The book and action research project Funding the Cooperative City. Community Finance and the Economy of Civic Spaces describes numerous case studies from across Europe, which tell of how local community finance can be set up. A wide variety of groups that have developed new models for developing and operating non-commercial spaces for their neighborhoods are presented and discussed. None of this is easy, as many interviews and discussion notes reveal. But it is possible: through the formation of solidarity networks, neighborly commitment, a willingness to experiment, and administrative and often financial support from the respective communities.
Financing the Cooperative City
A Co-Financed Bridge Generates New Impulses
Twenty years ago, the architecture office ZUS moved into an anonymous Schieblock in Rotterdam as an anti-squatter. At that time, however, the areas surrounding this block were cut up and separated by roads and railway lines. This is how the idea of a bridge was born. The hope: new impulses and uses for empty buildings and urban wastelands. Interestingly, the bridge brought people together even before it existed. Via an internet platform, people were able to purchase wooden planking for the future bridge, which was fully opened in 2015. Other aspects of the project were strongly supported by the municipality of Rotterdam: Work and office space, restaurants, cafés, and green spaces. Since then, there has been a lot of talk about the quarter’s new vitality but also about the consequences of upgrading and exclusivity.
This Is Our House!
Housing, just like land, must not be a commodity—this is the goal of the Mietshäuser Syndikat in a nutshell. Since its official foundation in Freiburg in 1993, it has developed and promoted self-organized housing projects. The unique feature of the syndicate is that land and buildings are permanently decommodified. This means that the organization, together with the tenants of a house, buys the property and the land, thus dissolving traditional ownership structures or other dependencies. By withdrawing buildings and the land they stand on from the real estate market, the syndicate positions itself explicitly against speculation and profit. Today, around 160 projects in Germany, the Netherlands, and Austria exist under the syndicate’s umbrella, making long-term affordable residential, working, and living spaces a reality.
A Different Kind of City Kitchen
When Yuriy Fylyuk and his friends moved from Kyiv to Ivano-Frankivsk in the summer of 2008, they found a place with scarcities of all sorts. Out of this, Teple Misto or Warm City emerged—a network that today includes around sixty local companies. A restaurant became one of the platforms for the group’s activities and serves as a place for meeting as well as exchange. One hundred people participate as co-financiers in the Urban Space 100 project. Since 2015, parts of the restaurant’s profits have gone into a pot that finances and supports initiatives, small and larger projects. The money collected in this way has already been used to restore historic building entrances, procure computers for medical facilities, and organize sporting events and festivals.
Who Builds Our Cities?
The Fair Building project is about precisely those who are often forgotten when architects or public figures talk about spectacular new constructions or large-scale urban planning. In contrast to the film industry, where every role, no matter how small, is listed in the credit roll, architecture tends to keep a low profile when it comes to the work and the workers whose labor allows for buildings to emerge: workers who are employed in precarious conditions, workers who temporarily live far from home in inhospitable places, workers who ply their trade on unsecured building sites, and workers who toil away for days and weeks that are too long. These are the people who play the lead here.
A Quarter Taking Matters Into Its Own Hands
In the 1980s, Toxteth is the setting for violent class struggles. People move to other parts of Liverpool; many of the Victorian row houses fall into disrepair. As a result, a group becomes active in the neighborhood. They clean up, plant flower beds, paint windows, and establish a market. A Community Land Trust is set up. The aim: to create affordable housing that is owned by the people from the neighborhood. The group convinces the municipality not to demolish the houses. Later, the architecture collective Assemble comes on board and develops a plan for the area. Although the work is still unfinished and many houses are still in need of further attention, the people’s goal of taking the future of their area into their own hands has been achieved for the time being.