Ireland. Vacancies, expensive rents and slumlords are driving more and more people into homelessness. Dublin is particularly affected. This summer, various grassroots initiatives began to defend themselves and draw attention to the housing crisis. The background to a summer of occupations.
Wiliam Murphy, photographer from Dublin, lived in San Jose, California, in 1979 when he visited San Franscico on a weekend and witnessed homelessness on the streets for the first time in his life.
For him – shocking and unusual, because in 1970 it was customary for the Irish state to guarantee people a roof over their heads. Many of his colleagues lived in Cremlin, Bellyfermon and Cabra. This was to change, however, when the state handed over the construction and maintenance of social housing to the private sector.
After his return to Dublin: Discovering the homelessness
It was in 2007, after his return to Dublin. He began to notice the increasing number of people sleeping ruff. In front of the shops in the city centre and elsewhere. Back then he fell on tears at his workplace because his colleagues either didn’t believe him or claimed they were drug addicts.
But since then the problem has worsened. To a point where it is no longer possible to talk down the problem of homelessness.
Thanks to his experience abroad, Murphy has found parallels with the housing situation between San-Franscico and Dublin. Both being cities which aren’t affordable for the working-class.
The current homelessness problem leaves him with a bitter aftertaste. Especially since he himself was affected five years ago and had to fight to pay off his mortgage on his apartment. Murphy archives the streets of today’s Dublin with his camera.
Observing the looming housing crisis
When I was in Dublin at the beginning of July last year, some situations caught my attention:
On the one hand, the many tourists and language students who led an exuberant life between learning English and bar hopping. And on the other hand the high number of homeless and homeless people, who stood in contrast to the huge number of empty and barricaded houses.
According to the Focus Ireland charity and government surveys, the number of homeless people in Ireland in 2014 was just under 4,000, rising to almost 10,000 in four years. Individuals and families in private tenancies suffer. In October (2018), 1700 families, including 3725 children, went to emergency shelter.
But the number of unreported cases is probably much higher. Many people get caught up in their social network of friends and acquaintances (- couch surfing). However, these cases are not recorded in the statistics.
The housing shortage has steadily worsened since the economic crisis in 2008. Among other things for the purpose of the legislative decision to cut funds for social housing between the crisis and 2014 by 72% and to bet on private landlords. As a result, the budget fell from 1.34 billion to 390 million euros.
A paradox of Dublin’s real estate – No affordable apartments despite rampant vacancies
In 2015, the Dublin Inquierer produced a first incomplete map of empty buildings. This already included a number of 389 units.
The vacancy is easy to see – between the barricaded windows, decaying facades and high barriers of these buildings. The following year, when the Housing Agency published a vacancy report for Dublin, 38,000 vacant properties were listed. Since then, according to TheGuardian, the number has fallen to 30,000 vacant properties by 2018. Yet the number of homeless people has increased. Which is why, people have to sleep on the streets despite such a large amount of unused residential space.
Grassroot initiatives organizing the resistance against Irish housing madness
However, the affected citizens do not admit defeat and begin to point out the grievance by creative methods. The Irish Housing Network (IHN), for example, called in the summer, for vacancies throughout Ireland to be marked with yellow posters. On a yellow background, the outline of a family under a roof is displayed and joined by the sentence: “Shame on you – this could be a home“.
The problem of vacant buildings, which are either in very poor condition and have been waiting for years for a new development or remain unused for speculative reasons, characterizes the urban landscape. Dublin, with its high rents, is lucrative for real estate sharks, who are driven up by vacancies.
Providers such as AirBnB also take Irish housing away. As the owners, in addition to a high profit margin, do not have to adhere to the classic tenancy law. Dublin, as a university and language school city, is particularly affected. But the 1300 holiday apartments and 1100 rooms listed by InsideAirBnB are only the tip of the iceberg.
In the clutches of Irish Slumlords.
Particularly bad landlords are known in linguistic usage as slumlords. They are the Irish version of the French “Marchands de sommeil”. These rental sharks rent rooms with six to eight beds for up to 450 Euros per capita. Mostly this concerns people in precarious situations who do not have the possibility to defend themselves. These overcrowded sleeping quarters are not maintained by the slumlords. Fire protection deficiencies and mould on the walls are part of their everyday lives.
Those who end up in such dubious tenancies rarely receive the prescribed rental book. In this the personal data of the owner must be noted, as well as a listing of the past rent prices show. It is intended to protect tenants from arbitrariness. But in the absence of rigorous implementation, this rule is disregarded in many cases. Those affected find themselves in a dilemma. Because they depend on accommodation, they do not always have the means to assert their rights.
