.

This law has been challenged before the constitutional court by the Popular Party so the PAHs had to sit back down with all political parties and after these negotiations have pledged that if they reach the government would withdraw the appeal at the Constitutional Court and They approve statewide. (All parties except the Popular Party)

Another problem with Blackstone their practices of extortion, offer people with payment in full extinguishment of debt only if not ask for social rent and if they ask or demand the application of the law 24/2015 let them backpacks, debts that can vary on approximately 20,000 €.

These intimidatory practices can go to the extreme of hiring a company to extort families appearing in their homes and threatening to evict if not voluntarily abandoned.

Blackstone is not offering a social rent automatically, as required by law. The proposed contract Blackstone, under negotiation, leaves open to a set of variable costs that increase the rental price doors and, therefore, “does not protect the lessee”.

This vulnerability has been evident in the case of tenants of the flats of official protection in Madrid, where Blackstone is the owner and main corporate tenants suffer inasumibles rent increases. a global pattern is applied to each of the local realities in Catalonia through garbage fees, registration fees, maintenance and minor repairs by the tenant

What do we ask?

The demands of the new great owner PAHs are clear: to provide an office where families can turn to and negotiate their cases, since so far only be made by telephone; compliance with the Law 24/2015, known as the ILP housing which requires landlords to provide a social rent to families that are at risk of loss of housing-, and make it extensible to all people affected at all the state claims the requirements as PAHs campaign and, finally, the social rent is automatically renewed after three years if the family situation remains the same.

What can we do from the PAH?

In the case of the vulture funds like Blackstone, who have offices here in which to press, we believe that the answer will increasingly coordinated action at international level. To a more inaccessible owner, the PAH is also prepared to press “until the laws are met.” To do so, he wants to consolidate an extensive international network that is already weaving, with organizations such as Right to the City Alliance, Urban Habitat or Fifth Avenue Committee.

Pressure on political parties to create legislation that would prevent both the sale of public housing, as determined by the need for the social function of property, so that there can be no empty houses, adapting a property right whatsoever to the social reality and constitutional.

The PAH has made 4 international actions:

1 February 2015: alongside New York and San Francisco

2- Atlanta, London and Chicago are added

3 October 2015 5 countries are Spain, USA, UK, Ireland and Japan where Tokyo is one of the most important venues for Asian American giant

4- Taking advantage of the meeting in Barcelona Inhabiting action was the presence of many countries.

LE DÉVELOPPEMENT DES AGENCES ANTI-SQUAT: STRATÉGIES D’IMPLANTATION ET IMPACTS SUR LE DROIT DES INDIVIDUS À SE LOGER DÉCEMMENT (By Aurélie Baloche_Echanges et Partenariats)

Ce rapport est le résultat d’une mission exploratoire au sein du Bond Precaire Woonvormen aux Pays-Bas. Cette mission a été effectuée en partenariat avec le DAL (Droit Au Logement), la Coalition européenne pour le droit au logement et Echanges & Partenariats

« Alors que le logement est un des piliers qui participe à sécuriser l’existence de chacun, il est de plus en plus menacé en Europe. Si le fonctionnement des politiques de logements varie sensiblement d’un espace à un autre, que les États sont plus ou moins protecteurs, certaines tendances mettent en danger la protection des locataires et participent à la précarisation grandissante des individus. Or le développement des agences anti-squat fait émerger une double inquiétude : celui d’être à la fois la cause et la conséquence du développement de la privatisation de la ville. Par ailleurs, les contrats qu’elles proposent, loin de proposer des solutions de logement durable aux habitants, participent à détruire le statut de locataire et les droits qui lui sont normalement attribués, concentrant les pouvoirs dans les seules mains du seul propriétaire »

Lire le Rapport complèt

 

Basic Income and Quantitative easing for people (by Cantiere)

Everybody has heard about basic income. In movements’ claim it is universal because it is based on the human right to have the possibility to substain oneself  with or without a job.

The most common answers given by institutions and governments are: 1) an income that substitutes the welfare state, 2) an unemployment benefit for a limited time, 3) a minimum wage with the obligation to accept any kind of job or social work, 4) welfare measures for the poorest.

It seems to be very difficult, in our highly industrialized world to imagine an income for unwaged people.

At the same time the continuous technological progress allows for the mechanization of always more tasks, making the employment of a large part of population unnecessary.

It seems that nowadays capitalists do not need workers, yet working people make the world go round, producing all types of material and immaterial goods. What a paradox!

