Schlosspost: Can we distinguish between a bad and a good developer and/or bad and good housing or isn’t it that easy?
AF: We could distinguish between for-profit and non-profit oriented developments, with innovative spatial concepts associated mostly with the latter. The architecture itself cannot generate inequality – the house management of Stuttgart’s Wohnmaschine Asemwald proves that 1,800 residents can harmoniously cohabitate in three high-rises – yet it can’t be detached from the political and the financial conditions behind it. On the other hand, the developers are only one link in the chain and behind every exclusionary, and therefore socially unsustainable development, are both city authorities and the end user.
Schlosspost: How do we fight this housing crisis?
AF: Essentially to design a policy that would prevent the speculation in housing and acknowledge the rights of the residents.
Schlosspost: Can you specify what you understand under the idea of decommodification of housing. How should regulations on the housing market look like?
AF: Since the liberation of the market proved to be an inefficient strategy for the provision of housing, new forms of regulation should be explored. There is an initiative at the moment in Berlin to seize the property of private landlords who own more than 3,000 apartments. The tax policy that would discourage foreign and multiple homeownership should be advanced and long-term renters should be given the right to own their homes. The established housing cooperatives struggling with the lack of funds could develop cofinancing models and partly adopt the market model of residents reserving and thus prefinancing flats. Self-organized housing could be further incentivized, both fiscally and legally. For instance, a concept-based sale of public land introduced couple of years ago proved to be only partially successful, as the property remains mostly unaffordable for the many cooperations. In addition, the know-how and tools for self-organized housing should be spread and educated to the broader population.
»The rooms we inhabit become a result of a financial calculus rather than spatial imagination.«
Schlosspost: How should the future of housing look?
AF: Ideally, housing would be completely decommodified and provided as a basic need to everyone. I believe that the notion of mass housing on the fringe of the city deserves to be revamped. Cheap plots of land and prefabricated construction would make it affordable, fast trains would make it accessible and the participative governing make it livable. We just need to get rid of the stigma associated with it and reimagine a way to live in larger communities.
Denise Helene Sumi conducted the interview.