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Toward a new organized Pan-European-Movement of Tenants

TIP

Here we are, for social justice

It is necessary to connect all experiences in Germany, Polish and in other European countries, because the deregulation plans of the EU have also reached the tenant area. It is important to mobilize not only for the opposition against privatizations in this area, but the main demand "Housing is a right and not a commodity" must be passed on to the people in order to fight against evictions and social exclusion forming a new movement. We want housing policy to become the policy of the European Union.

Polish Tenants Union for the Right to Tenancy was set up by 41 tenants’ associations to coordinate our efforts and change the national laws. Our main goal is to stop evictions and guarantee decent housing for every family in the country. According to recent research “Social Diagnosis 2009” as many as 46% of the population in Poland can’t afford the housing rent. There is no mechanism protecting the unemployed from being evicted since over 90% of them are not entitled to any unemployment benefit.

The tenants’ movement is the only mass social movement in Poland. The Polish Tenants Union for the Right to Tenancy is an umbrella organization launched by the association Chambers of Social Justice. It is a leftist group of grass-roots volunteers who oppose evictions and social exclusion by giving free legal counsel (including representing our clients at courts), organizing mutual economic and social assistance, psychological, medical care, etc. When all these measures turn out to be insufficient we just sit down on the stairs and block the eviction. But the latter method is applied only in cases in which there is a chance of further efficient legal and political steps preventing the eviction. I.e.. we recur to civil disobedience whenever repo men, homeowners, the police are breaking the law. It happens very often.

The idea of Chambers of Social Justice as well as that of the whole movement is based on the constitutional principle of social justice expressed in the article 2 of our Constitution: “The Republic of Poland shall be a democratic state ruled by law and implementing the principles of social justice.” The Chambers of Social Justice have elaborated a unique method of fighting social exclusion. It is based not only on supplying people endangered by eviction, unlawful dismissal, misery and social exclusion with legal counsel and many others forms of assistance, but by integrating them into the movement. More than half of those who get our assistance join the organization and start helping each other. We organize renovation teams, childcare for lonely parents, fund-raising actions to get the rents paid, language lessons. We seek jobs for those unemployed and help to get social welfare benefits whenever the public institutions refuse to deliver them. This is a method of creating a new social tissue which makes the movement alive. We are not like those NGOs composed of smart professionals who deliver specialized services paid with some euro or national public funds. Our movement is not sponsored by anyone but by our members who pay fees and by some leftist donators. So we have been forced to walk on our own legs and it made us only stronger.

The movement in Germany is mostly integrated in official structures represented by the “Deutscher Mieterbund” and on the International scale by IUT. On the other hand there are many alternative groups, people who don’t want to be involved in the official structures. They distrust the official organisations, which are often connected with political parties. In most cases, these groups, that is to say, Grassroots oriented tenant's movements are anchored only locally and in many cases isolated from each other.

Therefore it is necessary to connect all experiences in Germany an in other European countries, because the deregulation plans of the EU have also reached the tenant area. It is important to mobilize not only for the opposition against privatizations in this area, but the main demand "Housing is a right and not a commodity" must be passed on to the people in order to fight against evictions and social exclusion forming a new movement. We want housing policy to become the policy of the European Union. We realize it against the powerful banker's and developer's interests through the new organized Pan-European-Movement of Tenants.

The more we can rent the less they can borrow and sell.

That is why we need to promote social European Housing Policy

Piotr Luczak, Berlin
Piotr Ikonowicz, Warsaw

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