(ENG) Another City is possible – Press Statement by Knut Unger

At yesterday press conference of MISREOR and Forum Development and
Environment in Bonn, Germany, Mr. Bröckelmann-Simon (MISEREOR, Statement
available in German) and Miloon Kothari (UN Special Rapporteur) gave
engaged overviews on the increasing number of mass evictions and its’s
reasons. Jean du Plessis from COHRE, South Africa, focused on forced
evictions in the context of mega events like Olynmpics and the coming
football world championship in SA. In my oral statemnt I added some
remarks on private equity and sell out in Germany, the situation in
Europe and the camapign.

Below rough English version of my written statement handed out at the
same conference.


Another City is possible

Statement by Knut Unger, Habitat Working Group at German NGO Forum
Development and Environment for Press Conference with MISEREOR 2007/09/27

Globally, cities and countries are running into a more and more
destructive competition with attractive investment conditions for
disembedded financial markets. Privatisations of land, housing, services
and public planning are a part of this trend. The results are
speculative land and real estate markets, which are getting out of
control. The social, environmental, human and economical costs are
extraordinary high.

Even in the „North“ more and more people are affected by the consequences.

In economically successful metropolis like New York, London, Paris,
Barcelona rents are unaffordable for ordinary people. The existing rests
of popular neighbourhoods get abolished. Die conversion of rental
housing into condominiums led to a heavy increase of forced evictions,
for instance in California and Canada.

In Germany the sell out of former social housing (more than 1,2 Mio.
units since 2004) is undermining security of tenure.

In the transition countries, the privatisation of public housing and the
development of highly speculative real estate markets led to a heavy
increase of evictions and homelessness.

For the strengthening of the human right to housing it is not enough to
scandalize the most dramatic examples. It is even necessary to develop
instruments which ensure that investments serve the people and do not
destroy human communities.

· In order to confront transnational investors with their social
responsibilities we need to extend methods of social reporting
(“corporate accountability”)systematically to real estate markets and
the related financial sectors.

· Worldwide we need strict rules for the analysis of social consequences
and risks of urban investments, for compensations of losses and for the
participation of the affected communities in decision making on planning
and investments. Investments which do not follow these rules must be
proscribed morally and politically.This will reduce dumping competition
and guide investments into directions where they are needed.

· Generally, the provision of ever improved concessions for speculative
financial investors must be stopped. We can begin in Germany and Europe.
This even will generate more taxes for public budgets, which then can be
used for really needed investments, even in the south.

· This world urgently must say good by to the vision, that everywhere a
city model of luxury hotels, malls and highways can be introduced. The
settlements and the local economy of the urban poor within the cities of
the “South” must be recognized as the basis for the overcome of social

· Without stopping privatisation, without strengthened and democratised
public sectors and without development of socially controlled urban land
markets we cannot overcome the horribly worsening global housing misery.

· The global home owner’s society, which is the guiding star of the
neo-liberal forces since decades, is more and more becoming a planet of
cemented social divide, of gated communities at the one side of growing
slums of right less excluded at the other.

Several international networks within the World Social Forum, among them
Habitat International Coalition (HIC) have called for an international
campaign for housing and land rights, against forced evictions and real
estate speculation. This campaign will start at October 1st.

In the Ruhr District, we will organize public testimonies with tenants
affected by privatisations, next Monday.
In Paris a demonstration for housing rights is scheduled for Sept. 29.
In London the destruction of affordable housing for the Olympics and
Real Estate Investment Trusts are in the centre of concerns.
A lot of action even is scheduled in Latin America and India.

Knut Unger is a speaker of the habitat working group at the German NGO
Forum Development and Environment. He works as a political coordinator
for the Witten Tenants Association and the Ruhr Tenants Forum within the
German Tenants Union DMB. He is the alternate European member of the
board of Habitat International Colaition (HIC).

Knut Unger, Habitat Netz / MieterInnenverein Witten, Schillerstr. 13,
D-58452 Witten; Tel. ++49-2302-392888, mobile: ++49-160-8428818, Email:

www.habitants.de , www.mieterforum-ruhr.de , hic-net.org