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Hamburg: Housing movements and local government

This chapter discusses the dynamic relationship between housing movements and local government in Germany, and specifically Hamburg, from the historical starting point of the cooperative movement in the later nineteenth century until the present. The
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  3 Hamburg Housing movements and local government David Scheller Introduction In June 2018, more than 8,000 people hit the streets of Hamburg for the ‘ MietenMove ’ –   a festival-like demonstration against rising rents and thehousing crisis. A ff  ordable housing has become one of the burning topics inmany German cities in recent years. Hamburg is one of the most expensivecities in Germany and movements in the city have been at the forefront of resistance to urban neoliberalism (Birke 2016; Füllner and Templin 2011;Rinn 2016; Twickel 2011). When we talked to a spokesperson for the Ham-burger Netzwerk Recht-auf-Stadt (Hamburg right to the city network), heexplained the motivation behind the movement:When we  󿬁 ght for the right to the city, we don ’ t want to  󿬁 ght only for theright of the  …  more privileged people, we want to  󿬁 ght together withpeople who organize themselves and  󿬁 ght for their right to stay and forthe right to digni 󿬁 ed living, and so on.(RaS interview 2015)Referring to the broader discussion of co-housing and sustainable urbandevelopment in this book, this chapter focuses on the historical interrelationbetween housing movements and local urban government regarding colla-borative housing, or co-housing. Today, we  󿬁 nd more than 3,000 co-housingprojects in Germany, and notions and practices of collectively shared housesand communities have a long history. Since the early 2000s, the leading city inthis development has been Hamburg, which also harbours many traces of past housing movements. The aim of this chapter is to analyse the historicalcontext for contemporary co-housing developments, particularly focusing onrelevant structural and political conditions that have provided both opportu-nities and constraints.To this end, the chapter presents a historical analysis of the crises andchallenges that have engendered housing movements, on the one hand, andthe political interactions and reactions by government actors, on the otherhand. This starts in industrializing Prussia and the German Empire, spans the  Weimar Republic, National Socialism, post-Second-World-War East andWest Germany, and ends with the neoliberal urbanism of reunited Germany.The overall aim of this endeavour is to shed light on the intersection of housing movements and local governments that have structured  ‘ collaborativehousing ’  (see Introduction) leading up to the co-housing projects we are dealingwith today. Housing movements have changed and policies have shifted, butthe role of decent and a ff  ordable housing has always been an existential one.Collaborative housing has developed from housing cooperatives into co-housingas attempts to achieve a ff  ordable housing and self-governance in speci 󿬁 c histor-ical contexts. At the same time, it becomes clear that the bottom-up e ff  orts of di ff  erent housing struggles and movements have been accompanied by top-downpolitics.I argue that the roles of both  the state  and  the actors  involved in colla-borative housing and co-housing have shifted over the last century. A strongstate that regulated the Fordist model of welfare has been replaced by a post-Fordist neoliberal governance of workfare. At the same time, housing coop-eratives srcinally driven by the working class have been accompanied bypredominantly middle-class-driven co-housing projects. These shifts are tiedto socio-political transformations and, furthermore, to the rise of the sus-tainable development discourse in recent decades. Moreover, the variousownership forms of contemporary co-housing projects  –   such as associations,cooperatives and limited liability companies  –   can be seen as historical sedi-ments of political dynamics between housing movements and (local) govern-ment. In order to discuss such political dynamics between civil society actorsand the state, I follow the hypothesis that (urban) social and structural changeshould be understood as a result of (urban) social movements. First phase: from Prussia to National Socialism Historically, housing cooperatives were closely connected to the emerging work-ers ’  movement, functioning as its  ‘ third pillar ’  beside unions and parties (Notz2014). Starting with claims for better living conditions in late nineteenth-centurycapitalism, both from bottom-up struggles and top-down policies, the movementboomed during the Weimar Republic, facing suppression during National Soci-alism until the end of the