HIC welcomes People’s Initiative for safe Homes and Jobs in North-Rhine-Westphalia


Habitat International Coalition is a world-wide alliance of several hundred organizations, which struggle for the human right to housing.
The people”s initiative is a country-wide formal mass petition, organized by tenants’ organizations and trade unionists, aiming to stop the sell out of public housing companies in North-Rhine-Westphalia and to keep the given standards for legal protection of tenants against displacement. The initiative is politically supported by the Greens, Social Democratic Party. Party of Democratic Socialism and the new WASG.
More precisely, the initiative mobilizes social protest against the plans of the liberal-conservative country government for sale of country-owned housing company LEG (over 100.000 housing units) and the parallel plan for cancellation of country regulation regarding an improved protection of tenants against quitting of their rent agreement.
The initiative in addition campaigns against the continuation of the sell-out of public and social housing to international financial investors. According to data of the German Tenants Federation over 1 million housing units in Germany have been sold to speculative financial funds during the past decade. About 3 million remaining public housing units in Germany are still on the focus of international investment trusts such as Terra company, Fortress, Cerberus and Morgan Stanley.
The housing markets in Germany are one of the principal targets of international investment trusts, which world-wide collect capital from private pension funds in order to receive maximum returns by speculative investments into public goods. As experiences particularly from North America show, tenants and inhabitants pay the price for this development by being forced to pay rising rents, by displacement through transformation free-hold condominiums and by the neglect of maintenances. Municipalities and public authorities at the same time loose their capacities to invest in social building for persons with low incomes and they are rapidly loosing their influence on urban development. Finally, the entire society pays the price fro the development of Slums and Ghettos as well as rising numbers of homeless people and other people, who get excluded from the urban society.
We believe that it is indispensable, that the industrial nations keep a public and social housing stock, which is controlled democratically and which provides expenditure-bordered access to housing. At the same time it is indispensable to enforce public land policies and town planning in order to ensure that more than 100 billion the slum dwellers world wide get access to land, decent housing and public infrastructure.
HIC strictly condemns the rising tide of horrible forced mass-evictions, driven by national and private large-scale projects, urban “cleanage and the weakening of legal standards. Apart from mass evictions in cities of the poverty such as Abduja (Nigeria), Karachi (Pakistan) or Manila (the Philippines) we are even shocked by a frightening increase of the evictions in rich industrial nations.
The evictions e.g. in the USA are partially a direct result of the hiring of social housing stocks to quoted real estate companies, so-called REITs. World-wide this financial product celebrated triumphant penetrations of the real estate-markets during the last years. We are worried about the fact, that the governments of the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany started a race on being the first to introduce this tax-privileged form of financial speculation with housing and public infrastructure at its national stock exchanges. Even against these plans HIC – supported of numerous others groups- has organized protest at World Urban Forum in Canadian Vancouver earlier this year.
We must warn the German politicians: Under the conditions of your politics of the low wages and the precarisation of labour the weakening of social housing structures and public housing policies will have disastrous consequences. Just take a look on the situation in other once welfare-orientated states to see the future of you cities. If you continue this way you soon will experience, what it will mean to have slums and ghettos in Germany!
We encourage the people in North-Rhine-Westphalia and their political supporters to continue your urgent struggle for social housing policy and cities for all. Just like e.g. the victorious referendum against the water privatisation in Uruguay we need your example to enhance our global engagement for the right to housing and city!

Ana Sugranyes, HIC General Secretary, Santiago, Chile
Michael Kane, HIC board member, National Alliance of HID Tenants, Boston, USA
Katharine Coit, HIC board member, AITEC, Paris
Richard Lee, London Tenants Federation, UK
Knut Unger, alternate HIC board member, Mieterforum Ruhr, Witten-Wuppertal, Germany