This is a summary of the event A good life for all beyond growth? that was organized by the Degrowth network in The Netherlands, in collaboration with Commons Network, as part of the Cities For Change Forum. You can watch the livestream recording of that event at the end of this blog. You can follow all our work on the Fearless City Amsterdam-programme through this page.
One of the most pressing issues of our time is whether continued GDP growth in western nations can bring well-being for all, without further transgressing planetary boundaries. More and more people are realising this now, fortunately. Activists, policy makers and scholars all over the world are exploring alternatives to growth-centric politics, towards a vision of ‘post-growth’.
During the Cities for Change Forum, Commons Network co-organized the event A Good Life For All Beyond Growth to bring this post-growth thinking and talking forward. Together with a consortium of academics from the UvA, the HvA, the VU, the ISS and the PThU, the panel explored a range of topics related to a transition to a post-growth economy that can deliver a high quality of life in the city of Amsterdam. One of them was the issue of housing in a post-growth society.
As guest-speaker Federico Savini emphasized, if we want to create a housing system in a post-growth economy, we will need to question the ideology that has produced and is maintaining the current housing problems under our contemporary growth-centric economy. As Federico clarified, currently, we are framing housing in terms of ownership, while talking about individual property as a natural right, and the only opportunity for self-fulfillment. In a post-growth economy, we will need to change our perspectives on the role of housing in relation to our economy as well as to our well-being.
This change will entail two broad shifts: 1) Rather than framing housing as a commodity to invest in and a transaction tool, housing would become an essential need for human well-being. 2) Rather than framing housing as a commodity to be exchanged in or regulated through the market, housing would become a democratic self-regulated good.
Can we fulfill all the potential that housing has beyond economic growth? The challenge will be to understand housing as an ecosystem with multiple functions based on a multitude of values: indeed, as a true housing commons. For this, we can learn from already existing prefigurative projects promoting alternative ways of autonomous low impact living, such as the housing cooperative De Nieuwe Meent: a housing cooperative that is building a residential estate in a self-regulated way, inspired by principles of commoning.