A small Twitter survey conducted by the Dublin Central Housing Action, which supports people in housing need and is part of the TBTC Dublin (“Take Back The City Dublin”) movement, found out that 87% of 650 respondents had not received a rental book:
Determined to face rental sharks and defend tenants
Slumleaks a collective of affected people has come together under the motif: “Exposing Irish Slumlords” and reports regularly on harassment, threats of violence and expulsions by unscrupulous slumlords. The case Paul Howard Tenant#1 gives insights into the mundane life of the rental shark Paul Howard:
Every month we collect our rent and Paul Howard or one of his friends comes by to collect it – altogether 4200 € in cash..An affected tenant at Mountjoy Square about the payment of the rent
The six tenants at Mountjoy Square in Dublin 1 found themselves suddenly on the street at the end of last year. Expelled from their apartment on 13 December and nowhere to go. The owner had changed the lock on the front door and put all their belongings in plastic bags on the street. Previously they had gone to court against their landlord. The state of the apartment, with a broken window and mold on the walls being depictable. But as well a preceding arbitrary rent increase from 650 to 750 Euros, had become too much for the former tenants. The eviction, which took place in winter, is considered illegal by Slumleaks.
Dublin’s Housing networks answering the crisis
Direct Action Methods for empowering the rights of tenants
The activists of the grassroots movements use direct action methods to draw attention to the deplorable conditions. Posters and banner campaigns, food distribution and temporary occupations belong to the activities of the militants. Direct action, which can also be understood as a synonym for civil disobedience, describes the possibilities of using pacifist approaches to point out social problems and initiate public debate. As in the case of “Take Trinity Back,” a student protest that broke out in March 2018:
The Trinity College board had intended to introduce additional costs of 450 euros for retaking exams. This was followed by students protesting and occupying the historic “Dinning Hall” for three days. When the occupation was dissolved, 1000 students came and cheered on their fellow students. The university management struck a conciliatory note and let go of his plan. The occupation of the university building represented the first breeze which would spread to the streets of Dublin. Spring was over, but things were already boiling at other places…
The beginning of a summer of occupations
May. A few blocks from Mountjoy Square: The residents of five houses in Summerhill Parade 33-39, Dublin 1, were evicted from their rooms. These, who shared the accommodation with up to twenty other tenants per house and are to a large extent of Brazilian origin, were unable to name the owner of the houses in an interview with the Irish Times. The residents were supported by various grassroots initiatives including the Dublin Central Housing Action, Take back Trinity, Brazilian Left Front and four other local movements.
August 7th – In protest, the groups begin to occupy Summerhill Parade 35 and draw attention to the local housing problems.
For months now, the Dublin Central Housing Action has been organizing a Facebook campaign against Pat’ODonnel. This and his investment fund, the “Co Ltd Retirement and Death Benefit Plan” – a pension fund of 67 members. At the beginning of August, a spokesman told the Irish Times that the O’Donnels did not own the properties in the Summerhill Parade. However, in mid-August, Pat’ODonnel filed a lawsuit against the occupiers on behalf of his pension fund.
In the video the squat is officially declared, as one of the activists gives a speech about the situation of the people and demands a purchase right of the city on Pat O’Donnel’s house.
The words are not heard and ten days later the activists leave the building in a demonstration, marching with a banner: “Build homes, not profits“.
August 17 – The court decided to evict them. 750 metres and a few bends further, the activists from Take back the City (TBTCDublin) marched into a vacant house on Frederick Street North 34, owned by an insurance company and standing empty for three years.
25 August – On the occasion of Pope Francis’s visit to Dublin, activists proclaim a Saturday of action in which the house is occupied exclusively by women and children. The activists see this as a reminder of the fact that single parents and their pupils had to do forced labour in the Magdalenen laundries until the late 20th century. A national trauma for which the Irish state apologised to over 10,000 people as late as in 2013.
After 25 days – Facing the eviction but standing the ground
11 September – Two weeks earlier, the court had once again ruled in favour of the landlords. But the house remained occupied. More and more people started supporting TBTCDublin.
Suddenly that Tuesday evening at about seven o’clock, a sprinter with no numberplate on the front appeared and masked persons emerged. The privat hired contractors tried to gain access to the house and only calmed down when the local police arrived and took over.
