No longer only the minimum wage. With the meeting on October 27 at M9 in Mestre, the right to housing is now officially the second social issue – along with the minimum wage – that will be part of the Democratic Party’s policy agenda. A “National Plan for the Right to Housing” was presented during an afternoon full of contributions of notable seriousness and expertise, before an audience that sat listening intently for almost five consecutive hours. Professors, Italian and European parliamentarians, mayors, regional and municipal councilors, film directors and grassroots organizations spoke, among whom, we’re happy to say, two women who are new to the scene really stood out: Emma Ruzzon, president of the University of Padua Student Council, and Vanessa Camani, PD group leader in the Veneto Regional Council.
The plan starts from the observation that responding to the demand for affordable housing cannot be left to the market alone, especially considering this period of continuously increasing property values, among other things. In Italy, 650,000 families – at least one and a half million people – have requested public residential housing in vain. There are also around 40,000 eviction sentences per year. On the other hand, at least 90,000 publicly owned homes sit unused, either because they require maintenance work for which there is no funding, or for other reasons.
Providing price-controlled rental housing must be considered a public service, just as are transportation, healthcare, schools and essential needs. This service should be reserved for that part of the population that cannot afford to pay market prices. For those who do not obtain public housing, there must be other forms of support that allow access to private rentals, with related guarantees.
The objectives to be achieved according to the Plan are:
a) Increase the supply of public residential housing, which is currently almost zero
b) Create public residential housing through “zero land consumption urban regeneration”
c) Reduce climate-altering emissions by using renewable sources
d) Create a national system of local real estate funds to create ERP properties, promote the housing offering through specific financial instruments and recover unused public properties.
In contrast to this approach, which also calls for the creation of an ad hoc ministry and the allocation of one billion euros, the government currently in office has eliminated the Rental Support Fund and the Fund for innocent arrears. The PD has called for these Funds to be refinanced and paid directly to the municipalities, to improve accessibility. The issue of short-term rentals and their related tax treatment, which is very topical in a city like Venice, was also not overlooked.
The contributions from the speakers emphasized above all the idea that living is more than just having a house. The city is a producer of inequalities if the services that accompany living are not taken care of, if a welcoming urban context, accessible basic healthcare, meeting places and public services are not created. Social housing, which ensures public services and common spaces, was mentioned often. The issue therefore intersects with the very structure of the city, which risks becoming increasingly anonymous and hostile as one moves away from the historic centers, the latter inaccessible due to exorbitant prices, good only for those who can procure services independently.
Finally, it is important to underline that it emerged from the overall picture that the sector needs a comprehensive reorganization, a framework law, which addresses the principles (the public service), the distribution of powers (the municipalities count too little, while it is the municipalities that must address the political question), the dedicated structures (a specific ministry is needed), and the financial dimension (a billion euros are needed, as said above).
Translation by Paul Rosenberg
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