This past Thursday the Corte Costituzionale – Supreme Court of the Italian Republic – wrapped up 6 years of enduring battle ruling in favor of our case against so called ‘black rents’.
Ever since ACORN International was founded in 2004 it had the goal of expanding his organizing operations throughout the globe, naturally dealing in each country within the frame of its particular issues and legislations. Its second chapter in the European Union after the Czech Republic was opened in Italy in 2011, and from the very beginning it started dealing with the widespread, longstanding plague of landlords renting out their properties without handing out regular contracts, but just blackmailing their tenants in a manner of “you either pay and ask for no right, nothing, or you’re out”.
The law protected such landlords simply because… there was no law, preventing them to do so, and so they got away with it. Until 2011.
Enter ACORN, and as we start our operations that very year a new national law comes into force that allows through a certain not-so-simple procedure the tenants to report their situation to a government agency and get, as reward and protection, a legal rent at a tenth of the monthly price and with all the righteous housing rights finally enforced. We as ACORN Italy provided all of the assistance to make that not-so-simple procedure simple and help the tenants – now our dues paying members – get the job done and the house secured.
Our success was unprecedented, we at the peak reached out and subscribed members nationwide, from the southernmost regione (state) of Sicily all the way up to the northernmost of Trentino Alto-Adige.
We caught the attention of the national press, the national government, both the House and the Senate and, of course, of angry tax-evading landlords who thanks to us could evade taxes no more, and bully (or much worse: the threats we received were numerous and of various kinds) our tenants-members.
Eventually we also caught the attenton of the Supreme Court of Italy which in march 2014 ruled against this law only because of a technicality while still calling it “revolutionary”, not the kind of word you’d normally expect from Supreme Court Justices.
That was true mayhem, meaning potentially and suddenly thousands of tenants homeless and having to pay back all the money ‘saved’ (skyhigh amounts at that point) and as ACORN Italy we managed in an unprecedented effort within two months only to have the President of Italy sign into law a safeguarding law that litterally saved all our members from going bankrupt and under bridges. Chaos didn’t end there, though: in july 2015 also the case for this law reached its Supreme Court hearing and this one was also struck down. Frustration and, quite frankly, despair came with it. We didn’t throw in the towel though, against all odds and advices, we stayed extroardinarily (desperately?!) Focused and at the very last minute of the last voting in the House, late december 2015, we managed to pass yet a new law that again reverted the situation in our and justice’s favour. At that point, everybody strongly doubted we could make it again and be heard, together with our members’ voices and the voice of equality, justice, fight against black rents and tax evasion.
Still, we managed, but as soon as early in 2016 yet again we were notified that our case had to be defended for a very final time at the Supreme Court. Where we certain to pull it off, after two straight losses? Hardly.
Did we get a verdict? Finally, yes, and finally a positive one… on an unforgettavble April 13th, 2017 the Supreme Court of the Italy gace it’s very final ruling and upheld our law, sealing positively a story that started with our foundation in Italy on September 12th, 2011.
We can safely say that ACORN Italy took the most relevant stand against the most relevant chunk of tax evasion as a whole in the history of the Italian Republic, and wether that’s ‘classical’ community organizing or just a slightly different form of it, we as an international community can well be extra proud of what we achieved, defended and now definitely won, and now can start thinking of our future, a new story to write, a next step in community organizing to take. Standing very well proud. Organizing people for power.
David Tozzo, Presidente nazionale ACORN Italy