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November 16, 2015
Douglas Klahr Ph.D.
Professor in Environmental and Sustainability Studies
Douglas Klahr received his Ph.D. in architectural history from Brown University. Running parallel to his scholarly endeavors regarding 19th-20th century German architecture/architectural photography has been a long-standing interest in sustainability. He has been a member of the Curriculum, Research and Community Engagement (CRCE) work group for sustainability since 2008. In 2009, he created two upper-level courses dealing with issues of sustainability: Sustainability for Everyone and Slum Housing in the Developing World, with the latter revised for Spring 2015 to focus primarily upon Africa. He also has taught ESST 2300, the core course for the minor in Environmental and Sustainability Studies.
His current research project analyzes the successes and failures of Wohnungsgenossenschaften – German housing cooperatives – to determine if a viable American version of this urban dwelling model can be established. These coops, which have over 3,000,000 members, offer a third way between renting or purchasing a dwelling, an alternative that might appeal to many Americans. Recognized as distinctive legal entities under German law, they are structured as largely self-administered organizations, with a strong emphasis upon collective responsibility, often featuring a neighborhood-focused business enterprise. Wohnungsgenossenschaften have a documented role in promoting neighborhood formation and/or revitalization in urban areas, especially regarding stable, inter-generational housing, and increasingly are founded upon a guiding ethos of sustainability, often centered about an urban garden or food coop. Large-scale, urban-based, and middle-class, Wohnungsgenossenschaften differ from the limited American experiments in collective housing.
Due to the fact that literature about Wohnungsgenossenschaften is not available in American libraries, a comprehensive collection of books about the topic was assembled over the past several years. The remainder of 2015 will be spent reviewing the material and extracting the major legal, societal, cultural and economic points of Wohnungsgenossenschaften so that these can be presented to potential American co-investigators. The search for colleagues will initially focus upon: (1) a scholar familiar with the legal aspects of housing policy and real estate development in Texas; (2) a scholar familiar with the societal and cultural aspects of the Latino community in the DFW/Texas area, with the possibility of designing a model targeted toward this demographic segment.