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Mehr als wohnen – More than housing

Created on 05-10-2023 | Updated on 28-11-2023

Mehr als Wohnen (More than housing) is a housing cooperative (Baugenossenschaft) located in the Hunziker Areal, a former industrial site in the city of Zurich, Switzerland. It is an example of non-profit development, giving rise to a mixed-use neighbourhood with district services, public spaces, and commercial establishments. Initiated in 2007 through a collaboration of 35 housing cooperatives, the project now enjoys support from 60 out of the 120 cooperatives in Zurich. This project set up a new standard for cooperative housing at a neighbourhood scale and stands as potential model for other cities. Comprising 13 residential buildings and 370 housing units, Mehr als Wohnen currently accommodates 1,300 residents. There are 7,000 m2 of ground floor space hosting cafes, restaurants, kindergartens, studios and working spaces. The land is leasehold from the city council for 100 years in exchange for an annual fee. An apartment at the cooperative is on average 20% less expensive than a for-profit apartment in Zurich. The project was developed after an architectural competition, and its financing scheme included a diverse array of sources.

Initiating entity
Mehr als wohnen cooperative, city of Zurich

mixed-use neighborhood, community-led housing, affordable housing, communal living

Educational/participatory methods
dialogical process with residents and stakeholders

former industrial site

Zurich, Switzerland



city of Zurich, cooperative Mehr als wohnen

Object of study


The context

In Switzerland, housing cooperatives are private organisations, co-owned and self-managed. The city of Zurich has a rich history of housing cooperatives and non-profit housing associations dating back to the early 20th century, constituting 25% of the city’s housing stock. As was the case in other central European cities, housing cooperatives in Zurich emerged in response to a housing shortage and the unavailability of affordable prices. The model for establishing a housing cooperative is straightforward: individuals come together to form a cooperative, becoming shareholders. The cooperative builds housing and rents it to its members at cost prices. Since no profits are generated, and the land value is not increased for resale, the gap between cooperative rents and open market rents widens significantly over time. Historically, members of housing cooperatives were often affiliated based on profession or religion, such as public officers, for example.

The foundation of this housing cooperative model was laid in 1907 when a law was enacted, assigning responsibility to the municipality for providing ‘affordable and adequate housing’ (Hugentobler et al., 2016). The first housing cooperatives were established in 1910, and the Allgemeine Baugenossenschaft Zürich, ABZ, currently the largest cooperative in Switzerland, was founded in 1916. In the 1970s, cooperative housing faced a decline due to poor maintenance. However, a revival occurred in the 1980s when a new cooperative movement emerged. The new cooperatives aimed to break away from the rigidity, institutionalisation, and outdated principles of traditional housing cooperatives. The discourse of this movement emphasized the need for more sustainable living environments, affordable and non-speculative housing, and social integration. In 2011, a city-scale referendum took place, resulting in the population voting in favour of a law aiming to increase the proportion of non-profit housing to 33% of all housing (not just newly built homes) in the city by 2050. This legislation mandates the city of Zurich to establish a framework and instruments to support non-profit housing.



In 2008, the Public Works Department of the city of Zurich and the cooperative Mehr als Wohnen launched an international competition for ideas. This initiative was part of the festivities marking 100 years since the inception of cooperative housing in Zurich (“Mehr als wohnen - 100 Jahre gemeinnütziger Wohnungsbau”). The competition sought innovative ideas about the future of non-profit housing. Out of 100 submissions, 26 teams of architects were selected and were invited to submit an urban development concept for the Hunziker Areal, including designs for residential buildings. A young team won the master plan competition, aiming to integrate diverse architectural proposals into a cohesive urban development concept.  A subsequent dialogue phase ensued, during which architects and project operators collaborated to integrate various concepts into the master plan. Future residents and the broader public participated in 3 to 4 events annually, engaging in discussions about the neighbourhood’s future. The dialogic process continued until construction started in 2012.



