Towards a Housing Commons

13 February 2016, 14:00–18:00 / Casco HQ
The event is free, but please make a reservation.

How can we regain control of our housing situation, the neighborhood, and the city, in response to rent increases, evictions, the erosion of rent protection, and the ongoing privatization of housing?

Casco is happy to host two events on the future of housing with researcher Roel Griffioen and filmmaker Abel Heijkamp. On Saturday 13 February we warmly invite you to the first of the two events: a collective study meeting around the notion of housing as a form of commons. Several practices and methods will be explored on this occasion through presentations, and an open forum discussion. What can we learn from our neighbors abroad? What models can be applied to the Dutch context, and what are the challenges and possible pitfalls?

In theory, the recent Dutch Housing Act, which is disastrous in most other respects, opens up new possibilities for communities to initiate self-organized cohousing projects. We could benefit from this and secure a form of “social” housing in the face of privatization policies and frantic real estate speculation by crafting a network of new housing co-ops. In practice, however, the road to self-organization can be long and perilous. The rules are often unclear, the involved parties (municipalities, housing corporations, developers) not always willing to cooperate, and banks hesitant to provide the necessary capital.

Moreover, the odd individual success story cannot fill the void left behind by drastically shrinking public housing stock. Today’s challenge is therefore to find the tools to build the infrastructure for a strong and sustainable housing economy based on solidarity, as a form of decentralized collective property – a commons.

What existing practices can we learn from? The central case study in this meeting is the German model of the Mietshäuser Syndikat [apartment-house syndicate]. The Mietshäuser Syndikat functions both as a solidarity network and as collective “bank” to invest in projects in order to take them off the real estate market. The model and its juridical and economic specificities will be introduced by representatives of the organization.

This event expands upon the Convention on the Use of Space, a collectively drafted speculative legal housing document that developed from a collaboration between Casco’s Artist-at-Work Adelita Husni-Bey, the Casco team, and a wide range of participants: lawyers, activists, academics, squatters, philosophers, researchers, and cultural workers. The meeting will specifically elaborate on Article 6 of the Convention, which proposes the idea of a “Local Maintenance Fund” as a solidarity network to guarantee long-term usability of space.

The follow-up event, which will revolve around art and precarity in relation to housing, will take place in March and will also be hosted by Casco. 

We invite everyone who is interested in collective housing, social housing, squatting, housing politics, and housing commons to participate. Join, learn, share your knowledge, and let’s get organized!


14:00–14:15 Welcome by Roel Griffioen and Abel Heijkamp

14:15–15:00 Presentation German Mietshäuser Syndikat

The Syndikat has over twenty years of experience in organizing co-operative housing. How could this experiment have relevance to other contexts abroad?

15:00–15:45 Presentation Syndikat NL/Vrijcoop with Jan Geurtsen

Vrijcoop wants to apply the Mietshäuser Syndikat model to the Dutch context. What challenges do they encounter? How does the Dutch situation differ from Germany?

15:45–16:00 Break

16:00–16:30 Public discussion (including several invited groups and individuals)

What can we take from the Syndikat model? How can we make use of new housing legislation? What role is the government currently playing in the field of housing? What is the role of private funding?

16:30–17:00 Case study: Dutch housing corporations are selling-off vast chunks of public housing. What to do if your housing organization wants to sell-off the housing block you are inhabiting? Martin Janse, a tenant from Amsterdam, and sixty other residents have formed a residential cooperative enterprise in an attempt to save their building from being sold to private investors. Together we will look into this specific case study in an attempt to get a better understanding of the problematics at hand. 

17:00–18:00 Drinks

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