A variety of interrelated terms are used to describe aspects or forms of community-led housing. These include terms such as ‘collective, ‘collaborative, ‘resident-led’, ‘participative’ and ‘self-organised’ housing, as well as concepts of ‘cohousing’, ‘social production of housing’ and ‘self-construction’. End-user participation and collective decision-making are common threads, along with visions of housing and land as common goods.
These models are widely seen as an approach to complement state- or municipality-led public housing schemes, going beyond the simple provision of primary housing needs. They have typically been driven by motivations including affordability, a longing for community life, and social inclusion as well as progressive agendas around gender equality, environmental sustainability and demographic transition.
Collaborative housing models can thus be important sources of social cohesion in European cities, overcoming various forms of social isolation and material deprivation. The variety of approaches explored by activists has also turned housing into an important field of innovation on aspects including community engagement, social inclusion, solidarity economy, ethical finance and participatory design.
Dr Darinka Czischke, a researcher at TU Delft speaking at the webinar, highlighted that collaborative housing has gone through a variety of mutations in the past century. One of the most established forms of collaborative housing is cooperative housing, which emerged in the early 1900s as part of the broader cooperative movement.
Collaborative housing in the Global North, Dr Darinka Czischke
Different social and technological trends later added their marks to the quest for alternatives to public and free market-led housing. These include the civil rights movement of the 1960s, which influenced the creation of the first Community Land Trusts (CLTs), and the emancipatory movements of the 1970s which led to new forms of collective living.
More recently, the global housing crisis of the new millennium has given a re-birth to a new generation of housing activists who helped create resident-led cooperatives, self-managed collective housing and CLTs.
In our webinar, we focused on three models – the cooperative, CLT and co-housing models – through UIA and URBACT city examples. It was an opportunity to hear from elected members, civil servants, activists and other active voices in the field. In the following sections, we take a more detailed look at some of these forms.