The four-hectare plot of disused industrial land at the Hunziker Areal in the Leutschenbach district was made available for building by the city administration. The site formerly housed a concrete industry until the 1980s when the company closed, and the city of Zurich acquired the land. Due to a law approved by a referendum in 2011, the city of Zurich is obligated to prioritize non-profit housing over selling land to the highest bidder. In 2007, the city council signed an agreement with the cooperative for a lease of 100 years, with the possibility of renewal. As part of the agreement, the cooperative must adhere to various conditions, including calculating rents based on investment costs, subsidizing 20% of the housing units, providing 1% of the ground floor for neighbourhood services at no cost to the city, allocating 0,5% of construction costs to local art projects, meeting high energy standards in construction, and launching an architectural competition for the new housing buildings. The cooperative pays an annual fee for the use of the plot, which is adjusted every five years, according to the cost-of-living index and interest rates. This fee also considers the space provided by the cooperative and the subsidies offered to low-income residents.



Following the agreement with the city council for the land, cooperative members embarked on securing funding. The members of the cooperative had to bring the 5,4% of the initial capital, with the remaining other 0.6% covered by the municipality. The founding cooperatives of Mehr als Wohnen leveraging their existing resources and expertise, contributed half of this amount. The other half was covered by the future residents, amounting to CHF 250/m2 as their member equity. For low-income households or elderly people, the city’s social services could cover this amount.

The remaining funding was obtained from three levels of administration: city, canton and federal. At the federal level, the Federation of Swiss Housing Cooperatives provided a CHF 11 million loan through its revolving fund, offering a twenty-year term with a 1% interest rate. Additionally, at the federal level, CHF 35 million was secured through a bond loan with fixed interest rates for the first twenty years, facilitated by the Bond Issuing Cooperative for Limited Profit Housing (Emissionszentrale für gemeinnütziger Wohnbauträger/ Centrale d’émission pour la construction de logements – EGW/CC) and public subsidies.  EGW functions as a financing instrument for housing projects of public interest, guaranteeing loans through the Swiss Confederation (Federal Bureau of Housing) to provide security for investors. Nonprofits benefit from significantly more advantages compared to comparable fixed mortgages with the same terms. At the cantonal level of Zurich, the project secured a CHF 8 million loan, and at the municipal level, another of CHF 8 million, both with fixed interest rates. However, instead of paying the interest to the city and canton of Zurich, the cooperative uses this amount to subsidize 20% of housing units (80 of the 370 apartments). To complete its financial planning, Mehr als Wohnen also secured a CHF 8 million loan from the city of Zurich’s pension fund, with a fixed interest rate. With this combination of sources, providing 27% of the total investments, the remaining necessary financing was obtained from a consortium of four banks through traditional mortgage loans.


Inclusion mechanisms

Mehr als Wohnen employs a mechanism commonly used by many Swiss housing cooperatives, that allows its members to transfer their savings to the cooperative instead of keeping them in traditional banks. These “member funds” constitute part of the cooperative’s capital, meaning that the larger the member funds are, the less the cooperative will rely on mortgages in the future. Members who invest in their cooperatives benefit from a higher investment return compared to what they would receive at a conventional bank. The cooperative also maintains an internal solidarity fund, aiding in financing solidarity projects or assisting families facing difficulties in paying their equity. Every household and commercial store contributes a monthly amount, ranging from 10 to 30 CHF, depending on their income. Through this fund, the cooperative can reduce monthly rents for low-income households, cover maintenance or adaptation fees, organise events, and provide financial support to cooperative projects in the neighbourhood or abroad.


Design innovations

The project is planned for a mixed-residential population and a diverse mix of uses. The term “more” in its name signifies the aim of creating a sense of community and belonging, which is reflected in the interior as well as exterior spaces. The concept revolves around reducing private spaces, with an average of 35 m2 per person for tenants, while providing increased communal areas, such as roof terraces, children’s playgrounds, and car-free spaces. In terms of private spaces, Mehr als Wohnen incorporates various housing typologies to accommodate diverse needs, including cluster apartments, satellites, family apartments, large units capable of housing 7 to 12 individuals, studios and spaces that can be adapted to different purposes. The apartments range from 2 to 7.5 rooms[1], offering a broad spectrum for exploring different residential possibilities. These combinations of spaces highlight diverse household compositions and lifestyles, acknowledging the simultaneous desire for privacy and communal living. Most of the apartments have 4-4.5 rooms (37%), followed by 3-3.5 room apartments (26%), and larger apartments with 5.5 rooms or more (22%). Apartments with 1 to 2.5 rooms account for only 15%, which is a smaller percentage compared to the city of Zurich, where this category represents 34%.


