• Playful Paradigm

    Timeline

    Kick-off meeting
    1st TN Meeting in Esplugues de Llobregat | 2nd TNM in Udine | 1st Customized Activity in Udine: Ludobus and Social Transformation | 2nd Customized Activity, Paris, Toy Libraries Study Visit | 3rd TNM in Klaipeda
    4th TNM Viana do Castelo | TNM Online (Parts 1+2+3) | Webinar "Network Management for Tackling the COVID Crisis" | Webinar "Public Procurement" | Webinar "Manifesto of Playful Cities" | Playful Paradigm to re-think cities (virtual session @ EURegionsWeek)
    Sharing Period | Final Event 20-21 April

    Municipality of Athienou
    2, Archbishop Makarios III Ave.
    7600 Athienou Cyprus

    CONTACT US

    Municipality of Santiago de Compostela

    CONTACT US

    Municipality of Udine (Italy)

    CONTACT US

    Cities offer unique opportunities for addressing the challenges of urbanization, ageing, climate change, social exclusion, only if enabling, enjoyable places are co-created. This Transfer network aims to replicate the “playful paradigm” based on gamification as an innovative concept for promoting social inclusion, healthy lifestyles & energy awareness, intergenerational & cultural mediation, place-making & economic prosperity. Games offer new strategies for engaging city stakeholders in urban development.

    Games for inclusive, healthy and sustainable cities
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  • Taking a look how success could look like helps finding your path to it!

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    15/11/2022

    In May 2022, Space4People met to discuss how to promote our Integrated Action Plans (IAPs) to key stakeholders to strengthen ownership amongst stakeholders, assure adoption by political players and foster a smooth transition to its implementation phase. Questions focused on what measure are fitting for which stakeholder group, who are potential troublemakers and how to convince them to back the actions and ideas of our IAPs?

    Articles
    City planning

    Our meeting centred around the “implementability” of our IAPs. This means getting governance structures ready for the kick-start of implementation. And preparing a wide acceptance of the final product of planning to ease implementation and secure acceptance of the IAP and its measures among stakeholders.

    Implementation challenges were subject to the work of the entire first day starting with identifying the top challenges we see at local level: a lack of political support, opposition by stakeholders to the IAP’s actions and resourcing for the delivery of the actions. Amongst many ideas to address these challenges, 3 were present as options for each of them: to use data as evidence to convince stakeholders and political players, to continue applying pilots to showcase the benefits of the actions and to integrate decision makers and stakeholders in the implementation process for a better understanding and a direct influence on the measures’ realisation.

    Certainly, all three challenges and main ideas are connected to a good communication strategy starting with the promotion of our 2-year work’s result: the final IAPs. What better to start with than to see what communication and participation measure fits to which stakeholder group for this? Backed by an adapted stakeholder analysis matrix using the dimensions of importance for approval and implementation as well as level of interactivity for promotional measures, 3 main “stakeholder group – promotion activity” couples got identified:

    • To address political decision makers with more static measures like official presentations, visualisations, executive brochures, and adoption ceremonies
    • To address retailers, gastronomy, businesses with interactive and integrative measures like community councils, pilot activities and participatory projects
    • To address citizens and residents as well with interactive and integrative measures like street stalls, citizen projects and exhibitions

    But how can these activities look in detail to get to the objective of ownership, acceptance, and adoption of the IAPs? We decided to take a look into the future and employed our own version of the “Newspaper of tomorrow” tool for this. Split up in smaller groups, each agreed on a stakeholder group to address, think on the challenges we might meet with this one, ideate promotional activities to use for counteracting these and finally create an article on how all of this worked out successfully.

    Two of our groups focused on retailers and gastronomy as a potential driver to oppose restrictive measures to access by car in their shop’s streets. The main elements how they got convinced to back the measure were

    • a visualisation event to showcase possible change scenarios,
    • influence on the design changes to the street,
    • the use of pilots to allow retail and gastronomy to make their own experiences,
    • a well working coordination with administration safeguarding a quick and cooperative implementation without much impact on their business.

    A third group selected the target group of pupils and parents as key actors in working for a modal shift from car-based to sustainable school trips. The main elements how to get specifically parents backing the plan used an approach addressing them through their children by e. g.

    • school yard design activities with pupils following a tactical urbanism approach
    • festivals and games directed to test walking, cycling or PT use to school
    • guidance and argumentation on the benefits of a safe and healthy school trip

    The results of the work exercise are now used to elaborate promotional activities for the set objectives and planned measures in our efforts to finalise our IAPs!

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  • Kvietimas teikti projektų paraiškas migrantų įtraukties didinimo iniciatyvų įgyvendinimui

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    15/11/2022
    Re-Generation alludes at the challenge to implement urban transformation shifting the attention to existing social and built capital, mobilizing human components and competences able to regenerate urban quality and economies. It suggests the necessary continuity between generations, in terms of knowledge exchange and strategic visioning. Furthermore, it implies the necessary regeneration of policy, management and financial models to make action viable and effective .
    Articles
    City planning

    Daugiau informacijos rasite Europos Tarybos plėtros banko svetainėje: https://coebank.org/en/tenders/

    Paraiškų pateikimo terminas yra 2022 m. liepos 19 d. 18.00 (CET).

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  • Greening as a pathway to resilience in urban areas

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    15/11/2022

    Leafy places in cities can greatly improve health and happiness. But here’s the thing: green isn’t always good for everyone.

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    City planning

    Most people now agree that green is good for health and resilience. Greening urban areas and connecting them to water, or ’blue’ areas, is high on the agenda in most towns and cities. Yet, says URBACT Programme Expert Iván Tosics, even this seemingly self-evident issue is not without contradictions. In this article, he looks beyond the general “green is good” statement and finds a more nuanced picture.

     

    It has been said many times, almost to the point of banality, that during Covid times, the demand for outdoor activites grew dramatically, leading to a marked increase in the use of parks and outdoor spaces. We all saw this in our cities in Europe. However, this did not necessarily happen to the same extent everywhere in the world. There is an interesting website, based on Google data, showing how the number of visitors to parks and outdoor spaces has changed compared to the selected baseline period, January 2020. Although it is not easy to interpret the data due to factors such as seasonal differences between North and South, we can hypothesise that in Europe and the global North, green areas were able to meet the increase in demand more easily, being generally more secure and better maintained than those in many parts of the global South.

    There are many good summaries about the immediate, easy-to-reach interventions by cities as a reaction to Covid – see for example my article on temporary interventions in the use of public spaces, such as closing streets and creating pop-up bike lanes, or encouraging street play. Key questions discussed in this article are: what kind of tactical interventions into greening are observable? And how can these be turned into long-term, strategic programmes, avoiding potential pitfalls?

    Many people think that all greening efforts are good for the wellbeing of citizens in general, and their health in particular. However, it is necessary to go beyond this cliché, understanding the different ways to implement the greening of cities, highlighting the efforts made to achieve synergy with other aspects of sustainable and resilient development, and calling attention to potential unwanted externalities of greening projects – among which the most important is the potential increase in socio-spatial differentiation through gentrification.

    Types and benefits of green places

    Owen Douglas, of the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly in Ireland, listed the benefits of green spaces in his presentation at the URBACT Health&Greenspace Academy in December 2020. These include: enabling physical activities; improving mental well-being; supporting social interactions; and reducing environmental risks of air pollution and extreme weather events.

    Green infrastructure planning can do a lot to mitigate stressful city life in compact cities, with strategically planned networks of natural and semi-natural areas, and creating new green and ‘blue’ spaces – areas of water. To achieve that, green infrastructure planning has to be multifunctional, including a diversity of green elements, such as: large natural areas as hubs; forests and parks as green parcels; smaller private gardens, playgrounds, roadside greenery, or green roofs as individual elements; corridors connecting the hubs, parcels and elements; and finally land use buffers, as transition areas, separating dense urban spaces from the suburbs.

    In another presentation at the December 2020 URBACT Health&Greenspace Academy, Eduarda Marques da Costa, of the University of London, listed different types of green space interventions, from overarching development of new neighbourhoods through regeneration of residential areas and brownfield areas, including smaller-scale improvements to public spaces and support for urban gardening.

    Innovative greening examples

    Let us see now a few examples of the different types of greening interventions and their potential consequences.

    Certain European cities have conducted large projects of strategic importance to improve sustainability and resilience.

