It is expected that 65% to 70% of the world’s population will be crowded into cities by 2050. The news warns about the urban population of tropical countries literally dying of heat exhaustion in their cities, while there is no week in which images and videos of some new Chinese ghost city -product of large-scale real estate speculation- fail to show up in the international media.
The entertainment content on TV is scarce and not very comforting this season. We discuss a close-up look at the USA of precarity (Tiny House Nation, Netflix); Alejandro Amenábar’s first series (La Fortuna, Movistar); and the most incompetent reading imaginable of Asimov’s “The Foundation” (Foundation, Apple TV).
The European Commission misses no chance to stress that the New European Bauhaus is “the soul” and “the dream” of the European Green Deal. It has just approved an additional 85 million euros to “create a new, inclusive and affordable lifestyle with less CO2”. But what is the New European Bauhaus? Where do they want us to live? Wooden skyscrapers? Prefabricated houses that can be assembled in 24 hours? Cardboard cabins?
The EU wants to bring into being a New European Bauhaus that will be an integral part of the Green Deal. In January, the design process was launched. Since then, speeches and roadmaps have proliferated. The Green Deal uses the housing problem to impose capital’s pressing need to recompose the rate of profit through a massive transfer of income from labor to capital. That is why not coincidentally the ruling classes are once again taking the Bauhaus as a reference. And that is why it is worthwhile to dwell on the study of the original Bauhaus, what it reflected and what it meant for capitalist competition and the lives of workers.
With the moratorium on evictions set to expire at the end of June, the Biden administration has unveiled an affordable housing plan. It further pledges to eliminate racial discrimination in housing on the basis of removing the barriers to “wealth creation” suffered by the black petty bourgeoisie. But marrying housing and Green New Deal produces higher prices, and fattening up black petty bourgeoisie businesses will never eliminate discrimination in access to a home.
The impact of the Green Deal on European cities has begun. In Germany, the development of new terraced housing estates is halted in the midst of a general price hike. In Spain, a new ideological campaign charges against urban upgrading projects (“PAU” in Spanish). The EU speaks of a “New European Bauhaus”, but in reality this is the need to accompany the Green Deal in the cities with measures to ensure the profitability of new logistics and energy macro-investments.
The Russian Revolution confronted the issue of housing, gave rise to the greatest social experimentation ever seen by workers on collective and communal ways of living and working, and very soon had to address the transformation of urban space in order to push forward the revolution of social space that was in its perspective.
The Green Deal, the rising cost of household electricity bills and the lack of profitable applications for capital are concentrating investment back into housing speculation and construction, transforming homes, neighborhoods and urban structures.
Where will factories be located under communism? Will cities still exist? What will housing look like? Will we all live in houses? If the population is spread out, will production be spread out as well?
Mortgage signings are falling, funds are hitting record numbers of rental properties, and construction is reviving with their requests: they want properties because they believe that a good portion of workers will be living in rented housing from now on. The recession and hedge funds are shaping your life and your city for decades to come. Both your life and your city will be more precarious and will offer less room for you.
The big European cities want to eliminate car space and renovate millions of homes. Meanwhile, big capitals are called upon to found and build huge, robotic cities in the desert.
We have to get used to seeing the “economy” from the point of view of relations between classes, which is what capital does when it designs policies in the face of the crisis. Policies that in the end are nothing but forms of organizing massive transfers of labor to capital. Housing is no exception.