With the topic “Capital and the City” this years’ meeting of European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and to the City delves into the connection between the city and the economic powers that increasingly seek to plunder it. In particular, we look at the position of housing and large urban development agendas in this, having become among the main processes driving contemporary global capitalism.
Where cities are for most a home, for some they are investment vehicles. That in itself is nothing new, but the degree to which we, the inhabitants, are becoming subjected to this is unprecedented. And as to be expected, this leads to extreme excesses on both sides of exploitative reality. On the one side, we can recognise how inhabitants over the years have become increasingly vulnerable in sustaining their housing situation – with the devastating impact of mortgage defaults, evictions or even outright fraudulent expropriations, the lives of often the most defenceless have been ruined as result. On the other side, we can witness a cloud of restless international capital hovering over our cities, seeking for investment opportunities in an increasingly nervous economic climate. Over the last decade, most of the money “created” by private banks has been channelled into real-estate, rather than into “productive” parts of the economy. This results directly in higher housing prices and bubbles in financial markets. It may be clear that those investments are not made to provide their investors with a sustainable housing situation – rather, they create assets for which inhabitation has never been a priority. Empty shells of real-estate “excellence” in international investment schemes. For most of us, there is obviously no place in this market.
It is not accidental that this topic features prominently at the meeting in Belgrade. Not only a trajectory of over 25 years of manipulatively engineered economic crisis, poverty for large part of the population, but equally emerging business opportunities to a select number of individuals have created a playing field for devastating urban practices and forms of city development.
June 24, 12.00 – 19.00
CZKD (Center for Cultural Decontamination)
Bir?aninova 21, Beograd
language: English & Serbian (translation provided)
PART 1: Evictions and expropriations
12.00 – 14.00
parallel discussion sessions
It is in evictions and expropriations, where the impact of economic extraction and failing protecting from public authorities culminate: they directly impact our living sphere, our social structures and our physical bodies. They enact humiliation upon us. They deprive us from the place from where we can organise our lives.
And in that, our homes need defence:
“No other modern commodity is as important for organising citizenship, work, identities, solidarities, and politics. (...) It is this side of housing – its lived, universally necessary, social dimension, and its identity as home – that needs defending.” (David Madden and Peter Marcuse, 2016)
This discussion brings together experiences from various European cities around some of the most important questions in defence of our daily lives: How do we defend the site of an eviction, when we have to confront the bailiff? How can we bring together a powerful coalition of those affected? What legal means can be brought forward, and how do we amass finance for this? And finally, how do we secure the right of shelter in legislation?
PART 2: Residential capitalism in Europe
15.30 – 16.30
talk by Manuel B. Aalders (University of Leuven) - to be confirmed
“The Great Financial Crisis that started in 2007 was, at least in part, triggered by the preceding boom in housing prices. Housing prices did not rise primarily as a result of increasing income or decreasing availability but as a result of the increasing availability of mortgage finance, caused by low interest rates, mortgage securitization and, in some countries, the rise of new types of lenders, that together enabled increasingly more households to take out increasingly larger mortgage loans.”
In this talk, Manuel Aalders (associate professor of human geography) will explain how housing finds itself at the centre of a rapidly transforming capitalist political economy and places housing at the centre of the financialization debate. “It is time to reconsider the financialization of both homeownership and social housing.”
PART 3: Our cities as investment schemes, really?
17.00 – 18.30
Around Europe, the effect of a new capitalist political economy is being felt. From Madrid to Tbilisi, from Athens to Stockholm: more and more have “we”, the inhabitants of these cities, become witnesses of large financial schemes that play out their battles in the cities we live in.
This panel will discuss the phenomena around a number of practical entries: how can we recognise these mechanisms being at play in our own cities, what can we do to defend ourselves from their impact, and finally: how do we arrive at cities that serve people, not (un)just capital?