Sign the Convention on the Use of Space and Support the First Example of Grassroots Housing Legislation
We call on everyone—individuals, collectives, and organizations—to join us in signing the Convention on the Use of Space, the first grassroots legal instrument to support the use-value of housing and working space over vacancy and financial speculation. The more signatures, the greater the legitimacy of this document, furthering the aim to make our communities more vibrant and affordable.
The Convention on the Use of Space is a legal instrument drafted in the Netherlands between March and May 2015. The writing process entailed a series of public drafting meetings with diverse participants: lawyers, activists, academics, squatters, philosophers, researchers, and cultural workers. It was initiated through a collaboration between artist Adelita Husni-Bey and Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory.
The Convention was written in response to the increasing liberalization of our housing system, its growing legal provisions for the protection of private property and the financial speculation on housing. This development is partly reflected in the squatting ban which was implemented in the Netherlands in 2010 and the United Kingdom in 2012. Gentrification, real estate speculation, and the sale of public property to private investors are also symptoms of this condition, and are causing home prices and rents to rise in parallel with the scarcity of available affordable housing. In a housing market awash with unscrupulous investors, urban spaces are no longer being perceived as possibilities provided to all, irrespective of privilege, but rather as spaces that only have value in relationship to their market value. This disappearing access to space is denying us the fundamental right to housing and the right to the city.
You can help by signing the Convention, or by organizing a Read-in, where groups read and debate the Convention, its implementation, and where it could improve and how!
Protection of the Commons
Space is scarce, especially in the city. This is precisely why space cannot be a commodity subject to the market. Space should be a social commons: available to all, regardless of ownership, and managed on the basis of radical democratic principles. This is critical for spaces that are lived in but also for other non-commercial uses. The city has to provide space for activities don’t aim to generate profit and whose value cannot be expressed in euros, including cultural production, social and political debate, and the cooperative sharing of knowledge and skills.
The Convention aims to establish and provide a legal basis for these kinds of non-marketable forms of use of space. This is both necessary and urgent considering the speed at which market pressure is eroding away every available form of urban commons. In the words of a participant to one of the writing sessions: "Space can be used to create an alternative to the logic of profit, exploitation, and individualization in our society."
The Convention is a nascent example of “movement-perspective legislation,” legal frameworks that are deliberated and written in public. This process is an active attempt to re-democratize and break the chain of command inherent in the current way the law is produced and performed. The legitimacy of the document is derived from those organizations, associations, collectives, houses, trade unions, groups, individuals, and municipalities that feel affinity to the document, sign it, and endorse its contents. These signatories abide by the Convention and be guarantors for articles and their values, in turn, this growing community puts political pressure on existing institutions to recognize its legality.
The Convention was written in English and translated into Dutch. Future public revisions will be held in various European States, where the text will be revised, debated, critiqued, and written to respond to a locality. The aim is to establish a future European Convention on the Use of Space, as a viable tool to unite struggles across spaces and spread across countries.
You can download and sign the Convention at www.useofspaceconvention.org with an accompanying guide, offering more information on the background of the Convention, as well as ideas on other ways to support it. If you want to be involved, or if you have questions, please contact the initiators via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recent articles about the Convention and the current housing crisis:
- Lucy Finchett-Maddock, “Their Law: The New Energies of UK Squats, Social Centres and Eviction Resistances in the Fight Against Expropriation,” Critical Legal Thinking, 2015
- Abel Heijkamp & Roel Griffioen, “Te koop: de sociale huurwoningen van Nederland (prijs: meer ongelijkheid,” De Correspondent, 2015
- Abel Heijkamp & Roel Griffioen, “Alles flex: hoe flexibele huurcontracten tot permanente onzekerheid kunnen leiden,” De Correspondent, 2015