On March 27, Saturday, housing rights groups across Europe launched a two-day Housing Action demanding affordable housing and an end to profiteering from rents. The call for action was given by the European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and to the City, in coordination with various other collectives in more than 20 countries. Mobilizations were held in several cities in Germany, France, Portugal, Luxembourg and other countries. Housing activists also called for an end to evictions and homelessness, and demanded the requisitioning of empty houses and buildings.
Most major European cities are currently facing an acute housing crisis marked by rising rents and skyrocketing of property rates. The number of homeless people is increasing and overcrowding of housing space is a common characteristic in several cities. This is when a large number of houses and buildings remain empty and unoccupied in several cities due to a lack of concrete pro-people housing policies. The COVID-19 pandemic is also having a devastating effect on the lives of homeless people and tenants across Europe. Due to immense pressure and protests by tenants rights groups, authorities in many places have put a temporary ban on evictions during the lockdown period. However, with the easing of COVID-19-related restrictions, evictions by landlords have also resumed.
According to reports, on Saturday, mobilizations and actions took place in as many as 58 European cities. In more than 20 cities across Germany, activists protested the spike in rents. In Berlin, activists called for a referendum on the socialization of large residential groups to prevent speculation and rent madness. Various housing rights groups and leftist groups in Germany, including Die Linke, participated in the mobilizations. In Portugal, the Habita association organized a mobilization in Lisbon. Housing rights groups, trade unions, and progressive political parties also organized mobilizations in Paris and other French cities. The Communist Party of Luxembourg (KPL) and the Dei Lenk (The Left) participated in the national mobilization organized as part of the Housing Action Day in Luxembourg. In Belgium, mobilizations took place in various cities on Sunday, March 28.
The Housing Action coalition stated that “the fight for the right to housing and to the city has intensified in the face of rising prices and rents, results of the increasing commodification and financialization of housing. On the other hand, the number of decent and affordable housing units has only decreased in all European countries and public housing stock has shrunk to a trickle.”
The coalition alleged that “during the COVID-19 pandemic, governments which take measures that force us to stay ‘at home’, choose to ignore that millions of people have no places to live, or live in unsuitable or even unhealthy housing.”
“Millions have lost all or part of their income because they have stopped working and have to ‘stay home’ even if they can no longer afford it. Property prices are rising and so are rents. These translate in a rise in profits which shows who benefits from the crisis: the real estate economy, investors and banks. We cannot accept this!” added the coalition.