The Social housing NOW! movement started with a civic-activist campaign of Desire Foundation. In 2016, we revealed the need to politicize the question of social housing in the city of Cluj in the context of a stark decrease of public housing stock and of commodification of housing throughout the past decades, and as well as the limitation of the access to social homes of the most deprived. In 2017 Social housing NOW! carried on its activity by supporting ethnic Roma people belonging to the impoverished working class, in gaining a voice in the struggle for an anti-racist and just public housing policy. We define this policy as an instrument to assure the right to the city, in a broader sense, not only as a right to housing but also of participating in the decision-making process over its development. In the same year, members of the movement (together with FCDL, Dreptul la Oraș and E-Romnja Association) has been among the initiators of the Blocul pentru Locuire (Block for Housing) national platform.
The aim to change this initial campaign into a main engine of the local movement for public housing and fair housing policies was upheld by several actions of ours organized between October 2017 and June 2018. In order to create a city for people and not for profit, as a political activist movement we propose a development model for the city of Cluj, which: targets the extension of public housing stock, including social housing; allocates an adequate budget for related public interventions; ensures the access to social housing for low income people who live under deprived housing conditions; supports from the public budget alternative housing models, such as different forms of collectives living or cooperative housing.
The Social housing NOW! movement is based on the documentation and analysis of the manifestations of housing injustice in the context of contemporary capitalist political economy, such as: the creation of underdeveloped residential areas in the city; evictions that transform people into homeless; the criteria of the distribution of social homes in Cluj; the dramatic effects of inadequate and precarious living conditions, including their placement into a highly polluted environment; the modifications suffered by the Romanian law of housing; the politics of social and public housing after 1990, shaped by the massive privatization process (through the right to buy state owned apartments and through restitution) and by the support of the real estate market; commodification and financialization of housing. Our studies are action/activist researches, which - on the one hand – use documentation and analysis for articulating and sustaining activist/political demands, and on the other hand transform the actions into a research topic with the aim of improving its responsiveness to the issues addressed by us in the public space. The knowledge we produce and the political actions we practice assume social responsibilities, and value both the direct experiences of everyday life and the conceptual reflections over them.
We practice advocacy as an ensemble of different types of actions through which we support the cause of public housing and housing justice by aiming to influence the political decisions around and as well as a common understanding of housing crisis that reveals its structural causes. Our advocacy actions proceed through three different strategies: 1) through campaigns that aim to raise consciousness among a larger public; 2) through actions directed towards the local and national public administrations, and as well as towards law-makers; 3) through direct actions.
We contribute to gain knowledge and raise consciousness about the fact that housing is a primordial need and a fundamental right; we reveal the effects of ghettoization and environmental racism on people; we uncover the administrative processes which lead to the dispossession from adequate homes of the most impoverished categories (through evictions, through discriminatory measures of social housing policies, through underinvestment in particular urban areas); we demonstrate the connections between labor and housing rights, and between precarious working and living conditions, revealing that impoverishment deepens both due to low incomes and to high housing costs; we reflect on the effects of the commodification of housing and of its transformation into a source of capital accumulation for big property owners, over the housing dispossession of the pauperized working class, including the precarious middle class.
Based on the recognition that law is a political construction embodying particular interests, we urge a change of housing-related legislation in order to be put into the service of public good. We demand measures that prohibit evictions without relocation to adequate housing; that assure social housing as part of a public housing stock for the most deprived social categories; that at least rebalances housing policies from a politics dedicated to the big property owners and real estate developers, towards one that serves the interests of the laborers lacking the resources for buying or renting a home from the market; that invests in a local development, which reduces and eliminates the territorial disparities between the developed and underdeveloped areas of the country/ regions/counties/localities.
Nonetheless, we practice advocacy through court actions and through actions oriented towards the anti-discrimination related institutions. This way we aim to legally reinforce people’s social-economic rights, particularly that of the right to adequate housing, of having real access to public social housing and of de factoenjoying the right to live in a healthy environment. Generally speaking, we use legal actions as a tool of fighting for an anti-racist and just housing politics that is not discriminatory against the dispossessed social categories.
Through our street actions we go on with the struggles started by different civil society groups in Cluj in 2010 (most importantly with the team of Desire Foundation). These raised their voices against evictions and against the ghettoization of the impoverished Roma, and they exposed the responsibility of the local government for the formation of marginal and semi-formal deprived housing areas in Pata Rât. Last, but not least, they demanded politically assumed local administrative measures of desegregation through offering alternatives of adequate housing in the city for those who are enforced to live nearby the city’s landfill.
On the other hand, we undertake actions which call for solidarity against evictions and racism from all over the world, but also against a gentrifying urban regeneration that systematically pushes the impoverished population to the margins or even outside the city. At the same time, we raise awareness about the necessity to find alternative ways to expand the public social housing stock, besides of building new realties.
Through public debates open for a large public, including people directly affected by the different effects of unjust housing policies (over-crowdedness of homes, high living costs, inadequate housing conditions, evictions, homelessness, informal housing, expulsion to the polluted and deprived urban periphery, limited access to the very few social housing units), we bring the subject of housing rights on top of the public agenda, and we build ‘social housing’ as a political subject and a matter of public interest.
„Cărămida. Ziarul dreptății locative” (The brick. The newspaper for housing rights) is the medium through which we contribute to the growth of the movement for housing and the right to the city in Cluj, but also beyond the locality. Brick by brick we build mutual knowledge, trust in our own power and solidarity that unites us. We raise awareness about the real causes of the housing crisis, of whose effects have to be supported by the pauperized working class as well as by the precarious middle class. With the ‘Cărămida’ we fight for a just and anti-racist housing politics, and against the transformation of the city into a source of capital accumulation by big property owners and real-estate developers.
Initiative of the “Căși sociale ACUM!/ Social housing NOW!” movement
Redaction team: Ana Adam, Ioana Bălănescu, Cătălin Mihai Chirilă (editor), Alexandru Greta, Péter Máthé, Claudiu
Lorand Maxim, Szilárd Miklós (graphics), Dénes Miklósi (graphics), Alexandru Mureșan, Maria Stoica,
Lorena Vălean (editor), Enikő Vincze, George Zamfir.
Produced by Desire Foundation with the support of Human Rights Initiative/OSF
Email: desire_cluj ( at ) yahoo.com
Facebook: Căși sociale ACUM/ Social housing NOW