Five of the activists were brought to the police station on Store Street in a rabid manner. According to the newspaper Thejournal, which reported in detail about the eviction, up to 100 demonstrators gathered in front of the house. Later, the demonstration moved outside the police station, whereupon three of the activists were released. Nevertheless, the house project was ended.
In solidarity with TBTCDublin, squatting took place throughout Ireland, such as in Waterford, where activists held a 24-hour occupation of an empty building in the city.
This article was actualized the 05.03.2020
Is constitutional history being written in Berlin right now? Out of half a dozen initiatives against rising rents, a group of activists has been formed to expropriate the Deutsche Wohnen Aktiengesellschaft (stock corporation) with a petition for a referendum. After all, this is the largest urban condominium owner. The first procedural step, the collection of 20,000 signatures, has not yet been completed. However, due to the large demand of helpers, the process should start earlier than planned, on April 6, 2019. The initiative is already attracting attention from everywhere.
The initiative does not come by chance. Rent increases and renovation announcements have flooded the neighbourhoods in the past few years. Lefties economists see a perfidious tactic in the behavior of the German living: The real estates would be down-managed deliberately, in order to cause a fundamental reorganization. Those costs can be shifted contrary to expenses for maintenance, by rent increases on the tenant.
Can the Constitutional Law help?
The man behind the initiative: Rouzbeh Taheri. At the age of 14, he fled Iran to West Berlin. He built up everything himself. Today, he is being offered jobs in politics and administration. But he resigned from the Linke (political party) when this party, in coalition with the SPD, pushed the privatization of municipal property. To this day, he remains true to his principles: electricity, water, education, health – and housing, these elements should be available to everyone. As extreme as the demands may sound, they are all about everyday needs. In return, the Initiativkomitee von Deutsche Wohnen Enteignen (Initiative Committee of German Housing Expropriation) would like to refer to Article 15 of the Constitutional Law on Property – which has never been applied since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany.
This has its reasons, according to Karlheinz Knauthe, a top lawyer of the Berlin real estate industry. An expropriation would only be initiated if all other means had failed before. In this case for example it includes a tightening of the rent laws, otherwise administrative or criminal proceedings can also be taken against the market excesses. Knauthe is certain that the so-called “socialisation” demanded by the initiative will not take place. And if it does, the state of Berlin would have to buy the apartments at market value. Completely overpriced, and a good subsidy into the treasury of the Deutsche Wohnen.
With the help of lawyers, the initiators have drawn up a draft law that at first glance fulfils all the criteria. Although they refer to Article 15, nothing can be done without Article 14, the compensation clause. The compensation should be regulated by law. In addition, an institution under public law (AöR) should be established with the aim of “providing the urban population with housing at affordable rents”.
The political hustle and bustle
Between Public Interests and Private Economic Power: The Berlin Senate. The red-red-green government is pressured by more than ever, and for good reason. Deutsche Wohnen owns 100,000 apartments in Berlin; each individual tenant is a potential voice for the initiative. All coalition parties in the Senate are now supporting the nationalization of private real estate.
Not only Deutsche Wohnen, but also other private real estate companies like Vonovia might be expropriated – that would be in the interest of the initiators, since they are already striving for the expropriation of the five largest Berlin housing companies.
The executive committee of the Charlottenburger building cooperative, Dirk Enzesberger, sees a danger for the existing economic order and the prosperity of the republic. According to his estimation the Deutsche Wohnen acts according to right and law, and a nationalization of private property would mean a deep interference into the fundamental rights. David Eberhart, speaker of the Association of Berlin-Brandenburg Housing Companies, has a different point of view of the problem: the high demand and the low supply, which can only be counteracted by building and rebuilding.
Is that a coincidence? Vonovia sells all its shares of Deutsche Wohnen.
Immobilienwirtschaft nervös? die Gesellschaft ist es schon lange https://t.co/NpstxD9tXV
— Florian Schmidt (@f_schmidt_BB) January 31, 2019
— Florian Schmidt (@f_schmidt_BB) February 2, 2019
From an economic point of view, expropriation would be a factor that could lead private constructors/owners to look for a more pleasant place to live than Berlin. “A serious danger for the further development of the city,” declares Beatrice Kramm, President of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce.
Rouzbeh Taheri and his countless supporters, however, do not seem as if they are about to give up. It is serious for them, because it is a topic that affects the people directly. They are supported by existing tenant associations such as “Kotti & Co” or “NKZ”, which protested against the re-municipalisation of the approximately 300 apartments in the “Neuen Kreuzberger Zentrum“.