Second World War. Legal groundwork and   󿬁  rst cooperatives (1867   –  1918) The emerging industrialization and urbanization were the driving forces behindhousing struggles in the late nineteenth century. Dramatically growing metro-polises, such as Hamburg, Berlin or Cologne, faced major challenges in pro-viding housing for the rapidly expanding working class, 1 and a massive lack of a ff  ordable housing caused miserable living conditions. Overcrowded and darkone-room  󿬂 ats with desperately poor sanitation were a serious problem for thenew class of urban-poor factory workers. The political organization of the58  D. Scheller  working class coincides with the  󿬁 rst attempts to set up housing cooperatives asinstances of collective self-help. Ideas of collective and cooperative living werepromoted and  󿬁 nancially supported by conservative bourgeois intellectuals. Asa top-down approach, cooperatives were seen as a way to prevent epidemicsand to defuse the social revolutionary potential of the impoverished workingclass, in what has been called the  ‘ inner colonialization of the poor ’  (Huber1983/1846).In 1862, the  󿬁 rst housing cooperative  –   Häuserbau Genossenschaft zuHamburg   –   was founded by shipbuilders. This did not come as a surprise,since Hamburg from the very beginning was a stronghold of the workers ’ movement as well as the social democratic and communist parties. The aims of (housing) cooperatives were 1) collective self-help, 2) democratic self-organizationthrough their members, 3) self-liability of members, 4) a non-pro 󿬁 t orientation of housing provision and 5) members as users and shareholders of the cooperative.When the  󿬁 rst cooperative law was passed in Prussia in 1868, it becameeasier to form a cooperative. The number of cooperatives increased with anamendment of the cooperative law in 1889 that introduced a limited liabilitymembership. 2 Small cooperatives were the predominant ownership formduring the early years. Most of the time these cooperatives were founded withorganizational help and money from bourgeois donors (Crome 2007: 212).But this would not have been possible without the pressure on the streets andbottom-up mobilization and organizing (Novy 1983: 83).In the  󿬁 rst 50 years, cooperatives were predominantly founded with thegoal of providing living space for workers. But at the same time, cooperativesof o ffi cials and civil servants emerged. At the end of the First World Warthere were about 1,400 cooperatives in the German Empire (FMTBH 2004:117). In Hamburg, workers and employees in particular founded small hous-ing cooperatives for their professions. One example of this development is the Wohnungsgenossenschaft von 1904 e.G.  (referred to as W1904 from here on),which was founded by four postmen with the aim of providing decent housingfor their colleagues. Ever since then, W1904 has followed these principles:a) housing as a common good rather than a commodity; b) self-government;c) mutual support and solidarity (W1904 interview 2016). Today, 1904 is alarge cooperative with about 5,000 members and is also owner of the multi-generational co-housing project  Heimspiel   (see also Chapter 5). Legal support and cooperative boom (1919  –  1933) After the 1918 Revolution and the end of World War One, the social situationin Hamburg was still very tense and there was a great need for a ff  ordable anddigni 󿬁 ed housing for workers. The structural poverty resulted in a strongmovement of workers and poor people, which together with unions took apolitical stand in Hamburg. In spite of attempted coups by radical groupsfrom the left and the right, the social democrats, together with left-liberalparties, had the majority in the Hamburg Senate until 1933 (Büttner 2019). Hamburg   59  During the early 1920s, reforms of the legal system, state funding,  󿬁 nancialsupport ( Hauszinssteuer ) and a growing economy led to a boom in small andlarge housing cooperatives founded by workers and civil servants. Thesecooperatives can be described as homogeneous, based on the jobs and thesocio-cultural and political backgrounds of their members (FMTBH 2004:119). This was clearly a bottom-up movement for the construction of large-scale a ff  ordable housing combined with a sense of community, aims that we 󿬁 nd in the current co-housing projects. Moreover, as also found today, self-labour became a key instrument in keeping down building costs (Crome 2007:213). As a result of this movement, the Weimar Republic provided land andthe legal framework to enable alternative ownership forms. By 1928, therewere more than 4,000 housing cooperatives in Germany. This can be seen asthe culmination of cooperativism as a driving force in housing provision(ibid.). Prohibition and caesura (1933  –  1945) During the period of National Socialism, cooperatives and unions