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Picture: Co-op City

What is possible?

“For years, rents and purchase prices for flats (and commercial premises) have been rising to ever more dizzying heights. The supply of (still) affordable accommodation is becoming increasingly scarce and, for some, partly out of reach. Even for those who have a flat, it is becoming more and more difficult to pay the rising rents and to deal with the fear of losing their own flat – for whatever reason. In the face of this problem, we want to look for possibilities that have already been realised somewhere in the world and could show us an exemplary way for a solution, or maybe just utopian to theoretical thoughts on the matter.”

This text, already written in 2021, seems almost unreal, except for the theoretical/utopian. In Berlin, around it and (almost) everywhere, housing is expensive and getting more expensive. However, there are no longer any opportunities to break new ground, for example through building groups, cooperatives, micro-apartments or houses, or classic social housing, because the prices for land and building are rising immeasurably. All those who were not fortunate enough to have sufficient means to acquire property or who simply did not want to do so are increasingly confronted with the question of how they can continue to pay for their (rented) housing. The people who no longer manage to do so quickly find themselves on the outer fringes of society. These are the ones who ask us for money in the underground, camp out on the street or use shopping trolleys to transport their belongings. An exhibition in Munich logically asks: “Who’s next?” (Architekturmuseum der TUM, until 6 February 2022) Beyond that, we ask: “What then?”.

It is true that there are ways in which societies can deal with homelessness by creating alternative housing options, so-called inclusive projects that allow the “normal” and the “failed” lifeworlds to overlap. One example is the Viennese “VinziRast-mittendrin” by gaupenraub+, which accommodates homeless people and students together and also establishes a public café in the building, which points in the right direction. But these are individual measures.
Attention must therefore be paid to individual solutions, i.e. informal housing on the edges of usable areas, which are also becoming fewer and fewer, especially in Berlin. In the agglomeration called “slum”, these irregular buildings can certainly form appealing settlements – and be temporarily liveable, even idyllic.

A search for solutions for people who have become homeless and are exposed to the manifold hardships of this situation is on the agenda. There is a need to think anew and to build anew: How about building on the Tempelhofer Feld? How many people could be accommodated there? And how can building be sensible in the future, also in view of the “climate change”? Here, the project at the former Tegel Airport, the Schumacher Quarter, is certainly groundbreaking. More questions than answers remain, but we want to and must continue to consider what the future of housing in Berlin can look like so that everyone can afford it.
*** Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version) ***