On January 5, a fire in a Philadelphia row house killed twelve people, nine of them children. Only days later, another fire in the Bronx, New York, killed another nineteen people, nine of them children, seriously injuring 44 more.
These fires were not caused primarily by careless people or unattended children. They were caused by the insane cost of housing that forces so many working-class people to live in crowded, poorly maintained and unsafe apartments, because it is all they can afford. These cramped, poorly maintained apartments often become death traps.
In these two cases, the people who died were working-class Black and immigrant people. Their apartments were overcrowded with family members who were too poor to afford their own housing. The buildings were poorly maintained because the owners (in one case the Philadelphia Housing Authority, in the other a handful of private corporations) don’t care about poor residents with no political influence. And in both cities, luxurious glass skyscrapers are constantly under construction, driving up rents, even as homeless people sleep on the street and people pack themselves into substandard housing. This is the reality of capitalism: a sick and vicious system that condemns working-class people to death while the rich live in luxury.
If working people held the power to make decisions on housing, we would do things differently. If houses were getting old, we would pool our knowledge and labor to repair them. If there were not enough homes or apartments in a town or city, we would build whatever is needed for our communities. If we were in power, why would we build luxury homes for the rich while working people live in death traps? We can build a better world, because we are the ones who build everything. How much longer will we allow this insanity to continue?