    Barcelona, Parc de les Glories (photo by Iván Tosics, November 2021)

    Barcelona (ES) provides an excellent example, with its efforts to renaturalise the densely built-up city. One of the emblematic projects is the rebuilding of the Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes: besides the demolition of the elevated roundabout for cars and the building of a new High Speed Train station, a large new park is being erected under the motto of renaturalisation.

    Utrecht (NL) has put re-canalisation into the core of its urban development strategy. Forty years after the historic mistake of converting the canal that encircled Utrecht’s old town into a 12-lane motorway, in 2020, the city opened the canal back up again. The restoration of the waterway was the central piece of the 2002 referendum in which residents voted for a city-centre master plan with the aim to replace roads with water. With the reopening of the Catharijnesingel, Utrecht’s inner city is again surrounded by water and greenery rather than asphalt and car traffic.

    Paris (FR) has undergone large changes since the election of Mayor Anne Hidalgo in 2014. One of the key elements of the changes towards more sustainable urban development is the permanent pedestrianisation of roads along the river Seine and certain canals, which made the access to waterfront areas much easier.

    Another pathway towards more sustainability is to renovate, animate, and improve the safety of existing green areas. A prime example of this is the case of Bryant park in New York (US). This was one of the no-go areas of the city, getting the nickname 'Needle Park' in the 1970s because of the large number of drug addicts who frequented it. Changes started in 1988 with an extensive renovation of the park, including radical physical restructuring of the area, making the green space attractive, transparent and lively, clearing areas to let in light, installing many moveable chairs, and creating coffee places. The park has been transformed from an insecure to a lovely space. 

    2010-04-25-breda-by-RalfR-09

    Breda, Valkenberg Park

    A similar story is the redesign of the Valkenberg Park in Breda (NL) to improve safety, presented at the URBACT Health&Greenspace Academy in October 2021 by David Louwerse, project manager, Municipality of Tilburg.

    The most common greening interventions in European cities are smaller interventions, such as creating urban gardens, or greening streets and rooftops. An article by Tamás Kállay, Lead Expert of the URBACT Health&Greenspace network, gives a good overview of such initiatives. He mentiones Tartu (EE), where “meadow boxes were placed on the road. A beach bar was opened, and the street section accommodated also an outdoor reading room, a market, picnic tables, an outdoor cinema, and various programs”. Another example from the Health&Greenspace network is Poznań (PL), where “as part of a pilot activity natural playgrounds were created in the yards of several kindergartens providing direct contact with nature and supporting creative play”.

    Such examples demonstrate that “… small green space interventions, both physical changes and social activities can trigger a massive change and lead to larger actions promoting positive health outcomes.” This conclusion is further supported by another URBACT article, arguing for the importance of walking, not only in shopping streets, but also across all neighbourhoods – including ‘consumption-free’ areas.

    Besides punctual interventions, many cities aim to ensure fair distribution of green across the whole city and to connect green areas into networks. Poznań is good example for the latter, aiming to protect the green belt around the city from real estate development and urban sprawl, while also increasing forest cover within the city boundaries and preserving and improving existing parks and green spaces.

    Changing people's mindset and reorganising the structure of local government

    Hegyvidék, district 12 of Budapest, Lead Partner of Health&Greenspace, provides innovative examples of public spaces being improved and used more frequently thanks to new ideas, rather than concrete physical greening interventions. In order to change people's mindset, the “…municipality identified ‘green prescription’ as an appropriate tool for linking cardiac rehabilitation with the Active Hegyvidék program. Green prescription is a written advice of a health professional to a patient to participate in some sort of nature-based activity.”

    Hegyvidék is also pioneering an institutional restructuring of the the municipality, creating a so-called Green office. Changes can also be achieved without reorganising the municipality. For example, the URBACT network UrbSecurity presents an Urban Planning Game where Leiria’s municipal technicians develop step-by-step new approaches to increase the security of public spaces in the city. Cities can also use nudging techniques to influence behaviour, as many of the publications of Pieter Raymaekers (Leuven) show.

    The positive effects of greening and their link to urban planning

    Another URBACT network, Healthy Cities, focuses on including health considerations systematically into urban planning. To make this easier, a new tool has been developed, enabling users to quickly assess the health impact of their whole urban plan, and see how small adjustments could make a big difference to the lives of local people. This Healthy Cities Generator is a practical planning tool designed to give actionable indicators for anyone looking to integrate health into planning. It is based on a systematic review of scientific peer-reviewed publications linking urban determinants and their impact on health, through which the tool automatically calculates the health impact of urban planning actions.

    The integration of green considerations into planning can best be achieved by regulating the access to green areas at metropolitan level – this proved to be very useful during the Covid pandemic in those urban areas, where metropolitan coordination was strong enough.

    A word of caution: potential dangers of greening interventions

    Against all good will, greening interventions can also have negative effects, if not applied in an integrated manner, without creating synergies with other aspects of development.  

    Greening usually goes well with sustainable urban mobility interventions. When regenerating public spaces, areas taken away from cars can give place to green elements, for example changing motorways into urban boulevards with trees, pedestrianising streets, turning parking spaces into ‘parklets’ with moveable plant pots. However, if large green developments are concentrated in peripheral areas of cities that are difficult to access by public transport, they can easily result in increased car use. In a broader sense, this is a danger in all green developments that create large spatial imbalances in cities, i.e. new green areas far away from many residents who would like to use them.

    When managed in the right way, greening can have very important social advantages: it is a good tool to better involve disadvantaged groups into society. Greening can help the social involvement of the elderly and school children – see for example the OASIS project, converting schoolyards into green cooling islands in Paris. Even so, the biggest danger of greening interventions lies in their negative social externalities, through the gentrification process.

    Gentrification can take various forms. The direct form is the regeneration of socially contested areas into high-quality neighbourhoods. If no parallel efforts are made to support disadvantaged groups, the outcome will be socially unacceptable: pushing out disadvantaged social groups to other parts of the city. I described this process in an earlier article, on the case of Teleki tér, Budapest (HU), comparing this one-sided, gentrifying regeneration to the more integrated approach used in the case of Helmholtz square, Berlin (DE). The latter, through ongoing social assistance, is much closer to the URBACT-supported integrated approach, despite the fact that participative planning was also applied in the Budapest case. 

    Budapest, Teleki square with fences around, 2015.
    Source: www.hvg.hu

    Berlin, Helmholtz square, 2015.
    Source: Imre Pákozdi

    A more common and less direct form of gentrification prevails through the increase of property values and rents in areas of improving quality of life, for example due to green interventions, which leads to the gradual displacement of people of lower socio-economic status. This well-known market mechanism can be kept under control with public regulations on rents, housing allowances and/or maintaining a substantial share of publicly owned housing. Unfortunately, such public interventions to control gentrification are rarely applied (or even considered) along with urban greening.

    Greening is an essential form of environmental intervention. The principle of integrated development requires a certain balance between economic, environmental and social aspects of development. This, however, is not easy to achieve, even in cases when there is strong determination to keep the balance. The comparison of two European cities, developing new ecological areas, illustrates the difficulties, showing how overly strong insistence on high environmental standards might lead to the deterioration of social goals, if public resources are limited. If greening aspects are given preference over social protection aspects, the outcome is again gentrification, against the original will of the politicians.

    Vienna, Aspern Seestadt, 2018. Source: Iván Tosics

    Stockholm, Hammarby Sjöstad, 2006. Source: Iván Tosics

    This article aimed to show that greening is usually a very advantageous aspect of urban development. However, certain dilemmas and potential pitfalls must be taken into account when planning green policies and interventions. With careful procedures, including green infrastructure planning as part of an integrated vision, and measuring the green and social outcomes of all investments, these pitfalls can be avoided.

    Come and meet us!

    This topic will be discussed at the upcoming URBACT City Festival on 15 June 2022 in a session titled ‘Greening as pathway to urban well-being and resilience’. The session will feature good practices from three URBACT Action Planning Networks, Health&Greenspace, Healthy Cities, and UrbSecurity.

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  • Covid walks, societal change, and rethinking public spaces

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    15/11/2022

    Take a stroll through the solutions URBACT towns and cities are finding to ensure shared spaces meet citizens’ evolving needs.

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    City planning

     

    The Covid-19 pandemic has created temporary but also permanent societal changes. How can cities manage these changes and remain resilient? Lilian Krischer, National URBACT Point for Germany and Austria, explores how increased strolling in pandemic times has influenced public space, and how four URBACT networks are working together with citizens to adapt and ensure public spaces meet our needs.

