Le Lignon (GE) – Elderly in a social building paralyzed by rent increases

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About 150 tenants of a public fund have seen their contributions take a boost after renovations. The cantonal office denies them any right to complain.

Two alleys are affected by these rent increases.

Lucien FORTUNATI

In March 2021, 150 tenants of two buildings with supervision for the elderly (IEPA) in Lignon fell from the clouds. After two years of renovations, their monthly rent has been increased by 100 to 200 fr. The increases may seem modest, but on rents of 500 fr. on average, the increase is relatively dizzying. Above all, she questions because the buildings are owned by the René and Kate Block Foundation, a public-law organization that works with affordable housing (HBM) for low-income people.

“We will never let go”

“These increases are indecent, stormed Thursday Ruth Righenzi, from the association of Lignon residents. These people are already struggling to end the month.” For seniors who are financially supported by the state, the increase will be absorbed. The rest of the population will have to face it, or consider using social benefits. “These are people who have worked all their lives and never wanted to knock on the door of the state,” she continued. They do not want to change that. ” And the association is determined not to bow: “We will not let go.”

About forty tenants appealed with the help of Asloca, the association for the defense of tenants (see box). “It’s an extra stress affecting their health,” said Luisa Pentzke, of the Association for the Defense of Retired Persons (Avivo), who shoots red balls at the fund and the Cantonal Housing and Land Planning Office (OCLPF). “These increases are unjustified,” said Ueli Leuenberger, vice president.

Government policy terminated

The Socialist deputy Alberto Velasco pointed the finger at the Prime Minister’s policy, which he said should have “requested a loan from Parliament to finance this renovation up to 18 million francs. The cost of the work was imposed on the inhabitants. It is shocking!” The elected official condemned the “absurd situation of a fund with a social purpose, which pushes seniors to social assistance”. It is also tense as the tenants who have been opposed are asked for rent increases by repeated reminders. “Should we throw them out if they do not pay?” was indignant Christian Dandrès, their defender at Asloca.

The Land Department (DT) clarified that “Blokfonden is responsible for the renovation of its building stock”. He pointed out that public-law funds are financed by bank loans. With regard to rent, DT stated that the “legal framework” was respected and that “given the scale of the work and the comfort achieved, the increase in rent remained measured and the final rent well below most housing prices of this. type in Geneva “. The contributions requested remain in “the lower part of the rent that meets the predominant needs of the population”.

Christian Dandrès, a lawyer for Asloca, can not believe it. While opposing on behalf of about forty tenants, asking for proof of the rent increase, the OCLPF denied all rights to the tenants and refused to provide the documents. In a letter dated July, the office explained in particular that “the standard lease for HBM buildings specifies that decisions to set rents cannot be appealed”. He adds that “the disputed decision has been notified to the Block Fund”, and therefore “the tenants have not been addressed”. As residents are not actually considered “participants in the procedure” between the office and the institute, there is no reason, according to the OCLPF, to give them the right to consult the documents based on the determination of rents. . “It’s a violation of the rule of law,” Christian Dandrès protested on Thursday, condemning the fact that these seniors are thus worse off than tenants of private owners. The lawyer appealed.

Both Asloca and Avivo have raised the issue of a change in practice at the level of the Council of State. Does the absence of a request for credit from the Grand Council anticipate other operations of this type, which “cause tenants to bear 100% of the renovation costs, ie a greater effort than is required of private tenants, for whom it is limited to 70%”? The associations noted that the Blokfonden will have to face several major renovations in the coming years and expressed concern about a generalization of rent increases in public housing.

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