The City is for All against forced evictions: protests and civil disobedience
Budapest, May 25, 2010.
If you would like to support our struggle, please send an email this week to the mayor of the 9th district, Mr. Ferenc Gegesy under the subject “Housing, not Walls!” with the following (or similar) text:
“Dear Mayor Gegesy,
We are writing to you in support of A Város Mindenkié, the Varga family and the thousands of people who live in shameful housing conditions, wait for social housing or live as homeless in the district of Ferencváros.
We are calling on you as the responsible leader of the 9th district of Budapest to stop evicting families and individuals without any alternative humane and dignified placement and to stop walling up empty social housing units. We are also calling on you to allow squatters who take care of their apartments to get legal status and become social tenants. Finally, we are calling in you to stop feeding the homeless service industry through the forceful gentrification of your district and to provide affordable housing to all of its residents!
NAME OF YOUR ORGANIZATION, CITY & COUNTRY”
The mayor’s email address: email@example.com
Please send us a copy as well: firstname.lastname@example.org
Two families from Ferencváros
We are working with two families in Ferencváros (the 9th district of Budapest): the Varga family became homeless after the demolition of the public housing project in which they lived. They squatted a previously empty flat at a publicly owned house in the end of August, 2009. The parents were continuously trying to negotiate a settlement with the local authority for months, in vain. The other family, Nikoletta Sz. Along with her partner and their daughter could buy a small flat in Ferencváros by taking out a loan. Later, both of them lost their jobs, and maintained themselves from irregular works and family allowance. Eventually, they could not pay their mortgage rate anymore and could not avoid defaulting on their loan. Both families are threatened to become homeless.
5th of May: protest at the local authority, open letter to the mayor
On the 5th of May, City is for All protested forced evictions in front of the building of local authority of Ferencváros, the 9th district of Budapest. We asked the mayor for support for two local families in danger of becoming homeless, and for a comprehensive plan to alleviate the growing housing crisis. We also wanted to raise awareness about a state sponsored credit program for the development of the public housing stock.
City is for All wrote a letter to the mayor of the district, asking him for help to secure the housing of the housing of V. family. Ferenc Gegesy refused to help because “nearly 1100 families are waiting for a social rent, who would not be able to secure their housing by themselves either. […] I would not consider it ethical toward these people if squatters were, by the courtesy of the local authority, allowed to rent the flat they occupied”
We asked the mayor in an open letter delivered at the protest to immediately start to work on a comprehensive plan for ensuring adequate support for the Varga and Sz. families, and for 1100 families as well. Urgent action is needed on the part of the local authority to alleviate the housing crisis. As City is for All holds the guaranteeing of affordable housing to low income people to be key in this respect, they proposed the inclusion of the expansion of the public housing network into the action plan. The group also encourages the local authority to make use of the “Successful Hungary” Rental House credit program to help those who cannot pay their debts. The practice of forced evictions threatens families to become homeless, but it is also very harmful and costly for the whole society. We thus demanded that the mayor to use every possible means to prevent families' becoming homeless whenever an eviction would occur in the district.
13th of May – direct action, civil disobedience, arrests
City Belongs to All organized direct action against the forced eviction of the Varga family, who had been squatting a social rental flat. Our activists tried to prevent the eviction of the family with civil disobedience, and demanded that the local authority makes it possible for the family to rent out the flat.
Our activists formed two living chains of altogether 15-20 persons, trying to block the entrances of the building. The direct action ended by 15 activists being arrested. The police held out the prospective of their being persecuted for obstructing police operation and not obeying police instructions.
The representative of the local authority's housing department was also present at the site: after the arrest of the activists, Zsuzsana Séra threatened several other formally squatter families that they will urgently be evicted, and that their children thus will be taken away from them by the child welfare authorities. The local authority walled up the entrance of the small flat of the Varga family, and employed a security guard to “protect” the site. The message of this is obvious and outrageous: the local authority does not tolerate if residents raise their voice and stand up for their rights, and thus now they want to take revenge on the poor squatter families of the house because of the bad media appearances the events led to.
Even though the local authority tried to excuse itself by referring to financial constraints: it seems that the problem is not with the existence, but with distribution of the resources. It seems that the local authority cannot afford to renovate its extremely deteriorated public housing stock, but they can afford to employ someone to “defend” these substandard, small flats from the poor. It seems that the local authority response to poor people is that they try to get rid of them. Their excuse that they cannot provide social housing to squatters is against the law: the constitutional court decided in 2005 that it is not permissible to discriminate against squatters with respect to the allocation of public housing.
Images of the squatted social housing unit.
Video about the nonviolent civil disobedience
Images of the action
27th of May, Performance and protest
The City is for All holds a rally in front of the building of the local authority of Ferencváros, with the slogan “Housing, Not Walls!”, to protest the anti-social behaviour of the mayor and the housing department. After delivering our letter to the office, we will symbolically wall up the entrance of the local authority, as they do with foreclosed social rental flats.