     

     

    Strolling in times of the pandemic creates space for fleeting encounters

    Urban everyday life in times of the pandemic © Lilian Krischer

    For urban sociology as well as urban planning, it is clear that people's practices determine public space. So far, much focus has been on people's “quality of stay” in these spaces. But movement, such as strolling, is also relevant: and this became very clear during the pandemic.

    After strict Covid-19 lockdown rules prohibited many leisure activities, and even – temporarily – stopping in public spaces, many people discovered the benefits of strolling as a rare window to urban life. It was not only an opportunity to meet people at a distance, thus reducing risks of infection. It was also a way to see unknown people in the city – and to be seen oneself! Closely related to this was a new awareness of other people. In Germany, in order to keep the required distance of one and a half metres, even on narrow streets, people deliberately dodged each other. These moments of interaction, through eye contact, turned public space into a space of fleeting encounters. It is this kind of societal change that cities must respond to in order to remain resilient and attractive for their people.

    New hybrid forms of urban interaction

    What is interesting here is that this type of urban interaction in public space does not fit into classical categories. It sits somewhere between face-to-face encounters where people stop still in order to enter into dialogue with each other, and indifference and anonymity where people walk past each other, ignoring each other. For many, the possibility of these fleeting encounters based on an attentiveness to others was an important reason for strolling during Covid. This new form of urban behaviour should be taken into account in the future planning of public space.

    URBACT networks helping design public space according to people's needs

    Arad in Romania shows how important it is to ask citizens about their needs © Space4People / URBACT

    In order to make a city resilient, these societal changes must be perceived and addressed. If cities want to react quickly to societal changes and to adopt urban governance according to the citizens’ needs, they have to watch and listen closely and engage with diverse local interests.

    This is where URBACT, its method and its networks come in. Cities in the Action Planning Network Space4People, for example, have set themselves the task of designing attractive public spaces for diverse user groups by focusing on walkability, quality of stay, mix of functions and interchanges, and parking management. The cities of Arad in Romania and Guía de Isora in Spain have shown how important it is to ask citizens about their needs. It became clear in Arad, for example, that citizens want a continuous pedestrian zone in their city centre, while in Guía de Isora they would like more cycle paths and recreational spaces for young people. Being flexible and trying out new ideas also proved successful.

    Network partner Saint-Germain-en-Laye in France tried expanding its pedestrian zone in Covid-19 times, providing safe outdoor space to move around, and helping reach pedestrianisation objectives faster. Furthermore, they redesigned the public space with flowerpots, bicycle stands and more space for gastronomy. Surveys showed the approach was successful in regaining people's trust in public space.

    In order to build on their experiences of these practices, Space4People, together with the URBACT networks RiConnect and Thriving Streets, launched the exchange platform #WalkandRollCities on the topics of mobility and public space.

    Identifying current social processes for demand-oriented design of public space

    Another URBACT network that shows how important it is to observe the dynamics of public space and then adapt it to the needs of the people is Genderedlandscape. This Action Planning Network seeks to create an understanding of the city as a place where gendered power structures are always present, and develop locally contextualised tools and approaches to promote gender equality in urban policies, planning, and services.

    They demonstrate this approach using the Place du Panthéon in Paris, France. From this square, a symbolic inscription is visible on the stonework of the Pantheon, "aux grands hommes, la patrie reconnaissante": “to great men, the grateful nation”. The project partners noticed that there were fewer women than men using the space. One reason proposed was that the large area did not offer a real place of retreat – each person was very visible.

    With this data coming from close observation, the Genderedlandscape network implemented its measures: Diverse seating options were placed so that people could sit together in different situations. In addition, names of various female artists, but also queer artists and those with different cultural backgrounds, were inscribed on the benches. In this way, women became more involved in the use of the place, as well as in its representation.

    Place du Panthéon in Paris with different seating options © Genderedlandscape / URBACT

    Let citizens design public space themselves

    Next to designing public space for the people, it is also important to let them do it themselves. This bottom-up approach is evident in the Urban Innovative Action (UIA) and URBACT network CO4CITIES. It promotes the co-management of urban commons by the municipality and citizens’ organisations. Talking about urban commons, the city is understood as a platform that can be used and improved by citizens from all backgrounds and social statuses.

    This urban commons approach can be purposeful in the design of public space, as it is the people who use the public space who understand what the places – and they themselves – need. For this, it is important that a change of mentality takes place, both in municipalities and in non-profit organisations. Cities can benefit when public administrations give up their authoritarian role, allowing citizens more freedom, and the third sector learns to take more decisions for itself.

    One city that is starting to apply this approach in the context of public space is CO4CITIES partner Budapest, Hungary. The city authorities cooperate with civil society organisations and residents to discuss current priorities in the renewal of public space, and future approaches to co-management and co-creation.

    Designing public spaces that adapt to change

    The URBACT Playful Paradigm network is a good example of cities reacting to global challenges including those that emerged during Covid-19. In this network, gamification is used as an innovative concept to promote not only urban spaces, but also social inclusion, healthy lifestyles, energy awareness, intergenerational and cultural mediation, place-making and economic prosperity.

    People playing in Udine, Italy © Playful Paradigm / URBACT

    Partners in the first Playful Paradigm network, in 2018-2020, found that people need colourful, green, safe and comfortable public spaces that are free and open for children, young people and adults to play. These lessons learnt, and the consequences of Covid-19, led to a new edition of Playful Paradigm. The new project uses playful methods to look particularly at gender issues, intergenerational approaches, older people or people with chronic diseases, and adolescents, to re-think urban spaces and address specific health challenges, such as the prevention of loneliness and isolation.

    One module of the network deals with play for sustainable urban regeneration. The aim is to find out what possibilities games offer for re-thinking urban public spaces. In doing so, it builds on the experience of its first edition with the Ludobus initiative and the Playmaking project. The Ludobus is a bus in Udine, Italy, where residents can borrow games to play outdoors. The bus drives to different public places, according to demand.

    The Playmaking project in Udine and in Cork, Ireland, was about testing play as a method of placemaking. During the pandemic, when public space was already perceived in a new way, cities tested a playful festival and pop-up play events on streets closed for traffic. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and people were happy to use the street for play. These practices help to transform the pandemic’s fleeting encounters into a more classical understanding of public space, a connectedness or “positive proximity” as URBACT Lead Expert Wessel Badenhorst calls it with reference to the author Dar Williams.

    Resilient public spaces and strolling in them beyond the pandemic

    Discovering small details of the city while strolling © Lilian Krischer

    It has become clear that a city and its public spaces are only resilient if they adapt to new societal behaviour and structures, such as increased strolling during a pandemic. The URBACT networks presented above address this challenge accordingly and all engage in improving public spaces together with the people. They identify social dynamics and adapt to the needs of the people, to change or even let the people themselves adapt their urban spaces.

    But what about beyond the pandemic?  Cities will still need public spaces for walking. To create more space for pedestrians, temporary street closures offer the opportunity to explore street spaces that are otherwise occupied by traffic. But, as many URBACT cities have discovered, there should also be more permanent spaces for walking. In addition to shopping streets in city and district centres, these walking spaces should be evenly distributed across all neighbourhoods – including ‘consumption-free’ areas.

    Furthermore, the mixed use of the streets is relevant here. People like to walk where they can see people, but also have interesting surroundings to discover. Monofunctional shopping streets are counterproductive for this. A mixture of different uses initiated by the cultural and creative industries, gastronomy, educational institutions, and communities, creates varied, attractive street spaces that also encourage walking.

    URBACT and the URBACT method help cities to adapt actively to societal change and create needs-based spaces for, and with, the people who use them. The programme acts as a catalyst by developing processes and tools that decision-makers, city practitioners and citizens can use to help shape new models of local governance. The process of continuous exchange between different European cities and the bottom-up approach are particular success factors on this path.

     

    Further reading

    Walk and Roll Cities: a transformation towards people-centred streets: meet the URBACT cities exploring links between mobility and public space to promote sustainable, inclusive, attractive urban areas.

    Join URBACT #WalkAndRollCities on LinkedIn to discover more innovative ideas on improving mobility and public spaces in towns and cities across the EU – and meet partners of the URBACT networks Space4People, Thriving Streets, and RiConnect.

     

    Cover photo: ©Lilian Krischer

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  • Walk and Roll Cities: a transformation towards people-centred streets

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    15/11/2022

    Meet the URBACT cities exploring links between mobility and public space to promote sustainable, inclusive, attractive urban areas.

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    City planning

    In recent decades, mobility in cities has become strongly dominated by cars. The moving and parking of quickly expanding numbers of cars led to the shrinkage of public space available for residents.

