Tenants in Poland are celebrating the first successful grassroots campaign to prevent the sell-off of publicly owned housing.
The grassroots fighting organization, the Tenants' Defense Committee, managed to stop the privatization of a house on Targowa St. in Warsaw. This is an historic moment: as far as we know, this is the first privatization in Poland that has been successfully stopped by protest!
In addition, the city has agreed to recommunalize part of the building which was under claim. This means that the entire property (which consists of several buildings) will remain municipal housing.
Although there is a lot wrong with the municipal housing system, it is extremely common that when buildings are reprivatized, rents shoot up, people are evicted, properties sold or tore down to make way for exclusive housing. So essentially this decision will guarantee that the tenants can remain in their homes and not have to face the terror tactics that private slumlords use to drive people out before the end of their notice period - that is usually cutting off water, gas, etc.
The Committee is currently fighting a couple of privatization attempts. It is common in Poland that extensive fraud is committed during reprivatization and there is no independant process of verifying claims and documents. It is part of a tacit agreement between municipalties, landlords and real estate investors to deplete the public housing stock, help a small mafia of bureaucrats and privatizers get their hands on attractive real estate and gentrify the cities.
There is extensive evidence of fraud in many cases but Polish law is highly flawed in this area. If a property is illegally acquired but then sold, the new owner is considered to have purchased it "in good faith" and such sales are not annulled! So there is a well-developed mechanism to get buildings by fraud and to sell them immediately to colleagues, friends and family.
Besides this push to block some fraudulent reprivatizations, banners are now going up around Warsaw advertising different tenants protests, victories and the call for a rent strike starting Oct. 1. The strike is being called by the local group of ZSP and is meant to be a starting point for radicalizing protest. The timing of it is also significant as municipal elections will be held in November. ZSP and the Tenants Defense Committee will make a huge campaign against the politicians who were involved in corruption and anti-social polices ---- which is just about all of them! ZSP will argue for more popular control of the neighbourhoods and will try to organize some local assemblies in response to the upcoming election campaigns.