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How the City Condemns Poor Families to Debt

Opublikowane 17/05/12 o godz.13:51 w kategorii English.
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The Tenants Defense Committee is taking action in the case of a poor family which the city has ordered out of its house. It is starting eviction proceedings because of the family’s debt. Unfortunately, the city was one of the main contributor’s to this family’s hopeless situation.

The current living conditions of the family is nothing less than tragic. There are 8 people in two rooms, with around 36 meters of living space in total. Two generations live there. Two of the members of the family have cancer. When the older mother came to us, she could hardly walk or breathe. She had a tracheotomy and breathes through a tube and has quite serious cancer. Her son is an invalid. There are also two small children in the household who are seriously ill.  The income of the entire household is scandalously low, consisting mostly of retirement and disability payments of slightly over 100 euros per month and some occasional work by others.

Due to health problems, the family fell into debt, but they paid off the rent that the owed. Unfortunately, that is not enough for the city. Because the city has the habit of cancelling what is called the contractual title. What does that mean in reality? Well, families whose title is cancelled still can live in those flats for many, many years. Without rights. Plus, the city puts a contractual penalty on them, which is basically a rent increase.

So, thousands of families in Warsaw have been stripped of their title. This can be done for other reasons as well. For example, we also met a woman last week whose title may be taken away… because she renovated her bathroom without prior approval. There is actually quite a long list of ways that people have lost their title, or have been denied title that they were entitled to.

When you lose your title, you are like a disposable tenant. You have to still pay rent. In fact, much more than those with title. But you don’t have your rights.

Thousands of poor people are thus being forced to pay much higher rents, because at some time they got into debt. This is especially obscene due to the fact that the administration can restore the legal title once a debt has been made. What’s more, families who were in debt did not qualify for different forms of rent reduction which were offered by the city after drastic hikes in 2009. Then they made a lot of propaganda that the really poor or people living in ruins could qualify for some discount …. only they disqualified all debtors.

Because of the high rent caused by the penalty rates charged by the city, the family got into debt again. It wants to do something to get out of the situation, but the debt keeps growing.

The ridiculous thing about it is that, as long as the ammendment of the Act of the Protection of Tenants Rights is not passed, these people, if evicted, would be entitled to “social housing”. The government is trying to enact an ammendment which would allow them to put these people in a homeless shelter or eventually into the street, but as it is now, they’d have to be put somewhere due to the health of some family members and the small children. And the social housing they would have to provide could not be any worse or cheaper than what they already have. The city would gain absolutely nothing with this eviction… except another broken family and social problem.

One of the Committee’s long-standing postulates involves abolition from debts for families like this plus an end to the use of these penalty rates for families with such financial problems. We also demand that the city not take away legal title in such cases, especially when the family has regulated their debts.

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