Occupation of Housing Authority

Occupation of Housing Authority

Tenants are occupying the housing authority in downtown Warsaw.

A group of tenants stormed the local housing authority in Warsaw this morning and have been occupying it ever since. The tenants, many of which are members of the Tenants Defence Committee, are demanding that the city resign from plans to turn off their gas.

107 families have been being harrassed by the city for some time now. The city is using slumlord tactics to try and get rid of the tenants who happen to live in public housing in an attractive and expensive area of Warsaw. They claim that the gas is not safe and already tried to turn it off twice. During the first intervention of the Committee, the gas inspectors said that there were only minor problems which could be easily fixed and a housing official promised to do so. The city authorities in charge of gas also claim everything is OK.

The borough president claims otherwise and came down on the housing authorities and gas inspector. The Committee has been keeping watch and trying to block turning off gas.

Throughout Warsaw this winter, hundreds and hundreds of families have been suffering without gas, electricity and sometimes without running water or toilets due to slumlords or the city who are trying to harrass people out of their homes. The Committee is trying to take action to stop this and to get the gas back on in some apartment buildings. More and more tenants are trying to take action, but are being frustrated by city authorities.

Desperate tenants have begun to take action. The housing authority is occupied and people have vowed to keep up the occupation for as long as it takes. Many people took part in the action today and some people are barricaded in overnight. There are also about 20 people on hunger strike. More tenants are expected to come and support the protests tomorrow. The Committee will make direct actions at other offices during the week.

More on this case:
Photos and TV report (in Polish):

Posted By

Jan 19 2010 22:59


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Jan 23 2010 09:26

Update: After four days occupying the housing authority, tenants are taking a break this weekend to assess the situation. There were a number of interventions on behalf of the tenants, including by the church and some politicians from parliament that put pressure on the local adminstration. The city did not want to change its mind or even negotiate but had to give in to at least negotiations yesterday. The tenants are appointed with the Mayor on Monday. But it is clear that the authorities are trying to avoid taking full responsibility as required by the law. If they claim that there is a "danger" to the residents, then they should provide them with alternative housing of at least the same standard. As a result of preliminary negotiations, an independent expertise was ordered and the authorities will be forced to provide financial assistance and new housing if the results are bad. However, they are trying to find ways to screw people anyway - for example trying to say that only part of the people should get new housing. It is most likely that if the Mayor does not agree to guaranteeing substitute housing for all (which is a legal requirement), then the Mayor's office will be occupied. It is also possible that some people will camp out at the Mayor's personal residence.

Jan 23 2010 13:00

cheers for the update!

Jan 29 2010 18:21

Can't write too much since apparently the Mayor or his underlings read Libcom. There has been some setbacks and mistakes - today there was no blockade of the houses and gas was turned off. We did however get a document ordering the housing authority to make repairs and restore gas within 5 months. Unfortunately the problem now is lack of unity amongst tenants, since the city's strategy is to try and make deals with individuals. These individuals deals would leave the majority with nothing and we, and the majority of tenants do not accept the situation.

The Mayor is a major sleaze and among his tactics is disinformation and anarchist scare tactics.

In other notable news, the inspector who originally said on film that the gas can be easily fixed resigned from her job. Unofficially we know that she was mobbed and got disgusted. The next building inspector who came also said there was no reason to turn off the gas - but then later wrote an order for the gas to be turned off. As I said, there is also an order to repair everything within five months.

The contradictory behaviour of these officials is rather indictative of high-level pressure to carry out the plan.

Also, a person connected to the housing authority posed as a tenant for the media in a provocation.

The Mayor and the Housing Authority continue to potray their actions as being "for the safety" of the tenants.

In the meanwhile, we can see how the bastards in the city take care of tenants' safety. In one house (were we blocked an eviction a couple of months ago), a 16 year old girl died of CO poisoning last year due to improper ventilation. On Saturday, 6 people were hospitalized for CO poisoning; luckily all of them survived, but the health consequences are unknown. The Housing Authority refuses to make the necessary repairs to solve the deadly problem.

Jan 26 2010 08:41

thanks for the update.

what do you mean by the Mayor or people read libcom? Has reference been made to this article somewhere?

A quick pedantic point, when you say CO2 do you mean carbon monoxide? Because that is just CO. Carbon monoxide gas comes from faulty gas boilers.

Jan 29 2010 19:44

Thanks for the correction - you were right and I just wrote too quickly.

The mayor made reference to anarchists and people talked about this story even being published abroad, which leads us to assume that they found this in a google search on this portal.

A new update: It was clear that the Mayor's meeting was intended to both pacify people and to drag them away from the buildings so that the gas could be turned off. They did this just before the meeting.

This was a very important lesson for people, most of whom have never been involved with anything like this before. Before the meeting, there was some tension, people were divided and the majority of people believed that they should negotiate with politicians. Then it turned out that they had not only nothing to offer people, but used the occasion to turn off the gas.

This situation cleared most people of their illusions and radicalized some. It was clear to the city that people were just going to come back and protest and, as a result, the housing authority was closed since Tuesday. The Mayor's office was also given full police protection. The situation with the housing authority was outrageous. Tenants went there again, but the place was locked down. Other people started to come there and couldn't get in and got angry and joined the protest. There were some minor clashes, but nothing happened. There were also some small actions, like postering the adminstration, chasing after somebody trying to get in the building from the rear entrance, etc. etc.

Nobody remembers anything like this happening since martial law times.

The area around the apartment blocks are now under special police invigilation.

One of the problems tenants now face is that there are different categories of tenants - "social tenants" who are very low income and maybe have been evicted in the past and other tenants on contracts - this latter group also divided depending on their status (in good standing, with infractions of lease, debts, etc.). The cutting off of gas effected over 150 families but at most, according to a minor provision adopted by the City Council, 30 families may apply for substitute housing. Even if there is an immediate threat to life, "social tenants" do not have to be provided alternative housing in this city - which is a contradiction to the Act on the Protection of Tenants' Rights.

So now we went to the council to demand that this be changed. The council session was interrupted by a protest and speech with demands. Nobody was arrested or asked to leave, which surprised us after our last run-in with security there and the fact that other offices have even shut down in fear of protests. We demanded that this issue be taken up at the next session and politicians agreed, although this is no guarantee that they will really want to discuss this or resolve it. Some tenants are calling it the last chance for the politicians.

On the other hand, some people are hoping against hope that some person "with power" will save them. This is a problematic reality in Poland; there are very few real, successful grassroots actions and many people believe that only the intervention of people with "authority" will help them. People like this have expressed an interest in the case but it is important to point out the risks of dealing with politicians to people.

Nobody really knows what will happen next. The people are under tremendous stress.