INTRODUCTION: Hundreds of angry demonstrators occupied the centre of Rome last week in protest against the Italian capital's grave housing shortage.
INTRODUCTION: Hundreds of angry demonstrators occupied the centre of Rome last week in protest against the Italian capital's grave housing shortage. Many of the demonstrators pitched tents to symbolize the precarious housing conditions which they are forced to lived in.
SYNOPSIS: The protesters took over the City's courtyard square for four days, waving banners and chanting slogans. There were no violent incidents. The rally finally broke up after a meeting with Rome's Communist mayor, Giulio Carlo Argan.
An estimated sixty to seventy thousand people live in rundown shanty towns in Rome, where public health is a serious problem. Diseases like typhus, hepatitis and tuberculosis are still largely uncontrolled. There are about 200 groups of such towns located on the city's outskirts.
Supported by the new student left movement, many poor citizens are occupying expensively renovated apartments squatting in them to force the city to give them low-rent flats in exchange. Builders often buy up old apartments, evict the tenants and transform them into high-rental homes for wealthy italians and foreigners. The original low-income residents are then forced to move to less developed areas and new slums.
Real estate speculation is also one of the major factors which has contributed to the problem. Left unchecked by municipal authorities, it has dominated city expansion, without following any urban planning program. Many of Rome's outlying districts are simply rows of apartment blocks without any social services, no kindergarten schools, no public libraries, and often no hospitals. Because of the lack of planning there are now only two square metres (yards) of open park land to each person in Rome, compared to a ratio of 10 square metres (yards) per person in London, and seven in Paris.
In 1974 the central government promised to build 300,000 low-rent flats, but less than a third have actually been completed. Many of those projects which did get under-way were abandoned half-way through building because of lack of funds. With a rapid growth in population, totalling nearly 3,000,000 now, the situation is becoming increasingly more critical.