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(en) Poland, Rent strike and tenants' protests in Warsaw [ca, pl, ru]

Date Sun, 03 Oct 2010 13:25:33 +0200

A rent strike action started in Warsaw on Oct. 1. The strike has just begun and hopefully will spread to include more participants around the city. The strike is part of a series of actions planned to protest city housing policy and was called by ZSP*. The actions will include local protests, assemblies and direct actions against administrative offices, courts and local politicians responsible for the situation. ---- Yesterday the first local protest was held in the Praga district of Warsaw. Although ZSP is promoting the idea of the strike and bringing housing under popular control, the protest included other postulates for the here-and-now including rent reductions, raising the income levels required to qualify for public housing, more investment in this area and an end to the corrupt practices of the administration and the privatization mafia. More protests are to follow throughout the week.


Oct. 1, 2010
Today the rent strike called by ZSP has started in the capital of Poland.

The strike was called in response to the horrendous housing policy of
the city. For those not convinced of the necessity to strike, last
night was the straw that broke the camel's back: the City Council blew
off tenants who have been protesting for months and did not vote for
the resolution prepared by them.

The Council session lasted until 22:30 last night. Hundreds of people
jammed into the main hall; there was not enough room for everybody, so
people also sat in the next rooms, watching on a big screen. The
presentation made by tenants did not make an impression on the Vice
President or most of the council, who just try to convince people that
they have to accept that there will never be adequate public housing
in this city. (These were almost the exact words of two politicians.)
In the end, the Council just voted to let the President call a special
group of "experts" to "consult" with.

The people know what a farce that will be. The arrogant and inhuman
stance of the politicians convinced more people that radical steps, as
proposed by the ZSP, are the only ones that make any sense.

Tomorrow starts the first of two protests scheduled in the next days.
More direct actions will be held. A tenants assembly takes place
tonight to discuss strategy.

A few hundred people have expressed support for these actions already.

In the meanwhile. ZSP has started to inform people about a legal
loophole one comrade found which may delay eviction indefinitely. City
authorities are livid but it will take quite a while for them to amend
the problem and, in the meanwhile, rent strikers may use this.

The rent strike also comes after the Voivodship's recent decision
which raises rents even higher, plunging more people into a desperate

ZSP would like to see public housing come under popular control and
politicians evicted from their offices. In the meanwhile, it has other
immediate demands which include the reduction of rents to the pre-May
2009 rate, raising the income criteria to qualify for public housing,
increased investment in repair and building new housing, providing new
public housing to tenants in houses that have been reprivatized and
ending all irregularities related to reprivatization and public
housing procedures.

Below are a few issues related to the housing problem:

1. After the nazi bombings in WWII, there was little housing left in
Warsaw. The owners of many houses had either left the country or were
killed in the war. Many new buildings were constructed on land where
there used to be private houses. Some houses which were of historic
value or only partially destroyed, were rebuilt with public funds and
often using the volunteer labour of the people who lived there
(tenants) or future tenants who would receive housing in exchange for
their labour.

The PRL government turned much formerly private housing into public
housing and sent tenants to live there.

The reprivatization process has meant the return of formerly private
homes, without the necessity to find substitute public housing for the

Reprivatization is often fraudulent. For example, some companies owned
flats or part of a building. But these companies ceased to exist
during the PRL period. However, due to legal absurdities in Poland,
any pre-war company can be reactivated - with complete property rights
- upon the presentation of "proof of ownership" - in other words,
stocks. However, since paper stocks were worthless during the PRL
period and did not represent ownership rights, they were treated as
collector items, winding up in antique and used book shops. According
to absurd Polish law, any person who collected these stocks can
reactivate the company and treat these stock as valid.

Although there are some legal measures being taken against this type
of fraud, the other legal absurdity is that, once a reprivatized
building is sold to a third party, there is no possibility to annul
the sale, even if the property was acquired by fraudulent means!

Another type of fraud is producing false papers; we have found many
"heirs" of people who had no children or of people who already
received compensation for their property.

The city does not properly check claims. They also do not inform
tenants of claims started against their buildings and often tenants
find out about this only after ownership of the building is transfered
or sold to a third party. This means that
tenants, some of whom are elderly and remember the original owners and
many details of the ownership, cannot
submit documents which may prove the claim false because they do not
even know about the claim.

The city deliberately makes it near impossible for tenants to receive
information about what is happening to their buildings.

2. After the reprivatization process, the new landlord can raise rents
or try to end the rental agreement with the tenants. They often use
slumlord tactics (cutting off heat, water, sanitation) to drive people
out of their homes sooner. (They are required to give tenants a notice
period, but many cannot wait to make money off their real estate.)

3. Much of public housing is deliberately neglected by the city, which
mismanages public funds. Many houses are in dangerous condition, do
not have heat or hot water, are infested by fungus or are falling
down. The city inspectors often condemn buildings and their tenants
are moved to worse housing, further away or with smaller space.

4. The income criteria qualifying people for public housing is far too
low. There are no places on the market to rent for people who exceed
this limit but are in the average income group. And the city keeps
raising rents.

5. The public housing stock is also being deliberately depleted. (This
is part of the city's "public housing strategy".) Every year,
thousands of units are reprivatized, sold or condemned while very
little is built. Thousands of families are on waiting lists and
thousands more are housed in conditions which do not fulfill any norms
(too little space per person, no toilets or facilities, etc. etc.).

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

We say no to speculation, no to profiteering off this basic human
need, no to the anti-social policies and practices of the local
administration and no to the assumptions of private property and
inherited wealth.

We call on tenants to organize themselves, show mutual aid and
solidarity to their neighbours and fight back against these housing
practices which are ruining more and more people's lives!

ZSP-IWA (Warsaw)

www.zspwawa.blogspot.com (English)
* Anarchosyndicalist union
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