Publication Inequality / Social Struggles - Social Movements / Organizing - Participation / Civil Rights - City / Municipality / Region - Europe Municipalism in Practice

Can municipalist principles be implemented in the field of housing policy, and if so, how?



April 2022

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Housing issues have dominated urban policy discussions in many cities in recent years. Real estate speculation, rising rents, and displacement indicate an intensification of social conflicts around housing. In addition to demographic changes that increase housing demand, it is primarily political and economic causes that manifest in housing issues in the 21st century. 

In response to the housing crisis, social movements and tenants' organizations have formed in many cities to put the provision of social housing on the agenda. In addition to traditional street protests and attempts to enforce social rights directly against landlords, grassroots movements are increasingly pursuing strategies to enforce a different kind of urban policy.

New municipalism, a strategy to implement transformative demands of grassroots movements at the local level, is consistently common good oriented, aims at overcoming various forms of exclusion, improving everyday living conditions, and includes the democratization of political institutions through expanded co-determination procedures and the feminization of politics.

Since the strength of social movements and the scope of urban policy are very much determined by specific local conditions, the study “Municipalism in Practice”, funded by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, examines the introduction and implementation of new housing policy instruments in four cities: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin and Vienna.

In recent years, under the slogans of new municipalisms, social movements in particular but also academic researchers have been discussing new strategies and local political power constellations for the social orientation of urban policy, and how the development of inclusive and radical democratic procedures can become the programme of governance. Drawing on these discussions, we first summarise our understanding of municipalist politics and attempt to apply the principles to the field of housing policy (chapter 2).

In order to present the specific starting points of each of the four case study cities, we first provide a general overview of the housing market in each of the cities. In particular, we shed light on landlord structures and the respective ways to ensure affordable, adequate, and sustainable housing provision (chapter 3).

In the main part of the study, we present the challenges, the newly developed instruments and the participation of grassroots social movements in specific housing policy issues in each of the four cities studied. In doing so, we take a closer look at the strategies of rent con- Introduction 11 trol (chapter 4), tourist apartment regulation (chapter 5), anti-eviction strategies (chapter 6), and the use of planning law instruments to create affordable housing (chapter 7). In a summary review at the end of the study, we discuss the elements of municipalist housing policies across cities and sectors to identify the specific features, strengths but also weaknesses of municipalist policy approaches (chapter 8). Take a look now!

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