So we try to understand and explain the reasons of this situation.

First with the help of Carlo Vercellone and his debate with Andrè Gorz for what concernes the basic income, or, as he calls it “le revenu social garanti” (social guaranted income); then with the help of Christian Marazzi we discuss about his proposal of a quantitative easing for the people instead of the quantitative easing for the banks.

The first thing we have to consider, according to both, Vercellone and Gorz, is that profits in our society are based on cognitive work (the famous General Intellect introduced by Marx).

Cognitive work is not restricted to some categories of workers, as we usually think, (i.e. traders, copywriters, admen, filmmakers, programmers and so on), but pervades the whole society.

An housekeeper organizes her/his time and clients, her/his shifts and commuting, her/his pay and negotiation as a little manager.

The most part of cognitive work is not measurable according to the classical parameters of employed labour.

Just an example: an IKEA designer invents a chair that becomes an instant classic. How much time was required to design it? Hours, days, weeks? Has he/she  invented his/her chair only in his/her office and during working time? How much does he/she earn? How many of his/her chairs has IKEA sold for years and years making profits?

Same story for a softwarist creating an app for APPLE, a graphic creating a logo, a musician a jingle…we can go on and on.

These works are unmeasurables. These are ideas and practices born in our minds: minds of workers, not of capitalists.

Although the relation between capital and work is deeply changed since Fordism and although cognitive workers are surely not mere executors of orders, but actually “holders of production’s means” – their ideas – they are still considered employers, used for the limited time in which they produce their creations and performances.

That is the reason why we cannot solve the problem by just reducing the working time or by claiming more guaranties, as these measures would not get at the root of the problem.

At this point Vercellone goes on arguing that, in a strongly developped and industialized society, capitalism does not derive its profit from creativity and risky investments,  but instead from  the functioning and  the organisation  of the whole capitalistic society, as already indicated in Marx’ thought.

Consequently we can say that a huge part of people works, for short or long period of time, to allow and strengthen capitalists’ profit.

We are not just talking about the wide world of wikinomics and open source, but also about the everydays’ course of millions of lives where we look, watch or hear advertising, are involved in marketing proposals, give information about our choices, contribute in developping apps and games, like or dislike something and give opinions or suggest inplementations.

An enormous quantity of unemployed labour is performed everyday and gives big profits without being retributed. Not to mention the large slice of voluntary work mainly done to help and take care of other people.

Adding to that, during EXPO 2015, we saw young people, the so-called “volunteers” involved in “pay-free” jobs in order to widen their connections and ameliorate their C.V.

All that with the hope of a future remunerated job.

At the other end of the spectrum are effortless gains. In other words private profits based on shared knowledge, way of life, engagement.

That is not a peculiarity of financial world.  It has a great role in urban and real estate economy, where ameliorations produced by neighbourhoods and territorial communities or pubblic services give profitable advantages to negletfull owners.

Taking all that into consideration, we think that it is time to find common targets and common ways to claim a social income which recognizes at least a part of the large quantity and quality of unpaid social work.

 

Quantitative easing for the people

 

In addition to this summary we can see that E.C.B.’s (European Central Bank) quantitative

easing has not produced the awaited benefits in the european economy.

It has mainly supported  the rich and given no help to the poor and  the workers and it

has substantially repaid banks and financial actors which are the chief responsibles of the financial crisis.

The purpose of quantitative easing created by E.C.B. was to encourage financing distribution and increase money circulation.

In fact this choice, due to the crisis, has facilitated the same banks, big investors and speculators. To prevent this situation the european governments should have introduced a fiscal policy in order to limit big purchases of bonds concentrated in few hands.

No money has reached the real economy or has supported investments of social utility (as homes, transports, healthcare, research).

This is the reason why in March 2015 a group of economists (among them Christian Marazzi and Carlo Vercellone), has launched a proposal, published by  the Financial Times, about a quantitative easing for the people to counteract  the quantitative easing actually underway.

(http://www.qe4peole.eu)

 

A quantitative easing for the people can provide resources to secure territories and  infrastructures,  to promote research and green economy. Resources that will be recovered with taxation on financial businesses.

Instead of lending money at low interests to the banks, the E.C.B. could lend money on the same terms directly to the people  for mortgages or personal loans.

We can also consider a nonreturnable amount for frail subjects (young people out of work, migrants and refugees, single men and women with children and so on).

That is a goal towards  which we have to move, articulating our claims in the form of conflict and proposal.

Author: Volunteer

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