"They are dealing with buildings instead of people living in them"

Ljubljana – In response to the situation in which the lack of public investment leads to the reduction of affordable rental housing, while speculative private investors are gaining momentum, real estate in the market is increasingly expensive, and in some European countries they set up housing cooperatives to offer decent housing and affordable housing.

This is also the goal of the Slovenian housing cooperative Zadrugator. Some time ago, an international conference was organized in Ljubljana, where representatives from Belgrade, Bratislava, Budapest and Warsaw discussed the development of co-operation in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. As they say in the Cooperative, this is part of the process of building an international network of housing cooperatives, which aims to share knowledge and experience, mutual assistance and joint work. "It is important that we begin to connect in the wider region, because this will only be able to set up financial frameworks, perhaps the institutions through which the cooperatives can be financed," says architect Ana Džokić, a member of the Who Builds a City team from Belgrade, who was among the speakers at the Ljubljana conference.

The self-organized initiative in the Serbian capital began in 2010 with public tribunes, and two years later they prepared the cooperative project Smart building. "Together we will find a way to build a non-profit apartment, which will be at least thirty percent cheaper, how to obtain funds, perhaps from European funds," continued Ana Džokić. "The goal is that each initiative eventually carries out its project, which can then be used as a pressure on authority."

What does smart building mean, as you called the cooperative stay project, in the light of smartphones, smart houses, smart cities?

We understand the smart building as a departure from the overwhelming idea of ​​smart, which is mainly technology-bound and emphasizes the effectiveness of managing cities and homes, where everything works optimally. Our idea of ​​a smart building means smart in terms of social responsibility, where the social or social character is the most important. At the same time, an intention is chosen in the name of a building that signifies a departure from the house as something, which is individual, while the building is something in common.

At the tribunes we organized in Belgrade, we concluded that it would be necessary for the project to allocate the site to a city under favorable conditions, that the city is the one who helps in finding financial means and also provides legal support. However, depending on how things stand today, there is not much to expect from the institutions, so we are primarily interested in what we can do for ourselves, and thus we may influence the functioning of the institutions.

At the conference in Ljubljana, we heard, among other things, that housing cooperatives in the West are a lifestyle, while the east is a necessity. How do you comment?

What we see in Serbia, and similarly in Slovenia, is a wide spectrum of people who either can not get a loan for an apartment or fall out in allocating an already small number of social housing. These are people that nobody deals with. At the same time, the situation seems inevitable, as it is, so it is. But with appropriate social and housing policies, all this could be solved.

At least four thousand non-profit apartments are currently lacking in Ljubljana; a single person also has several years on the living unit. How about this in Belgrade?

In Belgrade there are no calculations, nor any records of the locations on which to build. There is a lack of public debate about housing, we do not know where to build affordable housing. There are also problems with current social housing. In the Kamendin-Zemun neighborhood, which is relatively large, they foresaw part of the ownership and the bulk of the rented apartments, and it is precisely in them that today the situation is tragic. Most of them were settled by socially weak people, and while receiving social support nine months a year, they have to pay the rent for all twelve months. Now they have become debtors for apartments that are otherwise cheap, but they are threatened to throw them out. The dwellings are of good quality, but the way of management is catastrophic. Social services are not linked to urban real estate

You initially set up a group dealing with forced evictions from housing due to debts. Why?

If the basic principle of the initiative is housing, then one of the fundamental rights is that no one should be thrown out of the dwelling. We also contacted eight similar initiatives in Serbia, we provide support, if necessary, we organize protests and try to prevent evictions.

We organized the first protest last year near the center of the Danube, when they wanted to evict a 70-year-old woman and son with cerebral paralysis. We have gathered over a hundred, but we could not prevent the eviction. She owed six thousand euros, and her apartment was sold for 26 thousand, without even knowing it. In the end, they came with a police escort, and in one hour all their belongings had to be taken out of the apartment. And this often happens. We also defended the refugees when they wanted to evict them, now they are threatened with eviction from the barracks to 36 workers of the former company Trudbenik. A long time ago, the old lady wanted to jump from the balcony because she was threatened with eviction. What is happening is the bottom of the bottom, so it was necessary to organize. This can happen to anyone, depending on the laws, how the authorities work, and for whom the city is actually built. The proposal of a housing law, prepared by the Serbian authorities, to which we have written several pages of comments, for example, looks at buildings as objects in terms of maintenance, management, energy efficiency, and nothing in the law is written about the financial capabilities of residents in them. They deal with buildings instead of people living in them.

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