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/

Spaces for work and living – a future built from “scratch & scrap”

Over the past few years of creating affordable living- and workspace in the city, we have come a long way from the very few initiatives we had found acting in this field, to the current pool of citizens that are about to (or in de midst of!) taking part of the cities’ space into collective use. And like us, most of them have found that it is urgent to take this effort beyond the often temporary access we have been able to achieve till now. How can we secure permanent access and control over the spaces so vital to our lives?

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Fellow city makers at the Stoking House

On 28th of May, an international group of city makers came together at the Stoking House of City in the Making, to discuss the current state of affairs. It is interesting to see new urban communities arising from these efforts, and observe how they build a new future on the often disregarded, outlived or scrapped resources that are available in the city. But in the increasingly market dominated sphere in which even citizens’ initiatives find themselves acting, this often means that we have to take ourselves to that same market of real-estate to buy up the remains we aim to give a new, collective future. For most of us, that means a tough puzzle of mobilising enough capital to “save” the buildings for our cause.

Hence, we have extended discussing that challenge during the rest of the day in the context of the Re:Kreators network (aka fellow city makers) which is currently forming in Europe. One of the challenges is to match the acquisition of real estate (buying it in order to bring it into common, anti-speculative ownership) with the mission of keeping spaces affordable.

Of course, the exchange of experiences and expertise among the initiatives is already proving crucial and inspiring when facing this challenge. But we could take it a step further: by forming networks that can set up a revolving investment fund together, so that at least the seed funding necessary to make a start can be quickly mobilised. It is an idea quickly gaining traction in several of the discussions we have been feeding into: from the upcoming Re:Kreators to the VrijCoop (the Dutch branch of the Mietshäuser Syndikat) currently set up. A crucial bit of urban economy being re-invented?