Social inclusion

The aim was to create a “lively quarter where people like to live, work and spend their free time” and should be offered to people from “all social strata” (as stated in Mehr als Wohnen’s mission statement). The aim of the project was that the composition of the residents in the project should reflect the distribution of different households from the canton of Zurich as a whole. In order to achieve a mixed population, the cooperative collaborated with various institutions. A total of 10% of the apartments were reserved for the Züriwerk Foundation, supporting people with impairments; the Domicil Foundation, assisting families with immigrant backgrounds in finding housing; the Woko Cooperative, aiding teachers and students; and the ZKJ Foundation, finding homes for children who could not live with their families.


[1] In Switzerland and Germany, the count of rooms per apartment encompasses more than just bedrooms; it includes any kind of room present in the apartment. The term "half room" typically refers to spaces that aren't fully designated as bedrooms, such as a living room that could potentially be converted into one. It's important to note that bathrooms and toilets are not included in this room count.

Alignment with project research areas

The case study of Mehr als wohnen aligns with the research areas of RE-DWELL:

Design, Planning, and Building

Design Innovations: Mehr als Wohnen embraced design innovations through the integration of diverse housing typologies, including cluster apartments, satellites, family apartments, studios, and various room sizes. This highlights a commitment to create versatile living spaces that cater for the diverse needs of different households. The project placed a strong emphasis on adhering to high energy standards, aiming to create sustainable buildings and mitigate their impact on the environment.  

Community Participation

The project facilitated a dialogic process that engaged architects, project operators, future residents, and the broader public. By organizing regular events and discussions, the project actively incorporated stakeholders into the process of shaping the neighbourhood’s future. This commitment aligns with the research area of community participation, underlining the significance of involving residents and stakeholders in decision-making processes to foster a sense of ownership and community.

Policy and Financing

The project employed a diverse range of funding sources, including member equity contributions, loans from different levels of administration (city, canton, and federal), bonds, and loans from banks. This showcases innovative financing strategies to support the development of affordable housing. It aligns with the research area of policy and financing, which explores mechanisms to secure funding for sustainable and affordable housing initiatives and examines the impact of housing policies on housing outcomes.

Alignment with SDGs

Mehr als Wohnen aligns with several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined by the United Nations, specifically:

SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities: The project strives to achieve this goal by creating a sustainable and inclusive neighbourhood. It advocates for the development of affordable and non-speculative housing, fosters social integration, and encourages community participation. In doing so, it plays a significant role in advancing the overarching aim of creating cities that are inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy: The project places a strong emphasis on maintaining high energy standards in housing construction. By incorporating sustainable design and energy-efficient technologies, it contributes to reducing energy consumption and promoting clean and affordable energy sources.

SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure: The project showcases an innovative approach to housing development, amalgamating various funding mechanisms and design concepts. It underscores the potential for innovative partnerships among public institutions, cooperatives, and residents to create a sustainable and inclusive infrastructure.

SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities: Mehr als Wohnen strives to establish a diverse and inclusive community by allocating a portion of its housing units to vulnerable groups, including persons with impairments, families with immigrant backgrounds, and children in need. This commitment to social inclusion contributes to reducing inequalities within the neighbourhood, and within the city.

SDG 13: Climate Action: The project's emphasis on sustainable construction, energy efficiency, and reduction of environmental impact aligns with this goal. By promoting sustainable housing practices, it  contributes to mitigating climate change and building resilience to its impacts

SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals: The collaborative ethos of the project,  engaging project operators, future residents, and the broader public, underscores a commitment to partnership and collaboration. By fostering partnerships among various stakeholders, the project contributes to the overall SDG framework.  