    In order to reverse the dominance of cars, since the 2010s many European cities have started to explore new measures to deter the use and storing of cars on streets, and support alternative uses of public spaces. Three ongoing URBACT Action Planning Networks address these issues: Space4People, concentrating on parking management and pedestrianisation; Thriving Streets, on streets as public spaces and placemaking; and RiConnect, dealing with the links between regional and local aspects of mobility infrastructures.

    Under the banner of #WalkAndRollCities, these three URBACT city networks decided to set up a collaboration to explore the links between mobility and transport and public space use, and collect good practices on progressive changes in cities. Set to run until summer 2022, their joint activities include a series of three seminars, and a LinkedIn group for case studies and debates.

    The first URBACT #WalkAndRollCities webinar

    The first webinar of this collaboration was held on 29 November 2021. In his keynote presentation, Tiago Lopes Farias, CEO at CARRIS – the Lisbon Municipal Bus and Tram Operator, and associate professor at Instituto Superior Técnico, University of Lisbon (PT), highlighted Lisbon’s main efforts. The starting point was the strengthening of powers at metropolitan level – stretching over 18 municipalities, and 2.9 million people, only 0.5 million of whom live in Lisbon itself. This enabled new efforts to streamline the public transport system across the whole metropolitan area, starting with a ticketing reform to introduce a new, integrated tariff model. This was followed by efforts to establish a joint public transport company for the whole area.

    Cities from the URBACT networks Space4People, Thriving Streets, and RiConnect have been sharing their experiences of strengthening urban sustainability by giving more ground to active mobility modes and enhancing the people-friendly use of public spaces. Here are a few interesting examples presented during the recent webinar. (See the #WalkAndRollCities LinkedIn group for more details.)

    Arad (RO) implemented pilot pedestrian interventions on one of the main boulevards of the city. The majority of people supported the idea to expand walking areas, mainly as a leisure form, especially on weekends or during warmer weather. The city recognised the importance of building trust through active communication, complemented by delivery, in the form of pilot interventions.

    Bielefeld (DE) focused on parking management, to give public space back to people, reducing street parking and changing vehicle access regulations to the city centre. The five-month period of idea raising was followed by a five-month-long testing phase, during which opinions about the pilot projects were collected. The process will end with a four-month evaluation and decision-making phase.

    Nova Gorica: removing a car, installing a kiosk

    Nova Gorica (SI) aimed to restructure a square in the historic core area of the city by removing parking spaces while installing a pop-up kiosk to enhance public activities – as shown in the photo. A detailed insight into the issue of space only became possible when the vision-building period was followed with a concrete action, making the idea visible for residents. The pilot intervention sparked heavy debates between residents, which led to further changes being made.

    Antwerp (BE) wanted to stimulate change in a peripheral neighbourhood where the share of younger people, preferring bikes instead of car use, is increasing. The temporary installations of the city, aiming to create more space for pedestrians and slow down car traffic, however, were not prepared and discussed properly. The municipality has learnt a lot from this failed experiment: how temporary interventions should be prepared; what needs have to be taken into account; and how important it is to engage residents fully in discussions, by municipal employees who get enough resources to organise that.

    The Métropole du Grand Paris (FR) is aiming to calm traffic on a four-lane national road running through the centre of a peripheral municipality. The attempts to ‘localise’ the road by creating new crossings and green spaces will hopefully incentivise private actors to invest in housing and prompt the regeneration of heritage buildings. For the idea to succeed, coordination between different levels of governance is of crucial importance.

    Transport for Greater Manchester (UK) aims for similar interventions in a peripheral sub-centre of the Greater Manchester metropolitan area. The aim is to ‘humanise’ the entry area of a motorway by improving the crossings, creating streets for all, and introducing a quality bus service. Manchester hopes that this will lead to longer-term changes in the mobility behaviour of local residents.

    Then came COVID

    All these efforts in URBACT cities started a few years ago. Then suddenly, in March 2020, Covid-19 hit. The quickly introduced lockdown measures brought dramatic changes in the first months, which planners couldn’t have dreamt of earlier: huge decreases in car use, alongside much more intensive use of public spaces. In some cases, areas originally used by cars were even ‘stolen’ for temporary measures.

    A few months later, however, a very unfortunate rearrangement started: the use of cars increased again, and in many cities reached higher levels than before the pandemic – not least because people continued to avoid public transport. As a result, pressure was growing to eliminate new measures favouring walking and cycling in cities. Municipalities now face the dilemma of how to react to the anger of car drivers while listening to the (often less well-articulated) opinion of pedestrians and cyclists who are satisfied with the public places which were expanded for their use.

    In Budapest, one of the newly installed bike lanes had to be redirected to the pavement in order to give back partially a lane to car drivers.

    Claus Köllinger, Lead Expert of the Space4People network, told the URBACT #WalkAndRollCities webinar: “Due to increasing car use, if nothing changes in centres, depopulation and retail extinction can happen. There are many alternative futures for central areas possible, such as Disneyland, large gastronomy bars, entertainment centres, or good mix of different functions. Wise interventions are needed to favour the last option, and this requires to push back car access to the central areas.”

    Positive visions for mobility and public space use in the post-Covid city

    Over the course of the webinar, important statements were articulated towards a positive vision for the post-Covid city. As Béla Kézy, Lead Expert of the Thriving Streets network, said: “Mobility – how far you can go in a given amount of time – should be replaced by Access – how much you can get in a given amount of time. The '15-minute city’ idea aims to provide access instead (or besides) mobility, for which you need proximity, diversity, density, ubiquity.”

    There are no standard solutions for changing existing neighbourhoods along these principles; the concrete needs of people always have to be studied and understood first. It might be useful to ease strict zoning regulations – such as allowing a café to open in a residential area – and handing over places to community functions, for example opening up existing public buildings in the evenings and putting in new community buildings wherever possible.

    Rebuilding a transfer station area

    Roland Krebs, Lead Expert of the RiConnect network, emphasised the need for integrated solutions. He said: “Old infrastructures, which were once in the centre of activities, are overdone by new layers, totally changing the earlier important places, making these peripheral and through-locations. Over time, transfer places become monofunctional, losing identity and human scale. The task is to re-arrange earlier-built infrastructures by new uses, urban intensification and urban regeneration, assuring more mixed functions than just stations for exchange between mobility modes. In peripheral areas, all this needs strong multi-level government cooperation.”

    In his keynote address, Tiago Lopes Farias addressed the question of how to build on the pandemic-created momentum of changes towards less car dominant mobility and public space use, by raising new aspects for consideration:

    1. Customer needs and mobility patterns will change due to teleworking, e-commerce, growing expectations of customers due to accelerated digitalisation, increased attention to the ’local’ (15-minute city), safety concerns.

    2. New mobility players are coming in, and an innovative and dynamic ecosystem will be built up, based on more electrified, shared technologies. All these need space and raise the challenge of how they can be connected.

    3. All this leads to the scarcity of space: how to better manage urban space and mobility services towards more sustainable cities. Where to put the bike-share rack, the e-roller rack within the same physical space? To whom to give parking space: residents, long-term visitors, loading of goods? But first other questions have to be asked: is the space for parking, or a bus lane, or pedestrians…?

    4. Added to all that, there is a growing pressure to reduce our carbon footprint. In Lisbon, the bus fleet will be zero emission by 2040… the first 15 electric buses are already running, but depos also have to be changed…

    Tiago Lopes Farias said: “We need to change, adapt how we live, plan, manage our lives. This means that also mobility patterns have to be changed. But it should be ensured that public transport remains the backbone of urban mobility, and that cities remain the centres of urban areas.”

    Serious barriers endangering sustainability changes

    The first webinar of URBACT Walk And Roll Cities ended with an emphasis on the need to connect changes in mobility and public space use to each other. The leading role has to be played by the public sector, based on the cooperation of municipalities in the metropolitan areas, in partnership with private actors and in active consultation with the population.

    It is, however, not at all easy to reach the envisioned changes. There are already signs in many cities of an approaching financial austerity, which would heavily affect services, public transport amongst the first. If the next decision has to be about which line to shut down or how to save money by decreasing the frequency of services, little room will remain for innovative ideas about the future. Thus, financing and resourcing of mobility services is one of the most important questions for the near future. This will be the topic of the next URBACT #WalkAndRollCities webinar, planned for the first quarter of 2022.

    All the materials of the first webinar will be available on the URBACT Walk And Roll Cities LinkedIn group, open to all. Join up to discover new information about Walk And Roll Cities, and contribute with innovative ideas for improving mobility and public space in towns and cities across the EU.