This article is a translation of the original, which appeared in german under the title :“Berlin : Deutsche Wohnen und Co enteignen”.
Paris – differences between income classes deepens. The newspaper Lemonde explored this question in an interview with sociologists Monique Pincon-Charlot and Michel Pincon. These two, close to the anti-capitalist left. are researching among other things the state of social and urban segregation.
Specially in Paris the population has changed drastically since 1954. Whereas 34.5 percent of the population were in middle or higher occupations at the time, this figure had risen to 71.4 percent by 2010. This is due on the one hand to the de-industrialization since 1962, the banlieues and the global importance of Paris as a financial sector.
Rich and rich remain among themselves. In the “Beaux Quartiers” such as the 16th and 17th or suburbs such as Neuilly sur Seine, the wealthiest city in France, worlds of their own are formed and thus also a gap between the poor and the wealthy.
While Paris, as a cultural capital, offers its inhabitants many spectacles, exhibitions and places to go out, and is one of the first cities in the index of cities with the best standards of living, the situation is different a few steps behind the motorway that separates the city from its agglomeration:
The newspaper La Gazette des Communes looked into the question of the extent to which inequalities exist in the Greater Paris region and summarised them in a map. The Banlieues Argenteuil, Aulnay-sous-Bois, Montreuil and Saint Denis had a poverty rate of at least 20 percent at the end of 2015. Saint-Denis even exceeds the others with a rate of 35%. And that with a share of social buildings, that is around 33 percent.
In Saint Denis, north of Paris, a couple earns on average 2154 € per month. Singles are doing best with an average of 1487 € and still live at the minimum.
These are in stark contrast to the areas in the west of Paris, like La Defense, where more than half of the municipalities fail to meet the statutory quota of 20-25 percent of social buildings. Instead, suburbs like Neuilly Sur Seine, with a 5% share, prefer to pay fines and maintain their homogeneity.
After Paris, the rest?
In the light of the Grand Paris and its expansion of the infrastructure, one has to wonder to what extent the suburbs will be gentrified. Even though some municipalities, especially in the north, have so far taken measures to maintain diversity among the population, many students from the middle class are now moving to the suburbs.
It is not without reason that the left-wing medium StreetVox is concerned about developments in the Seine Saint Denis in the shadow of the 2024 Olympic Games. For example, commercial buildings, housing for students and migrant workers were destroyed. While the companies and students moved, this is not the case for the housing of the migrant workers. This, which had housed foreign workers since 1972, was replaced by a social building. But also the magnetic attraction of the Olympic Games on investors is a key question. We reported previously on JPMorgan and its AdvancingCities initiative.
The Olympic Village, which will accommodate a large number of Olympians with 17,000 beds, will later be converted into 22,000 apartments, 900 student accommodations and 100,000m² of commercial space. The newly created apartments will be marketed as condominiums with standing and will probably not be affordable for the average population of the Seine Saint Denis.
La couleur est le nouvel or
Alors que les aventuriers voyageaient dans le Far West à la recherche d’aventure, d’or et de richesses, les graffeurs et vandales les plus divers sont aujourd’hui attirés par Paris. La raison ?
La ligne 12 du métro qui traverse Paris du nord de la Banlieue Aubervillier au sud d’Issy-les-Moulineaux.
Que ce soit un graffiti par jour dans le métro ou cinq. Le dépôt de la 12 est d’humeur ruée vers l’or.
Recherche de couleur sur les panels du métro de Paris :
La ligne de métro jouit d’une grande popularité parmi les nombreuses équipes de graffiti locales et internationales. De Reis (Lisbonne) à RWS & ORF (Bonn) la méchante ligne 12 est un lieu de pèlerinage du graffiti parisien.
Et beaucoup de fois aussi l’expression du monde de la pensée:
Et combien de saisons de misere et de galere…
Les modèles MF67, qui ont fêté leur première apparition entre 1967 et 1978, sont populaires parmi les sprayeurs pour son design. Les trains utilisés auparavant par Sprague-Thompson ont été remplacés. La ligne 12 compte 50 des 138 modèles MF-67 en service. Le nom dérive de “Métro Fer appel d’offre 1967” (Iron-Métro tender 1967).
La peinture bleu-vert blanc est typique de ces anciens modèles du parc de métros de Paris. Sur la scène du graffiti, mondialement connue pour son esthétique graffiti, des équipes venues du monde entier sont régulièrement attirées par les puits souterrains de la ligne 12 de la Porte de la Chapelle. Sur la photo ci-dessous, vous pouvez voir un graffiti de l’équipe portugaise “Reis”. Celles-ci viennent de Lisbonne et se traduisent par “rois”.