CoHabitat Network. (2022). Access to land and finance for community-led housing.

Hugentobler, M., Hofer, A., & Simmendinger, P. (Eds.). (2016). More than housing: Cooperative planning - a case study in Zürich. Birkäuser.

Khatibi, M. (2022). Socio-spatial interactions of a cluster-house concept apartment in mehr als wohnen project in Zurich, Switzerland. Frontiers of Architectural Research, 11(2), 191–202.

Mehr als wohnen. (2017). A vision becomes reality – 10 years lessons learned.

Mehr als wohnen. (n.d.). Cooperative. Retrieved August 30, 2023, from

World Habitat. (2016). More than Housing.

Related vocabulary

Community Empowerment

Community-led housing

Urban Commons

Area: Community participation

Community empowerment appears in the literature of participatory action research (Minkler, 2004), participatory planning (Jo & Nabatchi, 2018), and community development (Luttrell et al., 2009) as a key element of participatory practices, understanding it as a process that enables communities to take control of their lives and their environments (Rappaport, 2008; Zimmerman, 2000). Many argue that community participation becomes meaningless if it does not lead to, or pass through community empowerment. As the term is being used in diverse and ubiquitous ways, it runs the risk of ending up as an empty definition and a catch-all phrase (McLaughlin, 2015). It is therefore important to specify the perspective through which we will view the term and clarify the nuances.  Since its origins, empowerment has been used in two different ways. Firstly, top-down as the power that had been ‘granted’ by a higher authority, such as the state or a religious institution, and secondly, bottom-up, as a process by which groups or individuals come to develop the capacity to act and acquire power. Examples of the latter can be found in social groups such as feminists working in nongovernmental organizations throughout the global south in the 1970s, who found a way to address social issues and inequalities that enabled social transformation based on women’s self-organization (Biewener & Bacqué, 2015). The term was gradually appropriated by welfare, neoliberal, and social-neoliberal agendas whose priority was individual agency and choice. In neoliberal rationality, empowerment is related to efficiency, economic growth, business productivity, and individual rational choice to maximize profit in a competitive market economy. In social liberalism agendas, empowerment is understood as ‘effective agency’, where ‘agency’ is not an inherent attribute, but something that needs to be constructed through ‘consciousness-raising’ (McLaughlin, 2016). A broader definition sees empowerment as a social action process through which individuals, communities, and organizations take control of their lives in the context of changing the social and political environment to improve equity and quality of life (Rappaport, 2008; Zimmerman, 2000). Rowlands (1997), refers to four types of empowerment: power over, as the ability to influence and coerce; power to, to organize and change existing hierarchies; power with, as the power from the collective action and power within, as the power from the individual consciousness. Using this classification, Biewener & Bacqué (2015), adopting a feminist approach, understand empowerment as a multilevel construct with three interrelated dimensions: 1) an internal, psychological one, where ‘power within’ and ‘power to’ are developed, 2) an organizational, where ‘power with’ and ‘power over’ are strengthened and 3) a social or political level, where institutional and structural change is made possible through collective action. Thus, community empowerment links the individual level, which involves self-determination, growth of individual awareness, and self-esteem, to the collective level, relating critical consciousness and capacity building with the structural level, where collective engagement and transformative social action take place. This view of empowerment, which considers its goals and processes, has a social dimension that is lacking in other approaches that prioritize individual empowerment. Aside from the feminist movements, the philosophy and practices of community empowerment have been greatly influenced by the work of Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator and an advocate on critical pedagogy. Freire proposed a dialogic problem-solving process based on equality and mutual respect between students and teachers; that engaged them in a process of iterative listening-discussing-acting. Through structured dialogue, group participants shared their experiences, discussed common problems, and looked for root causes and the connections among “problems behind the problems as symptoms” (Freire, 1970). The term conscientization, that Freire proposed, refers to the consciousness that arises through the involvement of people in the social analysis of conditions and their role in changing them. This awareness enables groups to be reflexive and open spaces, to enact change or to understand those limited situations that may deter change (Barndt, 1989). Empowerment can be understood as both a process and an outcome (Jo & Nabatchi, 2018). As a process, it refers to “the development and implementation of mechanisms to enable individuals or groups to gain control, develop skills and test knowledge”(Harrison & Waite, 2015) and it entails the creation of new subjects who have developed a critical consciousness and the formation of groups with a ‘collective agency’ ‚ or ‘social collective identity’ (Biewener & Bacqué, 2015). Empowerment as an outcome refers to “an affective state in which the individual or group feels that they have increased control, greater understanding and are involved and active” (Harrison & Waite, 2015). This can lead to a transformation of the social conditions by challenging the structures and institutionalized forms that reproduce inequalities. The values and the significance of community empowerment can be further applied in the participatory and community-based approaches of the housing sector. Examples of such approaches in the housing provision are the housing cooperatives, and self-developed and self-managed housing groups. Housing cooperatives aim at promoting co-creation to engage future residents, professionals, and non-profit organizations in all the stages of a housing project: problem-framing, designing, developing, cohabiting, managing, and maintaining. Such organisational models stress the importance and pave the way for community empowerment by uniting individuals with similar interests and ideals, enabling them to have housing that responds to their needs, preferences, and values. The participation of the residents aims to strengthen their sense of ownership of the process, the democratic decision-making and management, and the social collective identity, making community empowerment an integral characteristic of cooperative housing initiatives. With this social perspective, residents can gain individual and collective benefits while contributing to fairer and more sustainable urban development on a larger scale (Viskovic Rojs et al., 2020).

