Unaffordable rents are crushing people during the pandemic

We should be free from the burden of rent!

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the onset of COVID-19, the losses brought on by the pandemic — and our human emotions to it all — has generated a unique sense of unity. But as we learn to adjust our existence and inhabit our planet more sustainably, we need to deal decisively with the inequalities that are intrinsic in our social and economic lives.

The concept of home is as ancient as life. It represents a confluence of needs, wants and desires. Neoliberalism — in its march to commodify all — is deploying its full arsenal against the places one needs to rest in order to dream. This assault on sleep, on sustenance and on cleansing, creates endless anxiety for the millions who find themselves facing eviction.

The colossal rent and mortgage debt obligations — and the eruption of mass unemployment in 2020 — is imposing altered lives on so many. The time has come to act across Europe!

DiEM25 members are responding to this challenge with a campaign tackling housing issues in Europe: Rentvolution!

During the summer of 2020, DiEM25 activists in Luxembourg foresaw the rise of the housing crisis across the country and forged a coalition of concerned activists to focus on protesting for the right to housing in Luxembourg. DiEM25 members were joined by the refugee and immigrant associations, unions, Déi Lénk party and the African Diaspora organisation, Finkapé.

Volunteers across multiple organisations led localised assemblies and two protest actions in September and October 2020 which attracted considerable media attention.

In November 2020, DiEMers in Portugal held a protest in Lisbon against the continued shortage of decent housing in that city. Together with activists from Acção pela Habitação, DiEMers made their objections clear: no more empty promises from the Government on access to housing! This collective of activists has continued their actions online by bringing to light the personal situations of people facing precarious situations due to lack of affordable housing. The collective is planning an online campaign before Christmas, followed by a poster distribution campaign in January — as well as expanding the actions beyond Lisbon into its suburbs and Portugal’s second city, Porto.

In Belgium, DiEM25 members have participated in a collective protest against austerity led by La Santé en Lutte, and have been active in educating Belgians on their rights when faced with threats of home ejections with Front Anti-Expulsions. The Federal Government was presented with a comprehensive list of demands to restore the fundamental rights of citizens to housing. DiEMers have also been active in assisting around 200 undocumented refugees to remain in their squatter camp for an additional month despite threats of eviction.

The tide is turning

With this momentum, the Rentvolution! campaign is forming a transnational team to realise our demands. We are building a supporting coalition in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal and other countries! An Open Letter, for simultaneous publication across Europe is being drafted, while another protest action — this time in key European cities — is being prepared for the 27th of March 2021.

Sign our petition and contact us to volunteer for the campaign in your country!

This article was authored by Amir Kiyaei who is a member of the Rentvolution! Campaign team. 

Image courtesy of Charles Edward Miller.

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