New model for community-based care homes

Edited on 05/01/2024

Project proposal by

  • Institution : Regional Public Service Brussels (Brussels Housing)
  • City : Brussels
  • Country : Belgium
  • Type of region : More developed
  • Population : 1 241 175

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CALICO is a cohousing project of 34 dwellings offering a generational and social mix, developed within the common and anti-speculative framework of a Community Land Trust (CLT), in the Brussels Capital Region (Belgium). It also integrates an innovative community-based model of care.


CALICO is the result of a collaboration between different housing actors, local and regional authorities, and academic partners. The housing project is organised in three clusters.


Firstly, the “gender” cluster rents dwellings to older women and single mothers. The initiators and residents of this cluster are responsible for putting gender issues at the centre of the housing project.


Secondly, the "Community Land Trust" cluster sells dwellings to low-income families and rents to older people (+50 years) who are unable to obtain mortgages. It also provides two housing units dedicated to Housing First for homeless people. The CLT also owns the land under the whole housing project, thus guaranteeing its permanent affordability.


Finally, the "care" cluster offers intergenerational cooperative dwellings, and also birth and end-of-life facilities, integrated within the housing clusters, which provide an empathetic and familiar environment for people at these life stages. One common space is open to the residents, and another is managed as a meeting place for people with mental health issues and where local initiatives are held, therefore making CALICO a fully-fledged player in the local urban fabric. 


What SOLUTIONS did the Urban Innovative Action project offer?


- Affordable and quality housing through the CLT-model, i.e. by separating the ownership of the land from the ownership of the housing built on it, as well as an anti-speculative resale formula; 


- Multilevel governance: land owned by the CLT foundation (anti-speculation + social character), housing cooperatives ensuring a democratic management of the assets and an ethical financing, social management by Social Real Estate Agencies offering flexible management of social rented housing, and grassroots associations supporting community management of the project; 


- An intergenerational and social mix of the residents to tackle unequal access to affordable housing, including housing for (older) women and single parent-families; 


- A model of co-design and participation with residents, empowering and involving them from day one in the decision-making process; 


- Integration of gender and care dimensions.

What DIFFERENCE has it made at local level?

The CALICO project started as a bottom-up project. It builds on citizens’ action, looking for new solutions for urban development and affordable housing, based on the principles of the commons. Over the course of the project, the initial partnership has been widened.


A partnership with Rézone, a regional mental health network enables them to have a safe space for people with mental health issues that is open to the neighbourhood. The project also works with local neighbourhood committees, with organisations active in the field of soft mobility, community kitchens, and many more groups.


At CALICO, there are also birth and end-of-life facilities open to the wider neighbourhood and designed to welcome anyone who wishes to go through these ‘life passages’ naturally and in connection with others, accompanied by professionals and volunteers. The project inspired civil society actors to launch a Housing deal, aiming to replicate the approach as a new way of providing housing.  

What PARTICIPATORY APPROACHES have been put in place for the project?


- The Community Land Trust Brussels (CLTB) developed an exemplary approach involving future residents in the design of its housing projects (empowerment). In the case of the CALICO project, it was impossible to fully apply this methodology, as the Urban Innovative Action programme required the projects to be delivered within three years; 


- A long series of co-design and training workshops with the future residents have been set up, both within their own cluster and with the three clusters together. In these workshops, decisions about the use and management of shared spaces, a community charter, a governance structure and a community care model have been designed;  


- The co-design workshops led to a series of community-led initiatives, initiated by the residents with support of CLTB. A weekly community kitchen and bi-weekly participatory childcare activity and bicycle workshops are organised; 


- Integration of birth and end-of-life facilities managed by the inhabitants (volunteers); 


- Management of the building (co-ownership) and community life is the responsibility of CALICO residents.    

How does the project tackle different aspects with an INTEGRATED APPROACH?


In the project, land is considered as a common good. By separating ownership of the land from the ownership of the building, and by managing that land as a commons, the CLT model guarantees permanent affordability. The multi-stakeholder governance model also guarantees the continued alignment of the use of land with the needs of future generations.  


Specific measures have been taken to ensure an intergenerational and social mix of the residents. Due to the unequal access to affordable quality housing, the project focused on three vulnerable groups: older people, (single) women and people with a migratory background. Two homes are also devoted to Housing First for the homeless. Through co-design and participation, residents are involved from the outset in decision-making processes. 


Passifhaus building standard are applied to all new construction. However, studies have shown that often, especially in a social housing context, much of the energy gain is lost by incorrect use. Therefore, the project team organised several training sessions and tools to help residents use their passive house technology in the most optimal way. The cohousing approach involves sharing as a way of life, for example, residents collect food waste and organise a weekly community kitchen. To promote sustainable mobility, bicycle lessons have been set up by CLTB residents to teach others, mainly migrant women, to use a bike.

Why should other European cities use the solution the project explored?


The CALICO project offers a different form of intergenerational cohousing, with respect for gender equality, which provides affordable rental and owner-occupied dwellings through the Community Land Trust framework, and also birth and end-of-life facilities open to the neighbourhood.


The project is complex and responds to many challenges of public governance, housing rights, social cohesion, social justice, community care, etc. The objective is not so much to insist on the singularities of the project, which are certainly potentially inspiring, but rather to put into perspective the basic principles of the project that could form the basis of a public land policy in favour of community-led housing projects.