Created on 03-06-2022

Author: Z.Tzika (ESR10)


Area: Community participation

Community-led housing involves residents, often organised into community groups, actively participating in planning, designing, financing and managing housing projects to meet their specific needs and preferences. This active involvement nurtures a sense of community ownership and control. This sense of community encompasses  feelings of belonging, shared identity, and mutual support among the residents of a community-led housing initiatives. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with the term "collaborative housing". Collaborative housing also refers to a participatory approach to housing development; however, the focus is on collaboration with the different stakeholders and encompasses various non-profit housing delivery models. While self-organised collective housing efforts are nothing new, a new wave of such initiatives has emerged in Europe since the 2000s (Lang et al., 2018; Tummers, 2016). In recent decades, market-provided housing has been the predominant model in Europe, often prioritising economic gain over the right to adequate shelter. The primary housing options from a tenure perspective are home ownership and rent, which are not always affordable for low-income groups (OECD, 2020, 2020). As a result, many communities are coming together to create secure and affordable housing solutions (Jarvis, 2015). However, the motivations behind these initiatives can vary among the involved groups and may reflect economic, ideological, social or ecological ideals (Caldenby et al., 2020). Some of these motivations include creating affordable homes, exploring more sustainable living practices, and fostering a sense of community and social cohesion. In contrast to other forms of collective housing, community-led housing schemes do not merely emphasize resource or living space sharing: they empower the community to play a proactive role in shaping their built and living environment. According to the Co-operative Councils Innovative Network (2018), community-led housing are developments that meet the following criteria: There is meaningful community engagement throughout the process, even if they did not initiate or build the scheme. The community has a long-term formal role in the ownership or management of the homes. The benefits of the scheme to the local area and/or specified community group are clearly defined and legally protected in perpetuity. Community-led housing can take diverse forms, contingent upon the extent of involvement from the participating communities and the specific type of development. These manifestations range from grassroots groups independently initiating projects to meet their housing needs, to community organizations spearheading housing initiatives. Additionally, developers, such as local authorities or housing associations, can initiate partnerships to provide housing solutions with a community-led component (Lang et al., 2020). Furthermore, concerning the development model, community-led housing can encompass constructing new homes, repurposing vacant homes and managing existing housing units. Each of these approaches has the potential to significantly influence the broader neighbourhood context (Fromm, 2012). The forms of community-led housing include: Housing cooperatives: These are groups of people who provide and collectively manage, homes for themselves as tenants or shared owners, based on democratic membership principles. Cohousing: These consist of like-minded people who come together to provide self-contained private homes for themselves while collectively managing their scheme and often sharing activities, including communal spaces. Cohousing can be developer-led, so it is important to examine whether cases meet the broad definition given above, rather than simply use the term cohousing as a marketing device. Community Land Trusts (CLTs): These are not-for-profit corporations that hold land as a community asset and serve as long-term providers of rental housing or shared ownership. Self-help housing: Small, community-based organisations bringing empty properties back into use, often without mainstream funding and with a strong emphasis on construction skills training and support. Tenant-Managed Organisations: They provide social housing tenants with collective responsibility for managing and maintaining the homes through an agreement with their council or housing association.   These models are adaptable and not mutually exclusive; for example, a co-housing group could choose to establish either a cooperative or a Community Land Trust (CLT). It is important to note that there are variations in how these models are applied in different contexts and countries. For local authorities, community-led housing offers several advantages. It improves the housing supply and the availability of affordable homes, diversifying the housing market while ensuring the long-term affordability of housing units. Additionally, community-led housing supports urban regeneration efforts and repurposes vacant homes. It has the potential to empower communities so that they become more self-sufficient. By involving residents in addressing their housing needs, these initiatives provide opportunities for vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, mono-parental families, etc., to live in supportive communities. Such housing schemes can be developed in various contexts, offering solutions for different housing challenges, including informal settlements, former refugee camps, and the heavily owner-occupied housing markets of South and Eastern Europe.

