DAR=CASA società cooperativa
DAR = CASA is a non-profit co-operative founded in 1991. Its mission is to create affordable housing for low and moderate income citizens in Milan and surrounding areas. In order to achieve these goals, we obtain and then renovate vacant or dismissed apartments. Usually we rent property owned by the City of Milan or other public institutions, but for whose restoration or management the local government cannot provide the necessary funding. We repair the buildings and renovate apartments, and then rent them out to the members of our co-operative at a fixed, fair and affordable price. Both “DAR” and “CASA” mean home, in Arabic and Italian respectively. We consider our work as a civic engagement to stand up for the right to housing. Social housing is not only a matter of affordability. It involves accessibility, or rather the chance to overcome prejudices against migrants and marginalized population. It concerns the people’s need to achieve long-term stability, it contributes to a good quality of life in the neighborhood and it is a starting point for engagement in community affairs at a broader level. We provide property and facility management of the buildings, and offer co-op members technical, administrative and social assistance. Furthermore, we develop social interventions aimed at fostering community empowerment. We work with our tenants-members using a democratic and inclusive approach, and aim at strengthening social bonds, promoting social cohesion, and local development in the low-income neighborhoods where DAR=CASA operates. Since in the first years we primarily addressed migrants looking for affordable housing, our co-op has become a very diverse community, with members coming from at least twenty different countries, as well as dozens of second-generation young Italian citizens. This motivated us to develop intercultural mediation skills such as non-violent communication, negotiation and conflict resolution.