I. The Right to Adequate Housing means the Right to Health and to a decent life
In the context of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, safety in one’s own home or shelter is essential! All studies have shown that the best way to protect oneself and the whole from the spread of the virus is to interact with as few people as possible. This can only be achieved if individuals have access to decent housing, proper hygiene and running utilities. Where neoliberal policies of austerity, fiscal surveillance, privatisation and cutting of social costs have been going on for years, public health care institutions are reaching their capacity limits. Underinvestment into public services in the past decades and/ or the privatisation of healthcare and housing, makes the states today to be weaker in the face of this new pandemic. We expect that at least during such times of crises as the COVID-19 pandemic, they would initiate actions for assuring adequate public services for all.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly affected are: older people, people with pre-existing health conditions, low-income people, people suffering from poverty, people in precarious jobs, people suffering of homelessness, people forced to live in deprived conditions, people being threatened by different forms of housing insecurity.
The motto Stay at Home! can be followed ONLY by those with access to a home!
The call Wash your Hands! can be followed ONLY by those with access to water, a bathroom or at least a toilet inside the home.
The recommendation of Isolate yourself! can be followed ONLY by those who do not live in overcrowded homes.
In the last four decades, the housing crisis generated by neo-liberal politics has affected more and more people in all EU Member States. The costs of housing have become the largest expenditure for many households. The households’ indebtedness with the housing costs remains high, affecting poor and precarious social categories disproportionately. The consequences of a society that organises itself solely around profits are fatal, not only in terms of housing but also in terms of health.
II. Our Demands
On top of the current housing crisis, continuing evictions during a pandemic forces people into overcrowded homes and homelessness, leading to an easier spread of COVID-19. At a time where public authorities are requesting all citizens to do their part on the behalf of the common good and public health we demand that these same authorities take measures that leave no one behind.
Our experience as housing activists points out that: RAISING RENTS, CEASING UTILITIES due to default, NEGLECTING PEOPLE FROM MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES PLACED IN DEPRIVED AREAS, LEAVING PERSONS AND FAMILIES ON THEIR OWN WITH HIGH HOUSING-RELATED DEBTS OR PRIVATE RENTS THAT THEY CANNOT PAY IN THE EVENT OF LOSING THEIR JOBS, will increase people’s vulnerability to the virus, putting the whole society at risk. Everyone should be able to choose to stay indoors and protect themselves, their community and families from the spread of the pandemic.
We demand that all EU officials and all local, regional and national governments to immediately elaborate and implement measures protecting them and assuring their effective access to human rights!
We are calling for immediate, urgent measures:
- MORATORIUM ON EVICTIONS IN EUROPE!
- NO CUTS ON UTILITIES, REGARDLESS OF DEBTS OR FORMAL STATUS!
- SUSPENSION OF ALL PENALTIES FOR NOT PAYING RENT OR UTILITIES!
- IMMEDIATE PUBLIC REQUISITION OF HOTELS, TOURIST APARTMENTS, HOLIDAY HOUSES AND ALL EMPTY BUILDINGS TO RE-HOUSE THE HOMELESS AND THE OVERCROWDED!
- IMMEDIATE REHOUSING OF THE ALREADY HOMELESS AND OVERCROWDED!
- DECRIMINALIZATION OF OCCUPATIONS OF VACANT BUILDINGS!
- DECRIMINALIZATION OF ALL INFORMAL, ALTERNATIVE, EPHEMERAL AND MOBILE FORMS OF HOUSING!
- PROTECTION OF ALL IN COLLECTIVE ACCOMMODATION: student dorms, adoption homes, elderly homes, prisons, homeless shelters, detention centers, refugee centers!
- FREEZE ALL PROPERTY RENT PRICES!
- SUSPENSION OF MORTGAGE AND RENT PAYMENTS FOR ALL PEOPLE AFFECTED BY THE CRISIS!
- SUSPENSION OF ALL AUCTIONS OF FORECLOSED HOMES!
- SUPPORT FOR ALL AFFECTED BY A POTENTIAL RISE IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DUE TO OVERCROWDING AND STAY-AT-HOME IMPOSITIONS!
- PROTECTION OF ALL MIGRANTS BOTH INSIDE AND AT THE BORDERS OF THE CONTINENT!
- FREE ACCESS TO MEDICAL TESTING AND TREATMENT FOR ALL!
- FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR ALL AT RISK OF LOSING INCOME SOURCES: support for their rents, mortgages, credits, payment of education and medical bills, etc.!
III. Stop the neo-liberal EU
Even though housing policy is considered a matter reserved to the nation states under the principle of subsidiarity, the compulsory economic and fiscal policies of the European Union, in parallel with a weak execution of the principles of “social Europe” and the very strong enforcement of implementing severe austerity policies especially in Southern and Eastern Europe, highlight the responsibility of the EU for the current housing crises.
The recent EU “Statement on COVID-19 economic policy response”, is focusing on the salvation of the Economic and Monetary Union. This looks to be a sign that the EU economic policies are continued to be defined via the neoliberal approach that always characterized the Union. There is a promising provision included into this statement in what regards the “exclusion of the budgetary effects of temporary fiscal measures taken in response to COVID-19 when assessing compliance with the EU fiscal rules.” But where are the guarantees that the Stability and Growth Pact rules will be redefined to the benefit of all the people, beyond the general state support for the healthcare system out of which, theoretically, everybody would equally benefit? And where are the guarantees that these measures will not be applied predominantly in order to make more flexible the state aid rules to support the private companies and the banking sector? Where are the guarantees for a social Europe in which public investment is made in order to strengthen public services in all domains of life, including housing? Is this a moment of a new deal between capital and labor force supported by EU economic policies? It hardly looks so. And due to emergency situations, there is a risk of cutting the workers’ entitlement to organize and demand their labor and housing rights under these severe times and in what follows.
Faced with the challenges of the covid-19 pandemic, the EAC:
- demands the EU to stop its neoliberal fiscal, economic and social policies.
- demands from the EU to promote and facilitate the investment of public money into the development of public services, including public housing and other forms of non-for-profit housing.
IV. Solidarity, Care, Safety And Decent Housing For All!
The vast experience of the organizations forming the The European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and the City (EAC) has shown us that, in a crisis, it is always the low-income, the most vulnerable, the poor, the homeless, the evictees and the undocumented that are at utmost risk for their health and wellbeing. We urge all to show solidarity, care and empathy to individuals that are most exposed for being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic!
Organize in solidarity networks in your own neighborhood!
Demand housing rights for all!
Demand effective actions ensuring housing rights under this state of emergency!