Created on 05-10-2023

Author: Z.Tzika (ESR10)


Area: Community participation

Urban commons are shared resources in the city that are managed by their users in a collaborative and non-profit-oriented way. The concept is based on the idea that urban resources and services that represent fundamental rights in the city should be accessible to and governed by the urban dwellers, to support the social capital and the sustainability of the urban communities. Hence, their value lies mostly in the social benefit produced during their use and they are therefore different from commodities that follow traditional market principles of profit maximisation and private ownership (Dellenbaugh-Losse et al., 2015). The concept of urban commons is an extrapolation in the urban context of the notion of commons which historically refers to natural resources available to all and not owned by any individual, such as air, water and land. The commons discourse became significantly popular thanks to the fundamental contribution of Elinor Ostrom (1990) and particularly after she was awarded the Nobel in Economics in 2009. Ostrom presented cases and design principals for the collective management of common resources by those that use and benefit from them, challenging the predominant negative connotations that had peaked with Garret Hardin’s (1968) Tragedy of the Commons where he analysed the impossible sustainability of common pool resources due to individual benefits. During the last fifteen years, a vast body of academic literature on urban commons has been produced, linking the notion to other urban theories, such as the right to the city (Harvey, 2008; Lefebvre, 1996), biopolitics (Angelis & Stavrides, 2009; Hardt & Negri, 2009; Linebaugh, 2008; Parr, 2015; Stavrides, 2015, 2016), peer-to-peer urbanism and sharing economy (Dellenbaugh-Losse et al., 2015; Iaione, 2015; Iaione et al., 2019; McLaren & Agyeman, 2015; Shareable, 2018). The notion of the urban commons encompasses resources, people and social practices (Dellenbaugh-Losse et al., 2015): Commons resources are urban assets of various types, characteristics and scales (Dellenbaugh-Losse et al., 2015). Examples of commons resources include physical spaces, such as community gardens, street furniture and playgrounds; intangible elements such as culture and public art; services such as safety; digital spaces, such as internet access. Urban commons literature and practices have attempted to determine several typological categorisations of the urban commons resources, the most notable being that of Hess (2008), who classified them as cultural, knowledge, markets, global, traditional, infrastructure, neighbourhood, medical and health commons. The commoners are the group that uses and manages the urban commons resources. It is a self-defined and organically formed group of individuals whose role is to collectively negotiate the boundaries and the rules of the management of the commons resources (Dellenbaugh-Losse et al., 2015). In a neighbourhood setting, for example, the commoners may be individual residents, or community groups, cooperatives, NGOs and local authorities. De Angelis and Stavrides (2010) points out that commoners might include diverse groups or communities that are not necessarily homogenous. Commoning refers to the collaborative participatory process of accessing, negotiating and governing the commons resources. The term was introduced by Peter Linebaugh (2008) and refers to the “social process that creates and reproduces the commons” (Angelis & Stavrides, 2010). Commoning is a form of public involvement for the public good (Lohmann, 2016). Commoning implies a commitment to solidarity and cooperation, to the creation of added value to the community, to democracy and inclusiveness and is connected to a hacking culture(Dellenbaugh-Losse et al., 2015). Hence, commoning practices can include various activities such as co-creation, capacity building and placemaking, support through learning, innovation, performing art, protest, urban gardening and commuting. In contemporary societies in crisis, the urban commons theory is often used as a counter-movement to the commodification of urban life and as a response to complex issues, proving essential for the well-being of marginalised communities and for the provision of affordable and sustainable housing. Urban commons management conveys the re-appropriation of urban values (Borch & Kornberger, 2015) breaking silos of expertise and knowledge by adopting a collaborative approach to defining and solving the problems at stake. The practice of urban commons helps to build values of openness, experimentation, creativity, trust, solidarity and commitment within stakeholder groups.

