What, If Your Pension Destroys Your Home? Right to the City Struggles Against the Pension Fund of the City of Basel

Monday, 16 July 2018: 15:50
Oral Presentation
Jonas AEBI, Department of Cultural Anthropology, University of Basel, Switzerland
Malte FLACHMEYER, University of Basel, Switzerland
We depart from a case study in Basel where the Pension Fund of the City decided to renovate a tenancy house in a gentrifying neighborhood and therefore tried to displace the inhabitants, mainly elderly people living up to 40 years in their flats. As some of the inhabitants were former state employees, their own savings, invested in real estate markets, suddenly threatened their own home. In consequence, the tenants protested, a solidarity movement grew.

The case shows the conflicting goals between the increasingly financialized logic of investments of pension funds and the increasingly threatened rights of decent housing for elderly. More generally it demonstrates an absurdity of financial market capitalism: With their systemic “financial inclusion” parts of the middle class are prone to become rent seekers and victims of rent seeking at the same time. In our case, the pensioners are shareholders of the pension fund and tenants of its “asset”.

In our paper we would like to trace the political formation underlying the process of financialization of the housing market and the rental system in Basel and Switzerland and the resulting actors-logics in the management of real estate, of pension funds as well as of the city government.

These interdependent processes of financialization equally influence the logics of housing provision producing a growing antagonism between a financial logic and one based on the right to housing as an existential good.

Our «rights» perspective shows the limits of a struggle for the right to the city based only on the everyday experiences of dwelling. We will argue that it is only possible to oppose the diffusion of the financial logic in housing if tenancy struggles are connected (or rescaled) to the political constitution of the housing market and to the financial «sources» of financialization such as the pension system.