Accepted Paper:

Does the middle-class only help itself? Cooperative housing in growing Berlin  


Max Ott (Technical University Of Munich)

Paper short abstract:

One might argue about Berlins' economical success, but there is no question that its population is significantly growing. Affordable housing in central districts is becoming a scarce good and co-housing initiatives are discussed as one way to provide reasonable solutions for an urban middle-class.

Paper long abstract:

Many of Berlins' contemporary co-housing projects originate from the early 2000's when empty lots and low property prices in inner city areas had created favorable conditions for such self-initiated developments. For the middle-class this was an affordable access to privately owned dwelling. Often it also enabled a more experimental and integrating architecture, due to the participation of the later inhabitants in a creative planning process.

Berlins' population is now significantly growing and prices for inner city housing are rising. Currently, the threats and effects of gentrification processes are widely discussed and academics and activists state a return of the 'housing question'. In this context, I assume it has a double meaning to ask: Does the middle-class only help itself by establishing co-housing initiatives? On the one hand it seems to be a privileged "guarantor of gentrification", only taking care about its economic interests. On the other hand, it also fears the effects of rising rents. Sociologist Susanne Frank points out that many members of the contemporary urban middle-class feel uneasy about social segregation as it contradicts their ideal of living in mixed neighborhoods.

I will focus on this ambivalent question of 'self help' by using the example of a collaborative housing initiative in Berlin-Kreuzberg. As the initiative refers to "communality" and "urban diversity" as important objectives, I am interested in how such values become materialized in architecture. I will discuss this as an example for social creativity and also ask about the limitations of such urban development strategies.

Panel Urba03
The vulnerable middle class? Strategies of housing in a prospering city