The new social question – housing!

The new social question – housing!

Following an important debate on the erosion of the classical political families and the enlargement of authoritarian populist movements, it appears that these movements do not only find their supporters amongst those experiencing exclusion and poverty. Voter analysis around national elections and BREXIT shows how the fear factor is the main motivation spread particularly amongst the middle class. The fear of losing is not only on the material issues, it is very much on status and projection into the future. Therefore the fight against precarious working conditions is a fight for a stability and accountability, for a somewhat predictable future.

Besides income, the urgent social question has become housing: even progressive mayors think that selling the social and public housing stock to private investors would help to increase the community budget and investment capacity of their cities. Is it really surprising that those private investors just have one major objective? The increase of private profits without any investment. In too many cities social housing is a synonym for areas of exclusion and ghettos, for “discrimination by address” as the address you indicate in your job application has become an indicator where you come from, not only geographically, and creates –beside color – too often a handicap.

The short-term thinking has led, even some progressives, to abandon the social housing for a short-term profit and led to a major housing crisis now. The housing shortage is structural and the new social question.

The deadlocks of austerity and “sound public finances”, of the “Golden Rule”, have led to social segregation. Housing has become an object of speculation and private profit-oriented short-term investment. How can it be that workers and employees of public and social services cannot afford anymore living in cities where they do their work? These people are those who believe more and more that politics are not interested in their daily problems and concerns because housing has become their major expenditure. This the is middle class, tcentreter of our societies who is increasingly afraid because the pressure is set in their daily life and at their work place.

Authoritarian populists know how to come across with easy slogan solution which are not solving anything. The most dangerous one being that they manage to offer a projection: the migrants. For those afraid of losing it is easier to look downwards and to turn their anger against the weaker. Inst,ead Progressives should build a European strategy around the sustainable, affordable housing agenda, protect our cities from vulture and hedge funds buying out our remaining affordable and social housing stock. The housing market needs public regulation and public intervention like rent control to contain sky rocketing rent increases and security of tenure to prevent evictions,

Maybe with the insistence on the necessity of real social investment, in social infrastructure like social services and social housing, with the demonstration of a rentability which is mid and long-term we have to demonstrate that another Europe is possible and that social investments coupled with decent work and social protection is an exit strategy towards a more social Europe where people are not increasingly afraid of losing. Social Europe is not a myth, but a necessity we fight for!

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