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Bursting the bubble: say no to MIPIM

Andy Edwards is part of the movement challenging the world’s biggest property fair as it comes to London

October 5, 2014
5 min read

Last March, awash with champagne, canapés, million-pound yachts and besuited men, MIPIM celebrated its 25th year. MIPIM stands for ‘Le Marché International des Professionnels de l’immobilier’ (the International Market for Real Estate Professionals). It takes the form of a week-long international property fair held annually in Cannes, and bills itself as ‘the world’s leading property market, bringing together the most influential players from all international property sectors… offering unrivalled access to the greatest number of development projects and sources of capital worldwide.’

A £1,300 ticket was required if you wanted to rub shoulders with the world’s most insatiable investors, developers and real estate moguls. This year MIPIM had over 21,000 participants from 93 countries, including more than 20 local authorities from the UK doing deals and selling off public land behind closed doors.

While private deals were struck inside, the European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and the City, representing housing activists from 13 countries, gathered outside to protest. A ‘people’s tribunal’ was staged with activists from each country offering personal accounts of how communities have been torn apart by unfettered development. The coalition highlighted the damage companies and councils are inflicting through privatisation, speculation, forced evictions and profiteering from land and housing.

On 15-17 October, the first MIPIM UK will be held at London’s Olympia. Branded as the ‘first UK property trade show gathering all professionals looking to close deals in the UK property market’, a slightly less eye-watering £495 is being charged for attendance. London Mayor Boris Johnson will be delivering the keynote address.

Session titles include ‘Foreign investment in housing: good for the UK or good for the investors?’ and ‘Investing in affordable housing: Is it worth it?’ Such discussions take place in the context of an acute housing crisis with large-scale spending cuts accompanying big rises in house prices, rents and homelessness. MIPIM propagates an unsustainable, housing market that operates to make rich people profit rather than put people in decent homes. It is an approach that is robbing people of the basic right to housing.

MIPIM UK’s choice of venue is fitting. Olympia, in west London, sits adjacent to one of the largest planned redevelopments in Europe. The Earl’s Court Masterplan is led by the owner of Olympia, international real estate firm (and MIPIM UK ‘platinum sponsor’) Capital & Counties Properties plc (Capco) in a joint venture with Transport for London. London mayor Boris Johnson is a keen backer. The 20-year, £8 billion redevelopment involves the demolition of 22 acres of council housing, the Lillie Bridge transport depot and the Earl’s Court exhibition centre, which supports hundreds of local jobs, in order to make way for 6,740 new luxury flats.

The starting price for a one-bed flat is £595,000 and no additional social housing is included in the plans. Under new ‘affordable housing’ quotas, properties can be sold for up to 80 per cent of the market value, which is still out of the reach of most people – and these make up only 11 per cent of the total.

Local residents and traders are worried that compulsory purchase powers will be used on those who do not acquiesce to the loss of their homes and livelihoods. In response, communities from across Europe who face the threat of enforced eviction are joining together to say ‘No to MIPIM’. The network is calling for a halt to the sell-off of public land, a new national programme of council house building, rent controls, improved rights for private renters and the decriminalisation of squatting.

On 9–12 October a counter-conference, ‘House of the Commons’, will be held in Oxford, creating a temporary space in which to organise and learn more about UK housing and related struggles. It offers a full programme of talks, workshops and skill-shares exposing the root causes of Europe’s housing crises and will explore alternative approaches to challenge established narratives.

The Radical Housing Network is inviting all those currently fighting or wishing to support housing and related struggles to come to the conference and then join together for a series of protests at London’s Olympia, 15–17 October:

Opening protest – #blockBoris: Wednesday 15 October, meet 9am outside Kensington tube, Olympia Way, London W14 0NE

Alternative conference Cities for People, Not for Profit: Thursday 16th October, 3-8pm, and Friday 17th until 11am-4pm programme coming soon.

Closing protest – Paper round the Houses: Friday 17 October, meet 5pm by the housing banner at the Occupy Democracy action in Parliament Square, London SW1P 3BD.