City from Below, self-managed and common

- Stadt von Unten, Selbstverwaltet und Kommunal

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City from Below – communal & self-managed

City from Below is a coalition of inhabitants, tenants and civic initiatives based in Berlin, who mobilise for the affordability of housing, in a city in which rent prices have been sharply increasing over the last few years.

City from Below formed in early 2014 with the goal to promote a model project called "communal & self-managed" (in German "kommunal" both means communal and municipal). With this model project we want to think about new institutional arrangements that combine the democratic structures of self-managed structures with the wide reach of public housing and thereby overcome the limitations of both: The middleclass, social capital centered self-managed housing scene and the undemocratic and in neoliberal times also unaffordable municipal housing. The model project is based on our 100%-claims:

  • 100% rental apartments, no private ownership
  • 100% real affordability (which we define as affordable for recipients of social welfare)
  • 100% long term (social housing in Germany is usually only regulated for a limited time)
  • 100% participation (different from co-ops, no need to bring private capital).

To promote this model project we chose a site in Berlin Kreuzberg, the so called Dragonerareal, an old military barrack from the 19th century on 4,7 ha. The land was at that time owned publically, by the federal government of Germany. This government decided in 2004 the austerity politics of selling all federally owned land to the highest bidder. In summer 2014 the highest bidder contest for the Dragonerareal started. In order to make our model project feasible at all, we had to prevent this privatisation. To do so we:

  • engaged in a wide variety of political tactics, from lobbying the different political levels to temporary squatting, from demonstrations to organizing the neighborhood and the small business owner located on the plot (mostly small auto shops)
  • thereby created a lot of media attention and public pressure on elected officials
  • we took part in the bidding contest, offering one (gigantic) Euro and a social development of the area
  • delegitimized the narrative of austerity urbanism by offering a counter-narrative of the need for real affordable housing, especially in the inner city
  • delegitimized the highest bidder and exposed his organisational structure as a stock company, listed in Switzerland, his former engagement in speculative investments in the USA and Czech (similar to Switzerland a tax haven for real estate investment)
  • made sure our protest were scaled up as much as possible, e.g. by combining them with other tenant protest groups or with other issues and by making general claims, e.g. the end of all privatization of public land

In 2015 we succeeded and for the first time the Ministers of Finance of the German states in the Federal Assembly said "no!" to the selloff of public property. They did so in opposition to the Federal Minister of Finance, Wolfgang Schäuble. It took until end of 2016 for the Ministry of Finance and the administration to accept this vote and to offer the land to the state of Berlin (Berlin is one of the 16 states of Germany, its districts are municipalities).

So now the groundworks for our model project is done.  The country of Berlin wants to build housing, but not according to our claims. So to further promote the model project and our claims we:

  • try to delegitimize the discourse of "social mixing" which is constantly used to denounced our 100%-claims
  • physically and symbolically take possession of the area by have meetings, festivals, gardening…
  • engage in a planning process from below and in opposition to the official participatory process
  • opened a "planning garage" in one of the garages on the site to have meetings, organize with the neighborhood and groups, that are interested in taking part in the model project
  • organize a collective learning process on the setup and the institutional arrangement of the model project

City from Below is part of a wider tenant movement in Berlin and of a global movement against neoliberal and austerity urbanism.

Selbstverwaltet und Kommunal

Her mit dem Berliner Modellprojekt in Kreuzberg61 auf dem sogenannten Dragonerareal. Wir wollen dort:

100% Mieten
keine Eigentumswohnungen und Eigentumsprojekte

100% Teilhabe
ohne Eigenkapital, Einlage oder Anteilszeichnung

100% wirklich soziale Mieten
Mieten, die auch für Menschen, die Sozialleistungen beziehen, tragbar sind

100% dauerhaft abgesichert
Privatisierungen werden ausgeschlossen

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