URBACT Cities facing the Crisis: Final Publication now available
09 December 2010
Within the URBACT community, over 2009 and 2010, all cities have been, in one way or another, hit by the economic and financial crisis that has engulfed Europe. As a reaction, URBACT decided to ask its partner cities about the impact of the crisis and the responses cities developed to face the situation. The final publication "URBACT Cities facing the Crisis – Impact and Responses" provides a summary of the 2 major packages of the study: the results of the survey which was addressed to all URBACT cities at the end of 2009 and a series of in-depth case studies completed in 2010, highlighting the responses developed by some URBACT cities

The speed, severity and impact of the economic crisis have confounded nearly all economists, national governments and institutions. Cities themselves have experienced the crisis in extremely different ways and have often been the last to be consulted about major decisions. But cities are on the front line when it comes to dealing with the real impacts of the crisis on people, business and places. From sheer necessity they also have business started to explore a wide range of responses. It is too early to identify a common approach or set of approaches or to talk of "good practices". But it is clear that the crisis is starting to make cities question some of the basic principles that have under pinned urban development in the boom years and to tentatively explore some alternatives.

Helping cities to learn from each other in this kind of situation is URBACT's core business. This is why the URBACT Monitoring Committee approved, in May 2009, the launch of a study on the impact of the crisis and on responses developed by cities, building on the community of partners involved in the URBACT Programme.

The study, which is summarised in this final report, is made up of two main parts. The first part consists of a survey carried out in the 4th quarter of 2009, which looks at the nature of the impact of the crisis in different types of cities and the various responses used. Thanks to the committed response of URBACT partner cities and the hard work of our community of Lead Partners and Lead Experts, 131 cities responded - a response rate of just under 70% - making this one of the most comprehensive surveys of the crisis in European cities so far.

Of the 131 cities that replied, over 80% reported severe impacts. The survey found that the effects of the crisis have spread quickly from the business sector to the labour market and in turn to social conditions. Unemployment, particularly among young people, women and immigrants is now one of the greatest concerns for cities, coupled with an alarming increase in social problems. Interestingly certain cities had proved to be more resilient to the crisis and/or had managed to isolate themselves from some of the worst impacts. Cities are fighting back, however, and despite enforced budget cuts in some cases, more than two-thirds of the cities surveyed were developing a specific response to the crisis. Most of these responses attempt to align short term action with longer term measures that address the future needs and aspirations of the cities concerned.

The second part of the study consisted of a series of in-depth case studies of cities, selected to reflect the diversity of impacts and the range of policy responses developed at local level. The aim was to identify lessons and approaches that could be useful for other cities. The case studies were carried out between the spring and summer of 2010 and provide first hand evidence of how quickly, unpredictably and differently the crisis was evolving in different European cities. In fact, between the survey and the case studies the role of cities had started to change from trying to maximise the gains from national recovery packages to one of minimising the damage from austerity measures.

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