Can these waves of demonstrations spread through Europe and be the prelude to the first European Rent Strike?
In the early days of summer 2020 the mayor of Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg’s second largest city tried to push forward a new city regulation to limit co-housing. Very quickly, the inhabitants of the city — among these members of DiEM25 Luxembourg’s local groups — petitioned for the mayor to remove this new regulation.
The case escalated as the collective called on the government to take a position on what they identified as an unlawful regulation. After reviewing the bill, the government confirmed that the mayor had no right to try and regulate how people want to live. The tension rose even higher when several witnesses testified under the seal of anonymity that municipal civil servants had been instructed to rid the city of “thugs”. Under pressure the mayor pushed back the vote on his regulation in the city council but refused to drop it. The collective then called for demonstration on the 26th of september.
As these events were unfolding, a report by the audit company Deloitte indicated that Luxembourg city has become the most expensive city in Europe, and that two other of its cities, Esch and Differdange, were ranked in the top ten most expensive cities of the European Union. Activists and tenants who had been warning for years that a housing crisis was underway were vindicated in their stance.
As a result, DiEM25 members from Luxembourg city local group contacted the newly formed tenant unions and other organisations proposing to organise a national demonstration for the right to housing.
DiEM25 activists part of Luxembourg local group protested as part of a coalition for the right to housing in the Grand Duchy.
Meeting on public squares, a coalition slowly took shape, and testimonies kept pouring in: “all human beings have the right to dignified housing”, Yara says. They included stories of people suddenly having to pay thousands of euros of extra charges, of safety deposits amounting to more than three months of safety deposits, of families of five crammed into a single bedroom with broken showers or toilets. The stories piled up and the housing crisis that had been going on for years suddenly erupted in the public space. The coalition took a stand and called for a national demonstration on 10 October, not two weeks after the demonstration in Esch.
We are now in early October, a few days away from the national demonstration on the housing crisis in Luxembourg. The first day in Esch was a success with a few hundred people braving the cold wind and the rain to show their determination. Now activists from the Tenant union, the left party, the afro-descendant association Finkape, the foreign worker association ASTI, both DiEM25 DSC’s and many others are canvassing several days a week to make the national call a success. Already, newspapers are filled with stories about and around the demonstration, making the hidden stories of housing precariousness plainly visible for the first time.
Now we as DiEM25, have to look further to avoid a worsening evictions crisis.
Rents have increased in nearly all EU countries in the last 13 years, and as result so has homelessness. Collectives for housing rights fear a ticking bomb of evictions when furlough schemes will inevitably end and the upper class will ask for a repayment of the enormous debt that is growing all over the continent to prevent an economical catastrophe.
When will this evictions crisis reach a critical point? This winter? Next spring? Next summer? Or is it already happening behind closed doors? What is undeniable is that somehow a struggle will take place. What is also undeniable is that if we organize now and stand ready, we have shot at turning the tide and at forcing the establishment to fight on a ground and time that we have decided on. Already, movements are coalescing around the issue of housing in countries such as the United Kingdom. The time has come for a Rentvolution!
Sign the petition for the legal right to cohabitate in Esch/Alzette: Pour le maintien légal des cohabitations à Esch/Alzette.
Sign our Europe-wide petition on the right to housing: Free low-income Europeans from rent burden.
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