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4th States General for Housing and the City

Creating a public service for the city and housing

8 November 2008, Gennevilliers, Salle des fêtes
177 avenue Gabriel Péri - 92230 Gennevilliers - France

Organized by ANECR et PCF. The Confédération nationale du logement (CNL - National Housing Federation ) and the Droit au logement (DAL - Right to Housing ) non-profit organisation took part in preparing and organising the event, which was attended by representatives of numerous other organisations.

AIH, Attac, CGT, Collectif « Pas touche au Livret A ! », Confédération Syndicale des Familles (CSF), Convergence services publics, Coordination anti-démolition des quartiers populaires, Coordination des travailleurs sociaux 93, Fondation Abbé Pierre, FSU, Interlogement 93, JC, No-Vox, UNEF, etc.

Why a 4th States General for Housing and the City?

Jean-Thomas Laurent is Deputy Mayor of Bobigny (93- France) and heads the housing collective of the Association nationale des élus communistes et républicains (Anecr – National Organisation of Communist and Republican Elected Representatives).

Cidefil: What approach is used to organise the 4 th States General for Housing and the City?

Jean-Thomas Laurent: Ever since the first States General in 2004 with Bernard Birsinger, our aim has been to create an event for all stakeholders and activists working towards the universal right to housing, giving them the opportunity to participate in an initiative to develop a major public service for housing and living conditions. The first event served to reaffirm that housing should not be left solely to the specialists, that it is primarily a political issue, and that a real alternative to the current drift towards liberalism is possible.

A proposed law presented by the two communist groups to the National Assembly and the Senate, which laid down the basis for a national decentralised public service, was the direct consequence of the first States General. The two subsequent events were used to work on proposals and widen the circle of participating organisations. A European States General was also held, a joint product of the 3rd French States General and our participation in the Athens European Social Forum.

With this fourth event we are taking another step in the convergence of organisations that is needed to create an alternative that we all wish for and to launch actions on the ground. These 4th States General were initiated by the PCF (French Communist Party ) and Anecr, with help from CNL and DAL in the preparations and organisation, and benefiting from the presence of numerous other organisations, including international organisations like the International Alliance of Inhabitants. We would, of course, like to explore the possibilities of co-organising future events.

Cidefil: What is the background to the event?

Jean-Thomas Laurent: I feel that three elements strongly characterise the current situation and mark the process we have set in place for these fourth States General:

  • the outbreak of financial and property crises, demonstrating the obsolescence of the liberalist approach — if it was ever functional — , particularly when applied to the housing sector. This cataclysm is bringing back nationalisation, public action and, in line with our States General, the efficiency of public service, in terms of its social as well as its economic dimension. The strong presence of public services may cushion the human and social consequences of these crises, which are dramatic for families. I believe that the very notion of States General, which in former times sparked a revolution and change in society, is more relevant than ever!;
  • the proposed Boutin law, which persists in applying to our country liberal formulae which have already proved to be damaging and ineffectual. The tensions in the banking sector underline the demagoguery of the credo “a France of property owners.” The misappropriation of 1% logement [employers’ tax] funds in the wake of the misappropriation of Livret A funds is a deliberate attempt to deprive public intervention from funds that the State, keeping an increasing distance from anything other than saving the banks and speculators’ profits, no longer provides. The questioning of all the structures enabling this public intervention is criminal and runs counter to the announcements made when the DALO law was being adopted. Especially under threat are social housing organisations, their management and their assets, all elements which we see as components of the public service whose content we are building;
  • the evident determination of charities, non-profit, trade union and political organisations, working towards the right to housing for all, to unite in denouncing the Boutin proposal, launching actions on the ground and putting together alternative proposals. Naturally enough differences of opinion exist, sometimes major differences. But they did not prevent a large demonstration against the Boutin law on 11 October 2008 in front of the Ministry of housing crisis, initiated by the DAL, and the 14 October demonstration initiated by the CNL in front of the Senate during the parliamentary debate of the law. The caravan of the badly housed, which travelled from Pau to Neuilly between 14 and 26 October, was a focus for unified action. Everything points to major numbers attending the 4th States General for Housing and the City, taking place in the Gennevilliers (92 - France) community centre on 8 November 2008. We also hope that plenty of people will be turning up to support the initiative taking shape in Marseilles, no doubt on 22 November when the housing and urban development ministers from EU countries are meeting.

These States General directly address current concerns and the challenges facing housing and the city. They mark a stage in the upsurge in action by social movements, in the response to liberal initiatives that undermine the right to housing, and in the construction of a widely supported alternative. Maybe I’m being a little ambitious, but I’d say that this is an unmissable event!

4 es ÉTATS GÉNÉRAUX du LOGEMENT & de la VILLE : Restitution des ...