Elderly woman with a sick son to be evicted to make way for tourist rental – but Venetian citizens block the way

Citizens mobilize to stop the process from being executed. Bottoni (Tenants’ Union): “A devastating situation, and not the only one”

By Roberta Rossi

VENEZIA. This morning the police were called to Celestia to support Judicial Officials who were there to remove a 74 year old widow from her home, in which she had lived for 54 years, regularly paying the rent. The owner of the building died, the heirs sold it, the lease was not renewed and the new owner – who owns two other apartments in tourist locations – demanded that he take ownership of the property as soon as he signed the contract, and that the elderly woman must leave today.

The call went out over social media for volunteers, associations, and social centers who today gathered in front of the home in order to stop the eviction.

“This is a devastating situation, because for this very fragile woman, who must also care for her son who is constrained to a wheel chair by a degenerative disease, there is no alternative public housing available, while she has the right to such”, commented Matelda Bottoni, secretary of the Tenants’ Union, which has followed the case of the elderly woman, earlier obtaining an extension of three weeks.

This is not an isolated case, in a Venice where the housing crisis is now reaching extremes, but rarely comes to light.

“This morning, to give them some breathing room, I obtained an extension for a married couple, both 83 years of age and 100% certified invalids, who were about to be put on the street at San Pantalon”, Bottoni further related, “I understand that the young couple who bought the property want to go live there, but it is necessary that a secure solution in Venice be found for the current tenants. On 25 July it will happen to a widowed mother with her autistic child: she is a nurse and works at night. The elderly and single mothers cannot go to live in Mestre: they must be kept and cared for here”.

The numbers related to the housing crisis are striking and unknown to most: it is a social disease that has become very serious, in a city where the conversion to tourism is expanding disproportionately. Once again it’s the Tenants’ Union that informs us: there are an average of six evictions a day, two of which are in Venice. There are 70 families on the list for emergency housing provided by the City: these are people who have already been evicted, and are now guests of friends or relatives, or they will be soon. Given their conditions; economic, health, disabilities and age, they have the right to public housing. As do the many other families who remain waiting for a public home.

“The problem is that the City – for which Assessor Colle is an available interlocutor – does not have empty homes”, the secretary said, “and ATER is not moving to repair the thousands of homes in the city which must be restored and brought in to compliance. Then there is the problem of the new law, which prohibits giving homes that are too large for the number of tenants. Fine, but in an emergency like that in Venice they are only creating new obstacles before people’s desperation. Recently the emergency has undergone a striking surge: until last year evictions for non-renewed leases were almost non-existent, it was almost always evictions for non-payment. Then I understood: the aging owners, who always rented to the same tenants, have died and their heirs have sold the homes, which are ever more frequently acquired – as in the case of the home for the 74 year old signora, who in no way should be put out on the street – to then put them on the tourist rental market”.

Ed. Note: Below is a follow-up story, written after the confrontation with the property owner was over – and the eviction of the woman and her son postponed. Reporting by Vera Mantengoli.

VENEZIA. Friday morning at dawn, members of the Social Assembly for Housing, the Tenants’ Union and Gruppo 25 Aprile placed themselves in front of a palazzo in Celestia, home to a 74 year old woman, widowed and with an ill son, who was to be evicted.

Close to one hundred Venetians were there, displaying a banner with the message “Airbnb is killing the city” and preventing the execution of the eviction. It seems in fact that in place of a home the apartment is to become a tourist rental.

At 1 PM the Judicial Officials arrived, along with the owner and his partner and lawyer, but they were not able to enter the home, and in the end the eviction was postponed.

The man asserted his right to enter the home which he bought at auction. There were moments of tension with a French journalist who was filming the scene because the owner’s partner attacked her, trying to take the camera away.

Source (both articles): La Nuova Venezia, 20 July 2018

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