Italian senator slammed after mother found illegally occupying public housing

The vice president of Italy’s senate, Five Star Movement politician Paola Taverna, came under fire on Monday when it transpired that her eighty year old mother has for years been illicitly living in Rome's public housing despite the family owning several other properties.

Italian senator slammed after mother found illegally occupying public housing
Screenshot from Paola Taverna Facebook video.

The scoop, obtained by the newspaper La Repubblica, was quickly picked up by the rest of the Italian media and caused an uproar among Taverna's political opponents and embarrassment within her party.

The populist Five Star Movement, which holds a majority in Italy’s government and currently governs the City of Rome, has built its reputation on being “the party of change”, and positioning itself as the antithesis to the corrupt Italian political establishment of the past.

Rome’s Five Star Movement mayor Virginia Raggi has taken a particularly hardline stance regarding public housing in Rome, saying she would adopt a “zero tolerance” approach towards those found to be abusing the system.

According to the La Repubblica article, the Taverna family was issued with a stern four-page decision notice signed by the director of Rome’s Public Housing and Forfeiture Office back in January.

The notice was the culmination of a three year battle, after the company that manages the City of Rome’s assets first noticed in late 2014 that Taverna’s mother, Graziella Bartolucci, no longer met the low income threshold required to remain a tenant of the publicly owned building in Prenestino where she has lived since 1994 and which costs an estimated €100-€150 per month to rent.

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The family hired a lawyer to contest the findings in 2015 on the grounds that the senator no longer lives with her mother, but the municipality rejected the appeal, saying that the family owns several properties Bartolucci could live in, some of which she has part-ownership of.

“I'm sorry for mother, she's eighty years old and she's sick… I don’t know how to tell her, I'm afraid for her health,” Taverna reportedly told La Repubblica journalists as they prepared to publish the article.

In a Facebook video in which she publicly responded to the criticism, however, the senator took a much more bullish approach, saying “I think my mother at eighty has every right to want to die in the same house she has lived in.”

“It appears that my mother no longer has the right [to live in the house], but she has taken legal action because she believes she does.”

She also hit back at the newspaper, accusing them of launching an “attack”, and saying “For us in the Five Star Movement, the role we are playing is to solve the problems of everyone, and not our personal problems,” reports Ansa.

“What news did La Repubblica want to broadcast? Perhaps that my family is a poor family?… I do not feel ashamed to come from a poor family and I feel even less embarrassed to say that my family has not become well off,” she concluded.

Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Raggi said she learned the news through the La Repubblica article, and that Taverna’s mother would be placed under investigation and be subject to the same treatment under the law as any other Rome resident.