The Problem

The following ramble is less than half as good as this article from Aufheben on Libcom.org

Humans have an unavoidable need for shelter. Whilst it is certainly possible that we can ‘rough it’ for a while, protection from the cold, wet and the aggression of others – both for us and our possessions is necessary, or our health deteriorates.
Capitalism responds to this need by creating the housing market, through which it is possible, if privileged enough in wealth and social status, to satisfy these requirements to a degree beyond the imagination.

Only there is not enough housing in the market for everyone. There is a scarcity of housing. There is a housing crisis.

Conservative politicians would have us believe that this scarcity of housing is an anomaly which the housing market would naturally address were it not for some specific set of temporary circumstances – and that perhaps with a moderate amount of state intervention these circumstances can be overcome. At the same time it is the behaviour of people which means they fail to find the housing opportunities which are clearly there in abundance – and their behaviour can be reformed.

This is a lie. Scarcity is an inevitable and somewhat deliberate consequence of the culture which creates the housing market. The very policies which the conservative politicians suggest to address the ‘crisis’ are exactly what will exacerbate it.

The market is structured so that those who enter it are forced to compete for access to a finite quantity of the commodity of housing. The amount of housing available is rendered finite by the culture of its consumption. That each person needs their own home – unless they are part of the same household – and that this home is physically distinct from others. This is commodification.

What’s more each of us is encouraged to have the largest home possible, to consume the commodity of housing to the ‘highest possible standard’.

Because the supply of housing is finite, the more we consume the less is available. So through our consumption we create scarcity. The only acceptable way scarcity is addressed is through production – or ‘construction’ as it is called in this particular market.

So we think /this/ is the problem. There’s no reason why our using shelter should create a scarcity for others. Buildings are warmer when shared. The satisfaction of our desire for shelter need not necessitate consumption at all.

Sure we should supply more housing. We should build more social housing. But supply alone won’t solve the housing crisis. If the culture of housing consumption remains intact then the consumers within the housing market will expand their consumption to consume any surplus that construction creates.

There is no way of solving the housing crisis without challenging the consumption culture surrounding housing. The fetishisation of the commodity – of home sweet home – needs to be overcome. This is the starting point for our housing solidarity – we boycott the housing market.

This government is one step ahead of us though. They are in the process of destroying all alternatives to participation in the housing market. Their cultural ignorance is even clamping down on niche or fringe elements of the housing market that don’t even offer a significant challenge to the market as a whole. These policies are likely to be refined though and it will not be a surprise if their think tanks are able to devise a system which effectively criminalises non-participation in the housing market.

This is why we must remain one step ahead as well. We are already prepared to be criminals if that’s what it takes. Our aim is to proliferate non-participation.

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