All over Europe we have cities under tremendous pressure of debt, seemingly forced without an alternative to sell and privatize public property or to organize public services in the form of independent market oriented companies. When housing, energy, transportation, real estate etc are sold, residents risk the danger of losing the capacity to design urban life with equal chances for everybody to participate in the long run. As an alternative to selling we think cities should give underused public spaces to citizens and associations, via project competitions. There is a lot of hidden potential of spaces that are underutilized at best, many times abandoned, or sold away without accountability of their future use. Many of these spaces, as shown by our friends at Impossible Living or in accounts of occupied Italian theatres, have historical or cultural value for the communities, and restoring them would bolster economic, social or recreational activity, as well as bring about a feeling of local cohesiveness. In Milan the city is letting unused public buildings and venues for free, with 30 year leases, to both associations and individuals with projects that benefit the city. This offsets maintenance costs and incentivizes tenants to renovate them, which in the long run increases their value. Can we do the same on a European level? This actionable is a blueprint for administrations to trust citizens to take responsibility for transforming and re-integrating public property into sustainable circuits. As a nice side effect, in many European cities this would help ameliorate conflicts and lessen potential for criminalisation of citizens making (arguably) illegal use of public property.
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