Created on 14-10-2022

Author: A.Pappa (ESR13)


Related publications


Icon cooperative-housing-in-barcelona

Cooperative housing in Barcelona

Posted on 01-02-2023

Cooperative, community-led, or collaborative forms of housing appear as collective responses to the way we inhabit. At times they are perceived as experimentations in a certain socio-spatial context that seek to push the limits, question or re-interpret existing practices of inhabiting. As a phenomenon tends to reappear and grow in periods where the mechanisms in place for the provision and distribution of housing are not providing solutions (or adequate solutions) for all households. The main values that have been identified as drivers of such initiatives are: fostering a communal way of living, seeking affordable solutions through collective action, rethinking the ecological impact of housing, and addressing gender equality, as well as aging issues. The difference between cooperative housing and market or state-provided housing is that it attempts to overlap three aspects of housing that are usually separated: property, development of housing, and participation in decision-making (Lacol et al., 2018).   In the last months, I have been conducting my case study research in Barcelona, as part of my secondment, where there is a renewed interest in this form of housing. Since its initiation, starting from bottom-up collectives, and neighborhood movements, and growing towards more parts of society, the groups manifest for the right to housing, stressing the importance of the engagement of the inhabitants and the creation of non-speculative and long-term affordable housing. Currently, there is a collective effort in place, from the groups and the support organisations, to promote the model and make it more inclusive. A platform was created at the regional level, where all the cooperatives participate to discuss the evolution of the model. The values that the platform is highlighting as the core of the model, and the ones to reinforce and improve are (XES, 2019):   Non-profit and collective property The cooperatives use collective tenure forms, through long-term and secure access to housing but without the possibility of owning the property and making a profit out of it.   Community engagement and self-management The participation of the inhabitants in the decision-making is at the core of this model. As each group is different, with different priorities, resources, and skills, community engagement can take different forms.   Affordable and inclusive housing One of the key stakes of the model is affordability. The main mechanism for that was initially the grant of use of land, instead of buying it. However, as the model is evolving more mechanisms are being tested and implemented to include more people.   Replicability Collaboration and exchange of knowledge are being promoted among the groups. As practices are being shared and knowledge is being slowly generated, we can look at the lessons learned and understand the critical points.   Sustainability Most of the cases are opting for sustainable housing solutions, by focusing on low-carbon materials, the passive design of the building, and renewable energies. As we are in a moment, when energy and material prices are increasing because of inflation, we see how the trends of the material choices of the initial projects are changing towards locally produced ones.   References: Lacol, la Ciutat Invisible, & la Dinamo Fundación. (2018). Habitar en comunidad : la vivienda cooperativa en cesión de uso. Catarata. XES. (2019). Regulatory principles of cooperative housing in grant of use by the sector for cooperative and transformative housing of the social and solidarity economy network of Catalonia.

Author: Z.Tzika (ESR10)



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