Kann das Grundgesetz helfen?Der Kopf hinter der Initiative: Rouzbeh Taheri. Als 14-Jähriger floh er aus dem Iran nach West-Berlin. Er hat sich alles selbst aufgebaut. Heute werden ihm Jobs in Politik und Verwaltung angeboten. Doch aus der Linken trat er aus, als diese in Koalition mit der SPD die Privatisierung kommunalen Eigentums vorantrieb. Bis heute bleibt er seinen Prinzipien treu: Strom, Wasser, Bildung, Gesundheit – und Wohnen, das alles soll für jeden Menschen verfügbar sein. So extrem die Forderungen auch klingen, es geht dabei um alltägliche Bedürfnisse. Dafür möchte sich das Initiativkomitee von Deutsche Wohnen enteignen auf den Artikel 15 des Grundgesetzes um Eigentum berufen – der seit der Gründung der Bundesrepublik noch nie angewandt wurde. Das habe durchaus seine Gründe, meint Karlheinz Knauthe, ein Topanwalt der Berliner Immobilienwirtschaft. Eine Enteignung würde erst dann in die Wege geleitet, wenn zuvor alle anderen Mittel gescheitert wären. Dazu gehört beispielsweise eine Verschärfung der Mietgesetze, andernfalls kann auch verwaltungs- oder strafrechtlich gegen die Marktauswüchse vorgegangen werden. Er ist sich sicher, dass die von der Initiative geforderte sogenannte “Vergesellschaftung” nicht zustande kommt. Und wenn doch, dann müsse das Land Berlin die Wohnungen zum Marktwert kaufen. Völlig überteuert, und ein guter Zuschuss in die Kasse der Deutsche Wohnen. Dabei haben die InitiantInnen mithilfe von Juristen einen Gesetzesentwurf erarbeitet, der auf den ersten Blick alle Kriterien erfüllt. Zwar beziehen sie sich auf den Artikel 15, doch läuft ohne den Artikel 14 über die Entschädigungsregelung nichts. Die Entschädigung soll per Gesetz geregelt werden. Zusätzlich soll eine Anstalt öffentlichen Rechts (AöR) gegründet werden, deren Ziel es ist, “die Versorgung der Stadtbevölkerung mit Wohnraum zu leistbaren Mieten” zu gewährleisten.
Trubel in der PolitikZwischen öffentlichen Interessen und privater Wirtschaftsmacht: Der Berliner Senat. Die rot-rot-grüne Regierung steht unter Druck wie noch nie, und das aus gutem Grund. Die Deutsche Wohnen besitzt 100’000 Wohnungen in Berlin, jeder einzelne Mieter ist eine potenzielle Stimme für die Initiative. Mittlerweile wird die Verstaatlichung von privaten Immobilien von allen Koalitionsparteien des Senats unterstützt. Nicht nur die Deutsche Wohnen, sondern auch andere private Immobilienkonzerne wie Vonovia sollen enteignet werden – das wäre den Initianten recht, da sie ohnehin die Enteignung der fünf grössten Berliner Wohnungsunternehmen anstreben. Der Vorstand der Charlottenburger Baugenossenschaft, Dirk Enzesberger, sieht in der Debatte eine Gefahr für die bestehende Wirtschaftsordnung und den Wohlstand der Republik. Nach seiner Einschätzung agiere die Deutsche Wohnen nach Recht und Gesetz, und eine Verstaatlichung privaten Eigentums würde einen tiefen Eingriff in die Grundrechte bedeuten. Auch David Eberhart, Sprecher beim Verband Berlin-Brandenburgischer Wohnungsunternehmen, sieht das Problem aus einem ganz anderen Blickwinkel: Bei der grossen Nachfrage und dem geringen Angebot nämlich, welchem man nur mit bauen und nochmals bauen entgegenwirken könne. Ist das ein Zufall? Vonovia verkauft alle ihre Aktien von Deutsche Wohnen.
“Kotti & Co” oder “NKZ”, welche mit Protesten die Rekommunalisierung der etwa 300 Wohnungen im “Neuen Kreuzberger Zentrum” herbeiführten.
Immobilienwirtschaft nervös? die Gesellschaft ist es schon lange https://t.co/NpstxD9tXV— Florian Schmidt (@f_schmidt_BB) January 31, 2019