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Fighting for housing rights under capitalism

Sid Lacombe

May 26, 2022
Residents at 12 Lansdowne avenuein Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood have forced their landlord to remove all eviction notices and have even been able to get some needed repairs done to their building. 
The victory came after a months-long fight where the landlord used every tactic they could to undermine and intimidate the tenants - including trying to evict them for damage to property after they hung banners from their balconies during a rally.
This is just one of a recent string of victories in the area that came about because of tenant organizing and with support from the community and local agencies. 
One consistency in all of the eviction fights is that the victories come because of community and building mobilization. It is the extra judicial fight that is winning the day. 
Tenant law in Canada is written by landlords for their own benefit. Legal fights are important in that they often buy time for residents to organize but they are heavily tilted towards the landlords and are not designed to protect the interest of renters. 
The number of community solidarity groups has grown during the pandemic and are now a bulwark against the worst ravages of the capitalist system. They deserve our support. We cannot rely on governments to do anything to end the hardship for poor and working people seeking housing. 
Housing and capitalism
Capitalist politicians have been making grand statements about their resolve to stop the housing crisis. The federal Liberals made the issue a centrepiece of their budget announcing billions to help create housing. It is all smoke and mirrors. The budget will likely result in increased housing costs. 
For example, the budget calls for tax breaks and incentives for people to buy their first house. The scheme sounds good but will only mean more cash being pushed into the housing market - further inflating prices. It will also only be useful for people who have the money for a downpayment. That’s not who needs the help. 
The Liberals also announced more money to build affordable housing. They did much the same when they were first elected in 2015. They have yet to actually come through with any new units. 
In the last 30 years the feds have largely abandoned renters. They announce 5 year plans with great fanfare but there has been almost no new affordable housing built in those decades. 
The reality is that the ‘housing crisis’ is not a crisis for the ruling class. They have no interest in reducing housing costs. Banks, developers and landlords are making billions as prices skyrocket. 
The politicians who represent the interests of the rich will only tinker around the edges of the issue and will not end the hardship for working people and the poor. Many of the politicians are in on the gouging. Of federal Liberals, 25 percent of Liberal MPs and a third of cabinet ministers are landlords. 
This has been the case ever since capitalism arrived on the scene and imposed new private property rules. It will remain an issue as long as the system persists. As Frederick Engels wrote in The Housing Question, "it is not that the solution of the housing question simultaneously solves the social question, but that only by the solution of the social question, that is, by the abolition of the capitalist mode of production, is the solution of the housing question made possible.”
The recent tenant fights are a great example of how neighbours and communities can come together to push back on the landlords and they must be strengthened.
But we will only be rid of the housing crisis when we are rid of the greedy bosses who run this rotten system that sees housing as a commodity rather than a right for all people. 
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