Mietshäuser Syndikat and VrijCoop

From the beginning Stad in de Maak has been inspired by the German Mietshäuser Syndikat. This organisation, grounded in the German squatter movement of the 1980’s, at present consists of about 120 different autonomous co-housing (and mixed use -working and -cultural) projects. Each of the projects is self-organized and largely autonomous in its day to day decision making. The buildings are collectively self-managed and owned by the people living there. They pay rent to their own coop. The rents are kept low, and not having any money is never reason for not being admitted.

Grethergelande, Freiburg, since 1982. The start of Mietshäuser Syndikat. Still from the movie ‘Das ist unser Haus’ about the Syndikat (see link below)

The ‘umbrella’ organisation Mietshauser Syndikat has a share in all the individual projects and can veto major systemic decisions, most notably the sale of the property. Because of this structure, the projects are in effect taken off the (speculative) market. Besides that, the Syndikat offers know-how to new co-housing projects. Know-how that was gathered over time in the more than 100 self-built and managed projects. Since the older projects have paid off their loans, but keep on paying rent, the Syndikat, or the individual members, can now also offer financial aid in starting new projects.
Thus the principles of self-organisation and management, of solidarity and of non-speculative, affordable housing for all have been firmly embedded in all the groups that together make up de Syndicat.

For a couple of years several groups in the Netherlands have talked about starting our own Syndicat. This has been achieved this year by starting de vereniging (union) VrijCoop. Stad in de Maak is one of the founding members. A direct copy of the German model proved not possible because of different legal systems. But we managed to stay very close to our inspiration. Several projects are about to start, EcoVillage Boekel probably being the first.
At Stad in de Maak we have been trying several times to bid on derelict buildings in order to escape the temporality of our current houses. Having been severely outbid by the ‘market’ on these occasions, we still have good hope that we will succeed soon.

See all about the Mietshauser Syndicat in this one hour movie ‘Das ist unser Haus’ (This is our House, German spoken, but subtitled in English or Nederlands, choose the CC button (chosen caption) in the Vimeo menu)
http://das-ist-unser-haus.de/

More on the Syndicat:
https://www.syndikat.org/en/

More on Vrijcoop
https://vrijcoop.org/

The price of land – and how to tackle it with a Community Land Trust

Who controls access to land in the city, controls (much of) its urban future. This makes that in the urban economy, land plays a crucial role – so important actually, that its value is often far more relevant than all that what is built in stone, steel or concrete on top of it. When we speak about rising prices of real estate, we often forget that it is largely the price of the land underneath that is increasing. Not so strange if you consider that in most cities you evidently cannot ‘simply’ create new construction land, so the supply is limited.

Buy land, they’re not making it anymore

“Buy land, they’re not making it anymore,” Mark Twain famously said. Twain was obviously unaware of new land that was made in the Netherlands by impoldering large parts of the sea, but in general, he is right, of course. In times of surging real-estate prices (like today in Rotterdam) there is nothing to balance its demand – hence it gets an ‘unhealthy’ value. There is a substantial segment of economists that argue that land should therefore not be considered a commodity: its price-point cannot, because of its inherent scarcity, balance according to the ‘market’ rulebook of supply-and-demand. And precisely that now makes it such an easy prey in speculative development schemes.

Besides its fixed supply, there are other reasons why land is different than the usual commodities we buy on the market. The basic capitalist idea is that surplus value is created by labour on raw materials. But land value can increase by legislation (when a building permit is given on agricultural land for instance) or by changes in its surroundings (when a nice park is made in front of your house, the value of land and house rises, and this significant increase is hardly compensated by a bit more land tax you need to pay). You can sit back and increase your capital as a landowner by simply waiting (the value will rise anyway) or by leasing it out (which aristocratic families have done for ages). No need for any added labour.

So, to keep the price of living affordable, there is much to say to take the land out of the economic equation. Continue reading “The price of land – and how to tackle it with a Community Land Trust”