Like many cities around the world Berlin’s housing crisis is only getting worse. Instead of sitting idly by and watching their city become a place only for the landed gentry, Berliners decided to organize and do something. A referendum took place over this past weekend (as part of the federal election) asked Berliners if the city should take over the housing units owned by mega landlords who own more than 3,000 properties.
The city would acquire any unity about that number and make it social housing. 56% of voters made it clear: they want more public housing by taking it away from corporations only interested in profits. Housing is a human right.
Whatever happens next in Berlin it’s clear people are sick that something as necessary as housing is treated like any other commodity.
The referendum was able to take place after Deutsche Wohnen & Co Enteignen took advantage of a mechanism in German law, which allows certain topics to go to a referendum if a group can collect 175,000 signatures from city residents. In June, campaigners announced they had collected 343,000 signatures on the housing referendum, which received a boost when a city-wide rent cap was overturned in April.
“Together we moved the city and shook up politics – that’s what we’re celebrating today,” Joanna Kusiak, a spokesperson for Deutsche Wohnen & Co Enteignen said. “Thousands have become active with us. We are anchored with our structures in each district. We faced powerful opponents: inside and won. We’re not going away anytime soon.”
Everyone is well aware that low density, sprawling, and energy inefficient is bad for the planet. Years of mindless development have left us with homes which are not well built for the current climate. It’s imperative that we get these homes to be climate friendly, here’s how. The Guardian has a nice article on the various ways people can convert their inefficient housing into a climate-friendly structure.
Deep reductions in emissions will involve revamping the major appliances in the home, such as the water heater, furnace and air conditioning unit. As these items become older, they become wasteful and they will need to be replaced by more efficient appliances that run off clean electricity.
Some of these replacements will be relatively innocuous, such as the installation of heat pumps, which will be in the basement or on the side of the house. Heat pumps work on principles similar to a refrigerator, shifting heat from outdoors indoors and vice versa. They can heat and cool your home and can also heat your water with an efficiency rate four times greater than a gas-powered version.
The North American dream often hinges on owning the shelter you reside in, but with raising home prices this is a challenge for many. It may work out in the long run though as we should be creating systems that favour renters over owners since homeowners tend to hold back progress. Of course, we will need to protect renters from evictions and so on. Regardless, over at Vox they have an interesting analysis on home ownership which is worth considering:
Researcher Rachel Bogardus Drew points to more than a century’s worth of messages praising the benefits of homeownership, “everything from personal freedom and self-determination, social equality and inclusion, personal and economic success, and a better quality of life.”
One of the messages Drew cites is from a 1916 article in the Hutchinson News telling readers: “Owning a home raises one in the estimation of his neighbors and associates. … Nothing gives a man a better standing in a community than the fact that he is a house-holder, a payer of taxes on real estate.”
We need to change the way we build and live if we’re going to avert catastrophic climate change, and it’s time we think about the biggest carbon offender: the suburbs. Suburban living is car-centric, energy intensive due to the design of the houses, more expensive to maintain due to low density, and embodies other problematic issues. It may sound like a daunting task to switch the suburbs from an unsustainable system to a sustainable one, but that’s exactly what people are trying to do.
According to new research published last week by Teicher and two colleagues, if the trend away from downtown cores continues, it is essential to urgently refocus some of the effort to fight climate change from cities to suburbia.
Global warming is making our cities hotter than ever before, which has led many to turn on the air conditioning. The irony is that to keep us cool we turn on machines which consume a lot of energy, and if that energy comes from a non-renewable state then the local cooling ultimately adds to global warming. Fortunately, there are simple low-cost ways to keep you cool in the summer heat while you’re indoors. Over at Popular Science they’ve put together a handy guide.
A lot of warmth comes into your home via sunlight. In individual rooms, you should control these rays with blackout curtains or shades. If you still want sunlight, open the curtains on windows that don’t face the sun directly; this allows indirect sunlight to filter in.
The color of the curtains’ outward-facing side also matters. We see color because that particular wavelength of light bounces off an object. Because heat radiates as infrared light, “hot” colors like red, orange, and yellow will deflect the most warmth.
Of course, not everyone enjoys living like a vampire. If you need more direct light, consider solar screens and window tints instead of curtains. These treatments can remove certain wavelengths of radiation while letting others in.