    You can also donwload the PowerPoint presentation on the event's page.

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  • Nový mestský plán nákladnej dopravy: inšpiratívny príklad z mesta Umeå (Švédsko)

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    15/11/2022
    CIA 7 is a network of European cities, funded by the European Union in the frame of the URBACT III Programme. The CIA 7 partners have a common need to improve the implementation of their existing integrated urban strategies or action plans under Article 7 of the ERDF regulation. New tools of implementation and funding of interlinked actions for integrated urban development have been introduced. Managing Authorities and cities need to act as partners to fulfil the objectives developed in the Operational Programmes. Innovative approaches of multilevel governance and co-operation have to be applied and shared. The step from planning to implementation and funding with shared responsibilities is a joint policy challenge the partners of the CIA 7 URBACT Implementation Network are exploring.
    Articles
    City planning

    „Umeå má problém s kvalitou ovzdušia v centre mesta – toto bol východiskový bod pre našu prácu s nákladnou dopravou a náš vstup pre zapojenie sa do OP URBACT,“ spomína Lina Samuelsson, projektová manažérka v meste Umeå. Mesto v priebehu dvoch rokov spolupracovalo s deviatimi partnerskými mestami v rámci siete Freight TAILS a vypracovalo jednoznačný integrovaný plán: „Program nákladnej dopravy pre centrum mesta Umeå 2018 – 2025“, ktorý získal úplnú podporu mestského zastupiteľstva. „Dnes máme program, ktorý uľahčuje prijímanie správnych rozhodnutí týkajúcich sa nákladnej dopravy v meste Umeå. Program slúži celému mestu, všetkým našim obyvateľom, návštevníkom a ľuďom, ktorí tu pracujú alebo sa v budúcnosti zamestnajú v odvetví dopravy,“ hovorí Samuelsson.

    Demystifikácia miestnych záujmov
    Dopravcovia, obyvatelia, miestna samospráva, dodávatelia, podniky, prenajímatelia, výrobcovia vozidiel,... – takéto zložité záujmy bránili plánovaniu budúcnosti nákladnej dopravy v meste Umeå. Pre jednotlivcov problém nákladnej dopravy nie je komplexný, takže bolo zložité porozumieť riešeniam, komunikovať o nich a dohodnúť sa na nich. Po vstupe do OP URBACT mesto Umeå založilo miestnu skupinu URBACT, ktorá spája relevantných ľudí s cieľom identifikovať hlavné výzvy týkajúce sa nákladnej dopravy vrátane nebezpečného nakladania a vykladania tovarov na uliciach, znečistenia ovzdušia hluku, neregulovaného systému dodávok a komplexného zberu odpadu. Okrem iného mesto vypracovalo správu o aktuálnom stave, ktorá tvorí základ pre nový program nákladnej dopravy a je v súlade s rozvojovými stratégiami mesta. „Naša miestna skupina URBACT bola veľmi dôležitou podporou pri poskytovaní informácií, vstupov a údajov, ktoré sme využili pri vypracovaní správy o stave mesta,“ hovorí pani Samuelsson „V budúcnosti bude miestna skupina URBACT jedným z najdôležitejších partnerov pri plnení cieľov Programu nákladnej dopravy v meste Umeå.“ „Mesto Umeå malo skúsenosti s uvažovaním o vzťahu medzi nákladnou dopravou a maloobchodom,“ vysvetľuje URBACT vedúci expert – Philip Stein, „ale žiadne skutočné znalosti o tom, ako sa s tým vyrovnať v kontexte mesta – neboli schopní spojiť sa s odvetviami, napríklad s prevádzkovateľmi nákladnej dopravy. Nakoniec boli jedným z najúspešnejších pri získavaní politikov na svoju stranu“.

                            


                                 Program mesta Umeå pre nákladnú dopravu spoluvytvárali Lisa Persson a Lina Samuelsson

    Spustenie integrovaného plánu nákladnej dopravy
    Mesto Umeå začalo s realizáciou nového programu nákladnej dopravy. Lisa Persson z oddelenia dopravného plánovania, ulíc a parkov mesta Umeå pripravuje „kontrolný zoznam pre nákladnú dopravu“, ktorý bude základom rozhodovania pri plánovaní rozhodnutí a príprave brožúry pre dopravcov. Čoskoro budú monitorované nakladacie priestory v centre mesta, aby sa lepšie rozhodlo o ich budúcom umiestnení. Budúce aktivity zahŕňajú požiadavky na obstarávanie podporujúce tichú, energeticky hospodárnu mestskú dopravu, zlepšenia dodávok v zónach s obmedzeným vjazdom vrátane fyzického riešenia priestorov a návrhu trás. Odrážajúc rozmanitosť zainteresovaných subjektov, táto práca si vyžaduje zapojenie rôznych odborov mestského úradu, od územného plánovania a obstarávania až po ochranu životného prostredia a zdravia, ale zároveň aj majiteľov obchodov, dopravcov, komunálnej organizácie zaoberajúcej sa odpadom a vodou a ďalších. Plán nákladnej dopravy zahŕňa štyri realistické „ukazovatele“, merajúce miestne názory, prítomnosť nákladných vozidiel na uliciach, počet úmrtí a vážnych zranení spôsobených nákladnými vozidlami a podiel ťažkých vozidiel, ktoré rešpektujú ekologické zónové obmedzenia vjazdu. Aj keď je URBACT sieť Freight TAILS už na konci, zdá sa, že Umeå bude mať chuť aj naďalej budovať medziodvetvové a participatívne projekty.

              

     

                Umeå: chodci, cyklisti... a zásobovanie

    Medzimestské vzdelávanie
    Medzi nástroje OP URBACT patrilo aj cvičenie „projekcia zla“ s cieľom identifikovať potenciálne úskalia a možnosti, ako sa im vyhnúť s pomocou od nadnárodných kolegov. V prípade mesta Umeå išlo o „nízky záujem participácie v miestnej skupine URBACT“ a „ťažkosti s politickým vedením, ktoré nebolo vždy presvedčené o význame a dôležitosti strategickej práce s nákladnou dopravou“. Hlavne z tohto dôvodu sme sa rozhodli od začiatku projektu zapojiť do procesu aj politikov. Schéma získala širokú podporu a dvaja členovia mestského zastupiteľstva sa zúčastnili aj na záverečnej konferencii siete v Splite (Chorvátsko). „Naši politici v mestskom zastupiteľstve diskutujú o nákladnej doprave – nepamätám si, kedy sa to naposledy stalo. Je to výborné!“ hovorí Samuelsson. Zo všetkých užitočných výmen s partnerskými mestami v rámci URBACT siete Freight TAILS pani Samuelsson vyzdvihuje mesto Maastricht (Holandsko):
    „Dostali sme od nich veľa podnetov týkajúcich sa ich práce so zmenou správania ľudí a niektoré ich nápady využijeme v budúcich kampaniach.“ „To, čo mestu Umeå v jeho modeli práce chýbalo, bolo doplnené overenou metódou URBACT. Bolo to ako doplniť chýbajúce kúsky do skladačky,“ hovorí pani Perssonová. „S takou skupinou, akou je miestna skupina URBACT, sme nikdy predtým nepracovali. Niektoré postupy máme podobné, ale overená metóda URBACT ich zdokonalila, zlepšila a urobila ich úspešnejšími.“


                   

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  • SPACE TO COMMUNITIES! A RESILIENCE TEST IN THE CITY OF BARI

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    15/11/2022
    The purpose of this document is to provide a broad overview on the themes of the ReGeneration Implementation Network, including references to reports, policy guidelines and examples of projects that have dealt with similar issues. It is a first draft that needs to be successively completed with the profiles of the cities part of the network, and accordingly tuned with the specific issues deriving by the comparison of their situations and challenges.
    Articles
    City planning

    In particular, the urban development strategy of Bari moved around three pillars:

    • strengthening the role of the 12 city districts as accessible spaces for community development and cultural production, places where to express new ideas of ​​active citizenship;
    • boosting existing and creating new public spaces such as parks, markets, playgrounds, social innovation centres, libraries, kindergartens, schools, by investing in material infrastructures available to local communities and their activities;
    • cultivating skills and networks for the acceleration of local entrepreneurial initiatives, promoted by local and foreign citizens, to gradually support the formation of a neighbourhood entrepreneurial ecosystem, dedicated to social and cultural innovation.

