Tuesday, October 19

Express yourself

Berlin has voted in a referendum in favor of the expropriation of houses in the hands of vulture funds to create a public park and lower rents. The consultation is not binding but shows the popular will and serves as a measure of pressure on politicians. Now the Social Democrats, who have won not only in the general elections, but also in the municipal elections of the city, will have to ask themselves the question. The point is that Berliners, like most European city dwellers in general, are fed up with the fact that a basic good such as housing has become a luxury in the hands of large companies. His answer has been clear and forceful: express yourself.

And while in Spain… Unidos Podemos registers this Thursday a housing law proposal that provides for the limitation of rents to “puncture the bubble”, avoid evictions, ensure access to basic supplies, prevent empty houses and create a public park. The project has the support of the entire left of the Chamber, but not with the coalition partner, the PSOE, despite the fact that regulating rents is one of the government’s agreements. Socialists have been delaying a law for months because of their refusal to intervene in prices. Ábalos made his position clear before he was dismissed as minister: “Housing is a right but it is also a market good.” If Rodrigo Rato had said it, we would not have been surprised.

The PSOE wants to reduce prices with tax breaks for those who rent their homes below the market average, a model that in Portugal has proven to be unsuccessful because the incentives are lower than the benefits of renting high. Nadia Calviño went so far as to say that the limitation of prices in Berlin or Paris had failed. First, it is not true. Second, intervention is not enough. If there are controls to apply it, the price regulation, which exists in places as little Bolivarian as France, Denmark, Holland, Germany or New York, manages to stop speculation, stop the increases and, in some cases, lower prices. But other measures are also needed, especially a great public offering. Vienna is the best example. There the average price is 9.9 euros per square meter, compared to 18.6 in Madrid or 19.3 in Barcelona. The usual: yes you can, but you have to love it.

In Spain the opposite has been done, selling public housing to vulture funds thanks to the PP. The Government of Rajoy passed laws in the midst of the crisis that allowed them to give them apartments and tax exemptions. The vultures put on their boots, especially in the capital. Now the president of the Madrid community has gone to the United States to meet with the scavengers. In Catalonia, the popular have appealed to the Constitutional law that regulates housing prices. Remember it when you vote.

So let’s go to the Constitution. Article 128 allows intervention in the market in favor of the general interest and Article 33 endorses expropriation “for just cause of public utility or social interest.” The judges in different sentences have forced the vulture funds to return homes that were sold to them. We must recover many of those flats that were built with public money, penalize those who speculate and maintain empty flats to inflate the bubble, use public land to ensure decent housing. It is a fundamental right contained in article 47 of the Constitution. Constitutionalism is defending the citizen, not the market. They should remember both PSOE and PP. And this brings us back to Berlin: express yourself.


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