Evictions and gentrification: What will you do?
Posted 22 April 2007 - 10:30 PM
The eviction notices just keep on coming. People in the centre of another Moravian town – most of them Romani – are being evicted, this time by the new private owners of properties purchased from the town of Nový Jičín. The reasons are familiar to anyone who has witnessed the gentrification of any other neighbourhood: the property must be improved, the tenants must go. The media reports some of the tenants tried to buy the buildings themselves but were beaten by better offers, while other tenants claim to have never been informed of the sale. Approximately 200 people will be affected.
Ten years ago, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a special comment on the right to adequate housing and forced evictions. Like many documents issued by that office, it does not yet exist in official Czech translation. The document points out that even in cases of justifiable eviction, such as persistent non-payment of rent (a claim made in the media regarding most of the tenants facing eviction in Nový Jičín) the authorities must ensure that legal recourse and remedy are available to those affected. In this respect, any renter in the Czech Republic facing eviction for whatever reason could one day face the problem of access to legal aid.
The tenants facing eviction in Nový Jičín intend to take action, according to media reports. The question is, how? There is still no state-sponsored system of legal aid in the Czech Republic for persons wanting to initiate litigation to protect their rights. The Czech Bar Association does assign lawyers to handle some cases at reduced fees, and a very few private firms, most of them foreign, perform pro bono legal work, but there is no systematic government legal aid programme. People who cannot afford legal representation either never try, or turn to the few non-profit organisations that offer such services. The demand is enormous and the non-profits are understaffed.
The UN has noted that evictions often occur in the name of "development", which includes housing renovation as well as larger-scale projects, and has specified the following guidelines in cases of eviction:
- governments should guarantee that there will be "genuine consultation" with those affected;
- "adequate and reasonable notice" should be given prior to the eviction;
- information should be made available in reasonable time about the eviction and about any alternative intended purpose for the land or housing;
- officials should be present during evictions of groups of people;
- persons performing the eviction should be properly identified;
- evictions should not take place in bad weather or at night without consent;
- legal remedy should be provided;
- legal should aid be provided to persons in need of it.
Also, evictions should not result in homelessness, nor should they expose people to the risk that their other rights will be violated. How many evictions in the Czech Republic over the past decade have met these standards?
Unfortunately, for Romani tenants, evictions are part of a very old story. From forced resettlements under the communist regime to today's free-market version, "get a move on" has been the message of Czech society to the Roma. Even Roma who are fully integrated, educated, and literate people who pay rent and taxes and vote just like anyone else face extreme discrimination here, and that discriminatory stance is increasingly gaining overt public sanction.
Public opinion polls show that most people see no need for Deputy PM Jiří Čunek – who deliberately insults the Roma practically every time he opens his mouth – to resign over his most recent outrageous remarks. They believe his populist rhetoric that is they, not the Roma, who should feel aggrieved. They believe his claims that the Roma in the Czech Republic are given "special advantages".
To those who support him, Čunek's refusal to resign is actually appealing, as it makes him seem like a "principled" maverick. His anti-Roma racism is part of a longstanding tradition in this part of the world, and his recent statements were as much a critique of a government insensitive to the needs of the little man as they were an exercise in bigotry. In this sense he has made the same political achievement as that mastered by the Republican Party in the US 20 years ago: speaking through the megaphone of government power, he appeals directly to the innate anti-authoritarianism latent in most people, and no one (almost) notices the inherent contradiction.
At present the gap between rich and poor in the Czech Republic is not that extreme. This is an achievement of governments past. A few more years of this kind of government may leave us with a much uglier future: more poverty, more homelessness, and more general desperation. You yourself may never make it to Nový Jičín or to Čunek's old stomping grounds in Moravia, but the scenarios unfolding there will affect us all, Roma or not, sooner than we think.
(Gwendolyn Albert; Prague Daily Monitor)
Gwendolyn Albert is a member of the Czech Government Human Rights Council representing civil society and Director of Women's Initiatives for the Peacework Development Fund.
Posted 22 April 2007 - 10:32 PM
Brainstorming urges more affordable housing
Nashville's Agenda meetings bring out residents' own ideas to improve city
By LEE ANN O'NEAL
Staff Writer, Tennessean.com
Property investor Pete Horton should be happy.
He has seen home values in his Woodland-in-Waverly neighborhood and throughout the city increase, with owners restoring older homes and investing money in new construction.
Horton, 76, is worried that gentrification is forcing poor, longtime residents out of his neighborhood.
That was one reason Horton gathered with about 50 other Nashvillians last night to share ideas to improve the city. They met at a Nashville's Agenda forum at Litton Middle School.
"They call them urban pioneers," Horton said. "We know what pioneers did. They put all the Indians on a reservation."
In Horton's part of town, three of 10 households lived in poverty when the 2000 census was taken.
Horton said Nashvillians should put "people before buildings."
Organizers will trim that idea and hundreds of others to a concrete to-do list for the city. The Nashville's Agenda committee of civic leaders will publish the recommendations in June.
The discussion series is similar to one held in the early 1990s, which led to the creation of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts and the Nashville Housing Fund.
Posted 24 April 2007 - 08:10 PM
Posted 11 May 2007 - 07:52 PM
FORTRESS LOS ANGELES: THE MILITARIZATION OF URBAN SPACE: http://www.lcc.gatech.edu/~broglio/1101/davis.html
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