    In this framework of interventions, the “Urban Civic Networks” (Reti Civiche Urbane, or RCU in Italian language) measure represented the system action enabling a coordination of these efforts and the energy of communities. RCU policy has in fact encouraged the creation of 12 permanent consortia in as many city districts, totally bottom-up and autonomously built by neighbourhood committees, schools, civic organizations, NGOs, cultural industries, volunteering associations, churches, willing to co-design and implement some 18-month socio-cultural animation program in their own territory.

    An experiment of civic self-determination, able to assess the will and readiness of the communities to build a shared vision and a working method, based on collaborative values. Such a path allowed Bari to grow a powerful multilevel intangible infrastructure that today directly involves more than 300 organizations and 10,000 people over the 12 districts, thus enabling the City to have 12 stable, locally rooted interlocutors for discussion. The intermediation of RCUs is proving extremely effective in designing common urban transformation strategies, encouraging the emergence of cooperative projects, sharing objectives for the reuse of abandoned public buildings and open spaces, aggregating ideas, needs and skills on a local basis.

    A work that over time has being consolidating in the citizens a strong sense of belonging to the city together with a strong local and community identity, representing a strong point for Bari during the first Covid-19 lockdown. In a pandemic Europe, where the public urban debate stepped back to reflect on the value of proximity, closeness and solidarity, the city of Bari fortunately appeared to have an advantage.

    The RCUs, in fact, immediately reorganized in solidarity, becoming indispensable in the daily actions in their neighbourhood, acting as collective organizations, supporting the needs of the most vulnerable people, facilitating the emergence of spontaneous forms of voluntary proximity. From the experience of RCU, “BARI SOLIDALE” arose: an urban network of 700 volunteers who, during the lockdown, delivered medicine, food and basic necessities to the neediest families in the city, through 10 neighbourhood hubs, created in schools, churches and family centres for storage and distribution.

    Many of the volunteers came from RCU experiences, others from the social and cultural sector, still others from Catholic or environmental activism. Certainly, working overtime on community membership and strengthening the neighbourhood principals has provided the Municipality of Bari the capacity to organize timely responses, especially towards elderly, poor, immigrant and disabled people.

     

    The volunteers, coordinated by the Welfare Department, in addition to distributing goods, stimulated the contributions of local businesses and enterprises, fuelling a virtuous circuit of widespread donations. Thus, Bari experienced an extraordinary proof of activism and subsidiarity, as well as participation, in both social practice and cultural circuits. In fact, during the lockdown emergency, the 12 RCUs, coordinated by the Municipality, transferred most of their cultural programmes and activities to digital platforms, promoting the digital participation of residents and facilitating dialogue between people even at a distance. It was another attempt to continue working on proximity, albeit in different ways, pursued by simply keeping the communities together and providing virtual spaces where they could share and discuss the extraordinary experience they were living.

     

    Although we are all aware of the potential and limitations of digital engagement, especially in term of quality of fruition and accessibility, the digital transition of the RCU practices represented an important resilience experiment for Bari, and particularly a sort of technical test for the local administration, to intensify the principles of active citizenship and participation through a platform and a dedicated digital space.  The “BARI PARTICIPA” web tool was published last June, at the end of the lockdown, to allow citizens to stay in permanent dialogue with the Administration about plans and projects, enabling discussion or applying to manage a public good through the website www.bariinnovazionesociale.it.

    Each city is learning something new and different from its past, struggling to find the right way to continue practicing their values ​​despite the pandemic emergency.  This is why the City’s participation to Com.Unity.Lab, the URBACT transfer network and the model exchange between 8 cities (where Bari works together with Aalborg, Den Haag, Lille, Lisbon, Lublin, Ostrava and Sofia) represent an extraordinary opportunity to consolidate know-how on the subject of social participation under the leading experience of Lisbon.

    Now that the threat of another lockdown is emerging in Italy, citizens are more ready and less afraid of loneliness and exclusion. Despite the limits, the anomalies and the social and economic emergencies that a new lockdown can generate in Bari, they know they belong to a supportive community, ready to intervene and make them participate.

     

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  • Small cities surviving Covid-19: “Without frequent sharing we would have felt more alone”

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    15/11/2022

    Stakeholder engagement, cross-sectoral cooperation, integrated planning – an URBACT recipe for resilience!

     

    Articles
    City planning

    Cities have been using agility, creativity and community spirit to respond to the challenges of Covid-19. Here, we share stories from some of URBACT’s smaller municipalities, where helping residents and businesses through the crisis goes hand-in-hand with sustainable integrated urban development.

     

    With most of Europe’s urban population living in communities of under 100,000 inhabitants, these towns and cities are strongly represented in URBACT networks, some working alongside major metropolises. “If we want small cities to be resilient, they’re going to have to develop confidence and capacity – and that’s where URBACT comes in,” says Wessel Badenhorst, Lead Expert for the URBACT iPlace network. And what a year to put that resilience to the test.

     

    Covid-19 challenges for small cities

     

    Although small cities generally record lower infection rates than their bigger neighbours, the pandemic has exacerbated the economic challenges they were already facing. The burdens of empty town centres, lack of economic mobility, and isolated, ageing populations have worsened, while trading conditions for small and medium enterprises have also been hit by public health measures. Smaller cities whose economies rely predominantly on one activity such as tourism, hospitality, transport or logistics are particularly vulnerable.

     

    To find out how smaller URBACT cities have been surviving Covid-19, we contacted council staff, elected representatives, local group leaders and urban experts in eight EU countries. We discovered significant variations in the impacts of the pandemic – and city reactions – not just due to infection rates, public health measures or budgets, but to a multitude of factors, from economic diversity and main industry to local politics, demographics and geographical location. Levels of digitalisation and integration of local services also affect how each city copes with the crisis.

     

    Despite these differences, four key URBACT principles shine through cities’ Coronavirus responses.

     

    1. Stakeholder and community engagement

     

    Positive relations with citizens and stakeholders have been helping smaller municipalities coordinate responses – a factor strengthened by URBACT Local Groups (ULG). “On one side smaller cities have fewer resources to face this situation. But on the other side, since the community is not as big, it’s easier to get in touch with the stakeholders,” said Daniel Castejón Llorach, from Igualada (ES), whose pandemic experiences we share here.

     

    Community actions have grown in 2020, boosting the “feeling of belonging to our town,” says Alicia Valle, City Council Manager, Viladecans (ES), a change she hopes will last. “Citizens’ solidarity was awakened and we showed the capacity to help and find solidarity with others in situations where we really needed each other.” Initiatives include volunteers supporting older residents, businesses donating equipment, and employment schemes for disinfecting playgrounds. In Fundão (PT), for example, the Professional School joined the Centre for Migration and 30 volunteers to produce masks using donated material.

     

    Smaller councils say good relations with local businesses help provide information, connections and communications support. In the coastal university town of Halmstad (SE), Chief of Staff Anna Wallefors says this has supported “very agile” smaller manufacturers shifting to products such as PPE, hand gel – even Covid-themed t-shirts. Despite this, she says “we’ve been hit hard – it impacts everyone”; unemployment rose from 4-5% to 8-10%. In industrial Gabrovo (BG), where a strong manufacturing base means the economy is not slowing, the city tracked the health of 55 local companies in an online survey, anticipating future employment.

     

    Halmstad - KMB - 16000700003014

    Halmstad is a port city on the Swedish coast with around 100,000 inhabitants – and member of OnBoard network.

     

    Examples of sustainable community responses also include creative outdoor events and active travel in Mantua (IT). Meanwhile, a host of city-run websites linking consumers and producers look set to continue promoting local business while reducing carbon footprints. Medina del Campo’s (ES) eCommerce site ‘Medina Shopping’ has boomed during the pandemic. Viana do Castelo’s (PT) centralised platform ‘Viana Market’ features over 100 retailers, one of many Covid-19 initiatives developed with the agricultural cooperative, local business and digital economy groups.

     

    UBRACT provides a structure and methodology for such stakeholder involvement. For example, in Viladecans, after initial lockdowns in the spring of 2020 the URBACT Local Group met online to plan a response to new education needs. As a result, ULG members – from schools, families, companies, universities and the city’s Educational Innovation Network – started to define an initiative to provide ICT training and support to teachers and families. Viladecans has inspired other cities in the URBACT OnBoard network to explore similar participative approaches. Schools in Halmstad now involve parents, businesses, sports clubs, something the city’s OnBoard coordinator Jonas Åberg says “normally wouldn’t happen at all”.

