The International Social Housing Festival held in Barcelona (June 7th to 9th, 2023) was a platform to showcase co-operative projects as more accessible, comprehensive solutions that promote healthier, collaborative, resilient and caring communities, which optimise energy efficiency and the use of resources in the face of social, economic and environmental challenges. An initiative of Housing Europe.
Co-operative housing has a long international history, with consolidated models in countries such as the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Uruguay and Canada, where ownership is kept and managed cooperatively over time. In recent years of systemic crisis, a new impetus has been lead to collaborative housing proposals as a response to the problems of the current social configuration. The challenges we face as a civilisation are the consequence of decades of prioritising economic profit, consumerism and unlimited growth.
These housing modalities offer a great diversity of configurations, with a vision aimed at overcoming competitiveness, individualism, consumerism and dependence on the market. A shift is proposed to focus on restoring collaboration, re-weaving resilient communities of mutual support and prioritising the wellbeing of all people and the care of life. They coincide in being groups of empowered people, open to learning and self-improvement, who define their living spaces and enable human development with greater respect for the natural environment.
Developing this type of projects is an exercise of collective responsibility, a social enterprise, to recover the management of the basic necessities of life. A response from the organised civil society to the multiple problems arising from the climate crisis, care or the shortage of rented or owned housing.
The current situation is the result of the limited capacity of public policies, subject to short-sighted, changing or partisan visions. Faced with this reality, which is a social emergency for more people every day, especially for the most vulnerable economies and the youngest people, more sustainable options with a high impact in the medium and long term are being considered, which undoubtedly require a change of mentality. This is the biggest challenge we face as individuals and as a collective.
A renewed culture that puts the focus on the use value of housing over the market value. Questioning the purpose and necessity of housing. Reclaiming housing as a key element for the articulation of life and the development of people’s potential for the community and the general interest. It implies overcoming stigmas about relationships and conflict, to take the opportunity to learn and overcome, and to live with difference, embracing diversity. Diversity is a basic strategy for survival and the evolution of life.
If we improve access to housing and work to generate mutually supportive communities, we will be facilitating the resolution of the many problems that seem to keep arising and growing. We have done this since the dawn of time, until we are forgetting our essence as a human species. We can regain the power and ability to generate our living spaces, taking care of people, life and the environment. It is a big challenge and we are looking forward to taking the next steps to do it collaboratively.
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