Accepted Paper:

From the Library of things to community-led renovations: middle-class responses to austerity in Slovenia  

Author:

Saša Poljak Istenič (ZRC SAZU)

Paper short abstract:

The presentation focuses on strategies and ways of engagement of the middle class in Slovenian cities to ensure themselves a proper living and improve their quality of life. Their responses to urban austerity policies create ethical and practical models of alternative futures.

Paper long abstract:

Austerity measures in Slovenia as well as globally caused not only decrease in the quality of living of the poor and middle class residents, but also encouraged developing of alternative models of dwelling, working, socializing and creating. Co-working, crowdfunding, alternative markets, co-mobility, temporary use of space, urban gardening, community-led renovations and housing cooperatives are only some of the recent initiatives aimed to mitigate global crisis. However, alternative ways of dwelling (in the narrow sense) have been the least developed, probably because of social apartments being built in major cities, apartments available for public workers without property and a drop of the real-estate prices after 2008.

The presentation therefore focuses mostly on initiatives that strive to improve the immediate dwelling environments such as common public spaces between apartment buildings and abandoned construction sites in residential areas. They arrange urban cooperative gardens, initiate community-led renovations of playgrounds, parks and other public spaces, or establish alternative markets for exchange of food or small household appliances and other things only occasionally needed in a household. Although the initiatives are by the rule inclusive, they seem to be the most attractive for middle class inhabitants seeking opportunities to actively co-create their spaces as well as improve their existential conditions. By advocating participative planning, community work and grassroots management of space, the initiatives build alternative communities based on ethical values such as cooperation, inclusion, equality and justice, and develop alternative models of urban living with the potential to solve the anomalies of the current social order.

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