     

    2. Cooperation across sectors and levels of government

     

    The sort of close links that URBACT encourages between sectors and municipal departments, and with other bodies at local, regional and national levels, are vital to small city resilience. Anna Wallefors says strong cooperation is central to Halmstad’s response, with neighbouring municipalities, the healthcare system, and many local bodies. With just six municipalities in the region, and 10 000 municipal staff, “it’s easier to work together”. 

     

    The regional hospital city of Viladecans relies on “good coordination with the sanitary facilities responsible for managing the pandemic,” says Alicia Valle. The council coordinated a transversal work group including a Viladecans City Council steering group and representatives from the hospital and five geriatric centres. “The evolution of the pandemic was monitored and solutions were sought in addition to sharing protocols and what messages should be spread among citizens.” A similar joint working group for school safety includes people from primary health care centres, the council’s Education department and school educational teams. 

     

    Spain.Catalonia.Viladecans.Ramblas

    Viladecans is a service-based town of around 67,000 residents located 15 km from Barcelona and is Lead Partner of OnBoard.

     

    Meanwhile, in the agricultural Jelgava Local Municipality (LV), Deputy Head of Development Anita Škutāne says: “We use a cross-sectoral approach in our everyday life in the municipality as it proves that you can achieve the result easier and faster when many interested parties or stakeholders come together and look for solutions.” This has underpinned their response to the pandemic, with actions ranging from increased social support, food-package deliveries, and re-employment of cultural workers, to renovating public buildings and spaces while access is restricted.

     

    3. Learning from other cities – URBACT transnational exchanges

     

    “There’s one place where small European cities feel comfortable and where they can learn from each other – and that’s URBACT,” says URBACT Lead Expert Mireia Sanabria. “There are very few other programmes where they can be on a par with bigger cities.”

     

    Most cities in URBACT networks have been able to stay connected during the pandemic, moving their meetings online. Spanning six countries, the URBACT Card4All network’s smart city project promoting digital ‘citizen cards’, is particularly timely. Caterina Fresu, Municipality of Sassari (Sardinia, IT) says her city’s online services are improving as a result: “Through the URBACT programme we had the opportunity to confront our colleagues in partner cities almost every week, sharing problems and solutions and finding common ground. Without this frequent sharing we would certainly have felt more alone in facing an unknown and unpredictable challenge.” Jurmala (LV), for example, shared how their municipality’s citizen card enabled a valuable analysis of public transport use during Covid-19. “Although still in an initial study phase, thanks to Card4all, during the lockdown important steps have been made in activating digital services for citizens in Sassari,” concludes Catarina Fresu.

     

    “The most powerful thing is for people to stay together and overcome challenges together,” says Gabrovo municipality’s Desislava Koleva. With iPlace city partners, Gabrovo explored how to support vitality and re-open economies post-Covid. In Amarante (PT), iPlace project manager and InvestAmarante director Tiago Ferreira says: “Those discussions enriched all the participants. We felt lucky to have this opportunity to share ideas and access a network of support.” Amarante’s small size was “a big advantage” in terms of health. Tourists came back “very fast” in the summer and economic clusters such as metalwork, woodwork and construction remained open.

     

    Amarante, Portugal (6776300885)

    Amarante is a historic city of around 56,000 inhabitants in northern Portugal - and Lead Partner of iPlace.

     

    URBACT’s transnational exchanges are also boosting resilience in Medina del Campo (ES). “Not only thanks to the experience and knowledge of partner cities – which is always helpful,” says ULG coordinator Juan González Pariente, “but thanks to networks with some of these cities which can help Medina to find new employment niches and resources.” For instance, URBACT CityCentreDoctor network led to synergies between Medina del Campo and Amarante’s wine industry, creating new economic opportunities and lasting support.

     

    OnBoard partners agree. In Viladecans, Sara Cerezo, OnBoard project support, says: “Sharing experiences with URBACT partner cities has been truly useful and interesting. Each city had a different approach and different actions.” And for Jonas Åberg of Halmstad, “staying regularly in touch with the URBACT partners, sharing experiences and tips, in online meetings has been really helpful throughout the crisis.”

     

    4. The power of integrated sustainable planning

     

    URBACT improves cities’ capacities to build sustainable Integrated Action Plans (IAPs) – boosting resilience to face unexpected challenges (see Igualada, for example). While some smaller cities have accelerated these plans to strengthen their Coronavirus response, others have been less lucky. Hoogeveen (NL) was reviving its town centre with local stakeholders, thanks to an Integrated Action Plan built with the URBACT RetaiLink network (2016-2018). Without the funds – or political support – to accelerate the plan during Covid-19, branding and public space improvements were cut, and about 15 central retailers shut: 50 shops now stand empty.

     

    But there are many positive stories: Vic (ES) accelerated municipal measures to promote health and wellbeing while supporting the local economy. This included the "Vic city 30" programme to calm traffic, set a 30km/h speed limit and promote sustainable alternatives like walking, cycling and public transport. The city now restricts motorised weekend traffic on main streets. “This measure responds to the need to be able to guarantee social distance, but also to the desire to move towards a more sustainable and healthy city, which gives priority to active travel,” says Marta Rofin Serra, architect in urban planning for Vic municipality, and URBACT Healthy Cities Project Coordinator. Vic has also extended and improved cycle lanes, and expanded pavements.

     

    Meanwhile, Gabrovo “is very optimistic,” says Desislava Koleva. With 29% of residents over 65, one long-term strategy has been to attract younger people to the city – a trend that has accelerated during the pandemic. “Young people in Bulgaria, mostly living in Sofia, have been coming back to their native cities. Young families have started to buy houses in the villages surrounding Gabrovo. So we will need to build new infrastructure and attractions.” New to URBACT, Gabrovo is finding the iPlace network a particularly useful source of learning and benchmarking with other cities.

     

    Gabrovo - View from the hill

    Gabrovo is an industrial town of around 62,000 people located near the Balkan Mountains in central Bulgaria - and member of the iPlace network.

    Future hopes 

     

    For many smaller cities, though times are tough, Covid-19 has sparked lasting positive change. “The bad outcomes of the pandemic will force everyone to change the way we work or we worked so far,” says Juan González Pariente in Medina. Sassari’s council has recognised the importance of digitisation, training, and distance-working technology. Caterina Fresu hopes that “the emergency may turn into an opportunity to start the transformation of Sassari into a Smart City.”

     

    Cities have also seen the value of clean air and healthy lifestyles. “If there’s one good thing that has come out of the Covid crisis, it’s the environmental improvements such as reduced traffic, cleaner air,” says Mantua Deputy Mayor Adriana Nepote. “We need to be resilient not as individuals but as European citizens. We need to implement the idea of community and being more generous, and then we need to learn – this could be considered a great opportunity for all of us to implement and develop new ways of living.”

     

    Overall, says URBACT Expert Mireia Sanabria: “Although it’s still too soon to prove just how instrumental URBACT has been, those cities that have been involved in URBACT projects, and have used the methodology and incorporated this way of working, have probably reacted better during the pandemic. If the public administration has these capacitated teams, if it has the flexibility and the technology to react in these situations, it makes a big difference.”

     

    URBACT will continue to support cities of all sizes, working closely with the programme’s 23 Action Planning Networks over the next two years. Does your city have experiences to share? Let us know!

     

    Further reading

     

    Other Coronavirus-related articles include a snapshot of URBACT cities’ early reactions, as well as how urban poverty, gender equality, climate – and the new Leipzig Charter – have been impacted. We’ve shone light on improving resilience in tourist towns, visited a hard-hit Catalan city, and explored Covid-19 responses that support food solidarity and mental and physical wellbeing.

     

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  • Engaging cities to reject housing exclusion as a ‘fact of life’

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    15/11/2022

    The article is based on the joint URBACT-UIA web conference ‘No one left behind’ of 26 June 2020.

    Articles
    City planning

    Could Covid-19 prove a turning point in the fight against homelessness? The second URBACT-UIA web conference on the right to housing engaged cities to find out.

    Covid-19 gave an alarming impetus to suffering among the most vulnerable all over Europe, but also showed what a sense of urgency, political will, and mobilisation of resources can do to tackle structural problems, proving that solutions to eradicate homelessness are available. The urgent need is to maintain such initiatives as we emerge from the crisis.

    This was the key message from the second web conference that was jointly organised by URBACT and Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) on ‘cities engaging in the right to housing’ held on 26 June 2020.