were seenas beacons of radical left and socialist movements, and as such they wereconsidered a threat to the state (Notz 2014). The Nazi state opposed andattacked the internal structures and foundations of the movements andcooperatives through numerous repressive actions and laws. In 1933, thefoundation of (housing) cooperatives was prohibited, and following the 1934Cooperative Amendment ( Genossenschaftsnovelle ), all existing cooperativeshad to join an umbrella organization and had to accept obligatory checks.Moreover, with the enforced conformity law ( Gleichschaltungsgesetz ), boardmembers of existing cooperatives were replaced by NSDAP o ffi cials. Smallercooperatives were forced to merge with large cooperatives. The process cul-minated in the complete assimilation of all types of cooperatives into theGerman Labour Front ( Deutsche Arbeitsfront ) (Weyerer 2013). Since 1938,Jews had not been allowed to become members of cooperatives. The period of National Socialism was a caesura in the cooperativist movement that hasshaped housing cooperatives right up until the present, since the enforcedmerges were never reversed. At the end of the war, only 1,600 cooperativesremained in Germany, with a signi 󿬁 cantly reduced number of members andsize of housing stock (Crome 2007: 213). 3 Second phase: after the Second World War With the end of the war and the reconstruction works in divided East andWest Germany, housing cooperatives became important in the provision of a ff  ordable housing and were strongly supported by the state in both countries.In the West, the rebellion of 1968 and the economic crisis of the 1970smarked a drastic socio-political demarcation, not just with emerging newsocial movements, such as the squatting movement, but also as a renaissance60  D. Scheller  of housing cooperatives and the establishment of the  󿬁 rst co-housing projectsin Germany. Starting in the early 1980s, this can be described as a reaction tothe urban crisis in the rise of neoliberal urbanism. Fordist hegemony and backbone of the reconstruction (1945  –  1967) In East and West Germany, the years following 1945 were dominated by statee ff  orts. For both countries, cooperatives became the backbone of the large-scalereconstruction of housing. Most of the cooperatives merged by the Nazi regimewere not separated and just a few new cooperatives were founded. The drivingmembers of the cooperatives during this period continued to be workers.West Germany realized the reconstruction with a bundle of subsidy laws andspecial loans for social housing in order to (re)build the rental apartment sector.The Housing Act was accordingly introduced with the goal to build 1.8 million 󿬂 ats in six years, predominantly with  󿬁 xed rents and occupancy rights. Thisbecame the basic path for funding for the coming decades until the decline innew constructions in the early 1980s (Crome 2007: 213). Cooperatives played amajor part in that process, encouraged by tax reductions for public bene 󿬁 t( Gemeinnützigkeit ) controlled by the  Wohnungsgemeinnützigkeitsgesetz  (Hous-ing Act) until 1989.In East Germany, the state took a strong position in the constitution of cooperatives. Starting in 1954,  Arbeiterwohnungsgenossenschaften  (AWG)were founded with the goal to provide housing for industrial workers, and thishousing was realized with signi 󿬁 cant levels of personal contribution duringthe building process. The state supported the cooperatives by providing freeland for permanent use and special loans at zero interest. The AWGs were thedriving force for building apartments. Existing  ‘ old ’  cooperatives remained,but were restructured into public bene 󿬁 t cooperatives in 1957. However, theyreceived less support than the AWGs (Crome 2007: 214). As a result, it wasmainly the larger cooperatives that survived.During the late 1960s the student movement emerged in Hamburg, as inother West German cities. A new era of protest movements driven by a muchwider spectrum of issues and actors emerged, which fundamentally chal-lenged the status quo, including the housing sector. Fordist crisis and   󿬁  rst renaissance of collaborative housing (1968  –  1980) The  󿬁 rst wave of co-housing in Germany needs to be understood in the con-text of the large-scale social housing projects that were built to quickly createa housing surplus during the decades following the war. The so-called newsocial movements emerged as part of the struggle against the establishment inthe context of the emerging crisis of a paternalistic Fordist state. For the  󿬁 rsttime, autonomous squatters occupied abandoned buildings and started alter-native co-housing projects, and communes were established as part of acounter-movement (Fedrowitz 2016: 10). The famous slogan  ‘ The houses for Hamburg   61
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