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November 2020

Working together for socially inclusive, sustainable, and resilient cities in Europe.

The temporary use of empty spaces is an incredible opportunity to tackle the immense changes and key challenges facing cities and urban areas – but one that is yet to be seized.

The space equivalent to 44 Montparnasse towers in Paris or to the entire commune of Ixelles in Brussels today lies vacant. So why are we wasting it? These empty buildings can be turned into resources to respond to the housing crisis and lack of affordable spaces. They can be used as experimentation and innovation laboratories, where occupants test and experience new models of democracy, architecture, economy, education, food production, energy etc. They can become affordable offices for non-profits, charities, social economy organisations or social entrepreneurs. They can host cultural events, and foster artistic creation. They also make it possible for citizens and communities to take ownership of their neighbourhood: to participate and contribute to the life of their cities.

The analytical note released by Communa and POUR LA SOLIDARITÉ sets out what is at stake when it comes to temporary use: that the potential of empty spaces is unlimited and its development should therefore be prioritised. Both organisations “urge the European Union to recognise temporary use as an innovative tool to move towards the realisation of its climate and social objectives”, demanding that the European Commission support this practice financially and legally, but always with its social aims at heart. We, the members of STUN, the Social Temporary Urbanism Network, join their call to action.

Last year, the Urban Agenda partnership on Circular economy and the Urban Agenda on the Sustainable use of land and nature-based solutions similarly released a joint handbook on the re-use of space and buildings. Their handbook was a great demonstration of how temporary use represents a vision based on the principles of circular economy (re-use, re-design and reduce) as well as a Nature-based solution, since it re-uses land in sustainable and innovative ways. Among other things, they argued that “the temporary use ofabandoned/underused places and buildings is a powerful tool for our cities to ‘adapt to thefuture’.”

We, the members of STUN, believe it is time that we not only adapt but act now to shape and take that future into our own hands.

We can start by (re)using, (re)building and (re)inventing the cities of tomorrow!