Squatting and Urban Renewal: The Interaction of Squatter Movements and Strategies of Urban Restructuring in Berlin


Squatting as a housing strategy and as a tool of urban social movements accompanies the development of capitalist cities worldwide. We argue that the dynamics of squatter movements are directly connected to strategies of urban renewal in that movement conjunctures occur when urban regimes are in crisis. An analysis of the history of Berlin squatter movements, their political context and their effects on urban policies since the 1970s, clearly shows how massive mobilizations at the beginning of the 1980s and in the early 1990s developed in a context of transition in regimes of urban renewal. The crisis of Fordist city planning at the end of the 1970s provoked a movement of ‘rehab squatting’ (Instandbesetzung), which contributed to the institutionalization of ‘cautious urban renewal’ (behutsame Stadterneuerung) in an important way. The second rupture in Berlin’s urban renewal became apparent in 1989 and 1990, when the necessity of restoring whole inner‐city districts constituted a new, budget‐straining challenge for urban policymaking. Whilst in the 1980s the squatter movement became a central condition for and a political factor of the transition to ‘cautious urban renewal’, in the 1990s large‐scale squatting — mainly in the eastern parts of the city — is better understood as an alien element in times of neoliberal urban restructuring.