The requisition of the vacant homes

In Florence La Pira found the most fertile territory in which to make use of his political commitment. The city became a workshop in which to put his ideas into practice, applying that commitment to the concrete problems of the poor. His was a vast and remarkable administrative undertaking which on several occasions  John Paul II chose to indicate as examples and models of social commitment for Christians, and indeed others as well.

Giorgio La Pira had very clear ideas about the city and the social rights of which he had helped to place at the basis of the Constitution, In November 1951 he recounted his experience as mayor in a speech  made during a conference of Catholic jurists, in which he described the many difficulties and enormous problems to be solved: there were homeless families, there was poverty, there was unemployment.

The most dramatic problem to be solved was the housing emergency . La Pira was worried about the increase in evictions: 437 in 1950, 799 in 1951, while for 1952 more than a thousand were forecast. He launched a public building programme (“minimal housing”), and to meet the emergency asked some landlords to give temporary leases on a number of empty apartments to the Municipality. Meeting with their refusal, he ordered a requisition of properties . This measure was based on a law dating from 1865 which gave mayors power to requisition any private property in emergency situations or for reasons of public order. La Pira dusted off this regulation and applied it to the current situation in Florence. “The problem of accommodation for the homeless,” declares the order, “is of the nature of a grave public necessity.”



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