By Ed Dalton
Collaboration with the ruling class will never produce social benefits, wage increases, or affordable housing, even on the city government level. There are many who still believe that the cost of housing will improve in Austin by voting for Prop-A, a measure on the city ballot during this year’s midterm elections, yet every single time the city has been entrusted with money to combat the housing crisis low-income working class people face, things only get worse.
If things will not improve by giving the city crooks millions of dollars as history has already shown us, then what will make a difference? Fighting tooth and nail against our landlords, against property developers and real estate speculators, and yes against the city! This is the only thing that can alleviate the crisis imposed on us by the ruling class. The struggle for housing is part of the class struggle.
Since 62% of voters approved 55 million dollars for affordable housing in Austin in 2006, gentrification and rising rent has only increased. We have seen absolutely no relief from this bond and the housing crisis has actually deepened. This is because capitalism is not actually interested in housing that is actually affordable and when they say “affordable” this is only based on the median income of an area. With the influx of luxury condo’s and the thousands upon thousands of gentrifying houses drawing in an influx of upper class invaders, the median income has gone up to the detriment of the remaining residents. Even those who can afford the post-2006 “affordable” housing are typically not native Austinites but more transplants.
If the city squandered the last 55 million they borrowed for housing what do you think they are going to do with 250 million? While shameless reformists will attempt to sugar coat Proposition A, they do so at the expense of the remaining working class people who have managed to buy the houses they live in. With increased property taxes, these community members are unable to maintain living in their own houses. Now comes the real-estate vultures coming in to “buy their ugly houses” at what is generally less than market value. Once they sell, the houses are torn down or remodeled and richer, often whiter upper class gentrifiers move in and the cycle of violent displacement continues—housing is even less affordable than it was. What remains of the community we once knew is pushed to the brink of existence as one hand of the capitalist death machine washes the other.
Let’s look a little closer at the allotment of funds included in Prop A. 100 million dollars is allotted to buying property to build houses. This 100 million though does not really buy enough land in a city as expensive as Austin to really make a difference on the cost of living for the vast majority of those facing displacement. It is a concession acceptable to the ruling class to whitewash displacement as a whole and give the illusion of humanity to an increasingly callous and inhuman city. This 100 million quickly finds its way back in the hands of the real-estate speculators and land flippers who will use it to gain a profit, which consequently will raise the cost of living and draw in more gentrification. To understand this we must demarcate between those who really work for a living and those who are parasites. Real-estate speculators and land grabbers are parasites of the first magnitude.
94 million goes toward rental properties, which as mentioned above will not actually lower rent for anyone who is under threat of displacement or who cannot at this time afford the rent. As far as Prop A’s obligatory mention of the homeless is concerned, anyone who has experienced homelessness in Austin can testify to the hoops you have to jump through to qualify for subsidized housing, which eliminate the most downtrodden among the homeless. Criminal records, mental health and employment all factor into barring an increasing homeless population from qualification. While more people move in more of us lose our houses, some are pushed out of Austin, but many still end up on the streets completely left out by Prop A.
24 million is allotted to building houses which will then be sold to those the city considers “lower income” and again this “lower income” is a moving goal post set on the basis of areas already gentrified. Those who can afford to buy these houses are not the average working people historically living in these communities and those who can are fairly lucky, your chances are about as good as playing the lottery.
With the last 28 million of the bond going toward renovations these renovations are only toward those who own their own homes, which raises the value and the taxes on these homes increasing the likelihood of those on fixed incomes having to sell their houses to the very same real-estate vultures that run this city. Once the homes are sold the former homeowners are always encouraged to rent a decaying apartment which has never seen real renovation.
Every aspect of Prop A can be used by the ruling class to extract more profits, and as a bond taxpayers have to pay it back anyway, only the real-estate parasites win. This offers the only conclusion—the city government behind these things is not our friend, the real-estate parasites are not our friends.
Our class, with the loss of its home and the raising of rents, loses more than space; we lose integrity, dignity, culture, family and everything we have known. Most people would agree that fighting to preserve these things while you can should not be limited by the respectability of those who are behind our exodus. What follows is that we should collectively as a class refuse to fund them. We should refuse outright to vote for their propositions and legitimize their swindles. But of course this is only a small just act that alone will not regain what we have lost or prevent them from taking what little we still have.
It would be easy to allow this reality to make one feel a bit cornered, even hopeless or pessimistic. Pessimism, however understandable, offers us no solution, no way out of this mess. With the realization that the ruling class only negotiates what has been confirmed in struggle—that is class combat- comes the understanding that the only truth, the only integrity is in fighting back to preserve what we have and to gain more. This fight cannot include passively voting for collusion between the city government and the real estate parasites, landlords and scam artists on the so-called left. It means organizing, propagandizing and revolting against these class enemies. The class enemy will only give us what we fight to take, what we force them to surrender.
When we fight back and force them to surrender what they have stolen from us, they come down on us harder and harder, they unleash their police and hired security thugs, they take up illegal eviction, frame activists and have even been known to mobilize fascist vermin. We know this, experience has confirmed it. We respond to their normalized violence with something they will not expect! That is self-defense and the training in revolutionary violence, our struggle for housing is a school of war!
By supporting revolutionary community organizations like Defend Our Hoodz, you can make far more of an impact and actually fight back against landlord and real-estate parasitism. No other organization in Austin can claim to fight on behalf of the people, they all have one thing in common, they see any gain for the worker as a matter of sitting down with the parasites. By sitting inside the system they become the system, and we get only the most illusory concessions. Join in the boycott of the electoral farce, support the slogan: Elections no! Revolution yes!
As the capitalist system commits to its evil goal of breaking the resistance, the revolutionary mass movement and its political leadership can begin constructing its organized self-defense units. These allow for working people in Austin to begin to administer their own affairs. It is only through organized confrontation that we will see the formation of the new state in its embryonic form, poised firmly against the old decaying order which has kept the people at its mercy far too long. Power is never accomplished without a fight, and without power all is illusion. If you agree that the working class of Austin deserve better than giving more money to those who exploit us then you should stop voting and join this fight.