    Government decisions can save lives

    During Covid-19, officials and public authorities have faced an unprecedented surge of challenges in dealing with the growing number of people in need. Such dynamics have only exacerbated longer-term trends of increasing homelessness identified in the recent ‘Fifth overview of Housing Exclusion in Europe’ by FEANTSA and the Foundation Abbé Pierre. This report signals a 70% increase in homelessness in Europe over ten years and an alarming growth in homelessness among minors, young people, LGTBIQ, single women, asylum seekers and people under international protection.

    Housing is a key determinant of health, and the impact of the healthcare crisis during Covid-19 has been hitting people without dignified accommodation the most. However, some governments across the world also acted promptly with different measures. For example, it is claimed that more than 90% of people sleeping in the streets in the UK have had a safe place to stay during the peaks of the virus.

    S. Coupechoux and C. Serme-Morin authors of the Fifth overview of Housing Exclusion in Europe’ report highlighted that such efforts by governments - aimed at accommodating people sleeping rough to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus - showed that homelessness is not systematic and could be eradicated if political will, cross-sectoral collaboration funding and human resources are aligned to hit the same target”.

    However, as Europe emerges from the worst period of the crisis, it is unclear as to whether and how governments will turn such short-term emergency measures into permanent solutions. Housing ministries in the Netherlands, in Wales, and officials from Brussels, Lyon, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid and London have already announced plans to consider long-term post-Covid solutions to various forms of housing-related exclusions.

    From managing to eradicating homelessness at city level

    At local level, many EU cities experience the same homelessness trends, with diverse forms of the phenomena, capacities, and political commitment of public administrations to address these issues. The UIA-URBACT web conference explored a variety of approaches that cities have taken, including co-designing city-wide strategies, creating solidarity networks of cities or launching innovative projects.

    The City of Ghent (BE) leads an URBACT network of nine cities called ROOF with the goal of Functional Zero Homelessness - in other words eradicating ‘structural’ homelessness. They aim to achieve this by: gathering accurate data on homelessness using ETHOS Light methodology that was developed to measure homelessness at EU level; working with civil society, public institutions and private sectors to shift from managing to eradicating homelessness; and adopting a Housing First (HF) model.

    "It's proven that Housing First really works: in many cities that are using it, people stay in their house for years. It's also cost-effective, and in the end, cheaper than sheltering. And it's better for health because people are more likely to stay outside of the health system".
    Patricia Vanderbauwhede, Project Leader in Ghent

     

    The network is an opportunity for cities to exchange and learn from each other as they go about co-designing integrated action plans for structural housing solutions. It already benefits from the presence of cities with long-term experience in HF, such as Odense (DK), or with significant experience of progressive policy legislation, such as Glasgow (UK).

    Six key lessons can be specifically taken from the examples of Ghent and the Metropole of Lyon:

    1. Better prevention is a precondition to ending homelessness - Ghent has adopted an integrated poverty reduction plan to coordinate cross-sectoral actions such as provision of rental arrears mediation and support for people at key life moments that are predictive of homelessness.
    2. Increasing housing stocks is essential - through city-wide planning for affordable housing, gathering funding, expanding the rental housing stocks for the most deprived and improving quality of existing ones - e.g. UIA ICCARUS project using revolving funds in Ghent.
    3. Housing provision has to respond to diverse needs - Ghent is developing a HF model in collaboration with local social housing companies aimed at doubling social rental units (from 266 to 532) and experimenting with housing-unit projects based on social mix. The Metropole of Lyon is implementing the UIA Home Silk Road project, which experiments renovation of an emblematic building as temporary housing for 30 families, creating neighbourhood cultural and job opportunities in circular economies.
    4. Outreach services are key for maintaining sufficient social support.
    5. Systems of temporary housing and orientation need to be optimised, especially for people without legal status.
    6. Working in multi-scalar way is necessary - by engaging local stakeholders, including the volunteer sector and also advocating on national and European levels to align and coordinate homelessness and housing policies.

    Housing is critical for fair and welcoming policies

    City strategies also need to be adapted to specific demands of asylum seekers and people under international protection who face particular challenges and risks of housing exclusion as identified above. Further, the joint FEANTSA - Fondation Abbé Pierre Housing Exclusion report points out the currently inadequate reception and accommodation conditions, which are most under pressure in receiving countries in southern Europe. As an example, in Spain, asylum applications multiplied by 45 times over six years. Standards and practices vary among EU Member States but common features are:

    • outdated and unsuitable emergency accommodation system;
    • access to dignified housing conditions hindered by the abuses of the Dublin Regulation and a tightening up of national legislation;
    • inadequate or ad hoc measures for people in vulnerable situations (minors, victims of violence, people with mental and health issues etc.);
    • and the absence of accommodation options for migrants in transit.

    Thomas Lacroix from CNRS France explains that the role of cities in providing better inclusion policies – with housing a fundamental area – has seen a tremendous shift in the world. According to his analysis, the growing reliance of national governments on cities to deliver inclusion policies has led to a growing protagonism of cities, which have sought to present themselves – often in contradiction to national policy directions – as Welcoming-, Arrival-, Sanctuary-, or Solidarity- cities, changing their local policies from long-term integration to short-term reception and inclusion.

    The city of Athens is exemplary in this sense: in the aftermath of 2015, when the reception crisis of refugees was last its peak, the city was joining networks and partnerships among European cities: Eurocities campaign on solidarity cities and later the EU urban agenda partnership inclusion of Migrants and refugees. At that particular time, Athens also launched the UIA Curing the Limbo project for the inclusion of refugees. The innovative project focuses on housing as part of a holistic approach of inclusion of newcomers in the labour market and in the active socio-cultural life at neighbourhood level. A Housing Facilitation Unit manages the provision of housing and acts as a hub for the provision of several services such as conditional cash subsidies, household finance planning and legal support linking renters and owners.

    The goal is to create a dynamic and holistic solution for people that have been in limbo. We really want to help them transit from a humanitarian aid approach to a life that they get to choose in the city. We created a housing facilitation unit [that is] a mediator who helps people to transit from a housing emergency system to independence.
    Antigone Kotanidis, UIA project manager, Athens

     

    When growing numbers of asylum seekers needed adequate housing in their urban area – due also to neglected social housing policies at national level – the city of Thessaloniki pushed towards the creation of a local city-managed rental agency. The effort was supported by the creation of a multi-stakeholder consortium whose establishment was helped with the Arrival Cities URBACT network.

    Taking a different approach, the city of Antwerp implemented the UIA CURANT project in which co-housing was created in order to link 81 young unaccompanied refugees with 77 local inhabitants called ‘buddies’ who acted as facilitators in the inclusion process in the neighbourhood for three years. The housing provided by the municipality included 37 rental units from private landlords, 4 renovated units, 1 students’ housing unit and 16 modular units, the latter in one location. This project required mutual learning, behavioural adjustments and some frustrations related to the difficulties of transmitting the concept of co-housing, which was not familiar to the inhabitants. While the project has eventually turned into success, with outreach and continued support of social services, the current challenge is to sustain and scale up this model.

    Where there’s a will there’s a way, and the time is now

    Europe faces a worrisome situation in the case of homelessness and housing exclusion. At the same time, there is nothing inevitable about it and public policies and cities’ engagement can indeed end homelessness. Covid-19 can potentially be taken as a turning point, building on the exceptional efforts to get people housed during the crisis, and new ways of providing services to those most in need – both within public administrations and thanks to the engagement of volunteers.

    The discussions at the joint URBACT-UIA web conference in June 2020 show that homelessness cannot be eradicated if public actions are not coordinated and integrated, including addressing the current policy failures around migration at both European and Member State levels.

    The new recovery package at EU level and other national recovery measures can provide significant opportunities. There have been promising signs for strengthening the EUs role in the fight against homelessness, with the European Commission set to launch next year an Action Plan to deliver on the European Pillar of Social Rights.

    But cities are on the front line of tackling housing exclusion and homelessness and many are campaigning for fairer and human rights-based welcoming policies in Europe. EU programmes like UIA and URBACT can continue to provide valuable resources and support to cities tackling homelessness. Furthermore, ongoing European-level collaboration involving UIA and URBACT – but also partners including FEANTSA, Fondation Abbé Pierre, Housing Europe and others – can play a key role in further incentivising cities to refuse the very idea that homelessness and housing exclusion are a ‘fact of life’.

    The UIA and URBACT programmes join the efforts of many European and international organisations to call for adequate and affordable housing rights, by providing a space to exchange practices among cities’ administrations. This account is based on the 26 June 2020 UIA-URBACT web conference ‘No one left behind – the second in a series of Knowledge Hub events dedicated to 'Cities engaging in the right to housing.

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