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  • Sustainable mobility

    Providing alternatives to the individual car usage, links to public and community transport, building mobility hubs, making a sustainable model for sustainable transport in areas of highly dispersed populations

    Aine Carr
    Leitrim County Council
    350000
    0
    Are you a candidate Lead Partner looking for partners
    Yes
    Are you a potential Partner looking for a Lead Partner
    Yes
    Your job title
    Economic Regeneration Officer
    Institution website
    www.leitrimcoco.ie
    Urban planning
  • Information Day-the launch of URBACT IV and the first call for Action Planning Networks!

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    New URBACT IV logo of Ireland
    06/01/2023

    The new URBACT IV logo for Ireland

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    On the afternoon of Tuesday 31st January 2023 at the Custom House, Dublin, we will launch URBACT IV and provide an overview of the call for Action Planning Networks.

    Come join us on the day to receive practical tips in getting started, and the opportunity to hear of testimonies from past URBACT project participants in Ireland!! At the event you will also hear from other speakers on the importance of integrated and sustainable urban development at the local, regional and national levels, as well as the value of participation in EU projects!

    The agenda will be paperless and will be communicated to registered attendees in advance! Please register here: https://t.co/xQcDvA0Ydy

  • SmartImpact

    Timeline

    Kick-off meeting in June (Dublin). Transnational meeting in October (Stockholm).
    Transnational meetings in February (Miskolc), April (Zagreb), June (Porto) and October (Guadalajara).
    Final event in March (Manchester).

    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

    For any enquires into Tech Revolution, email: DMC@Barnsley.gov.uk

    Keep following our social media channels as we develop Tech Revolution 2.0 as part of the second wave of URBACT ||| Programme. 

    Follow our Twitter: @Tech_RevEu
    Follow our Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/urbact-techrevolution/

    CONTACT US

    Coordinator

    ADDRESS

    Av. Movimento das Forças Armadas

    2700-595 Amadora

    Portugal 

    TELEPHONE

    +351 21 436 9000

    Ext. 1801

    CONTACT US

    City of Rome

    tamara.lucarelli@comune.roma.it

    Department of European Funds and Innovation

    Via Palazzo di Città, 1 - 10121 Turin (Italy)

     

    CONTACT US

    Câmara Municipal de Lisboa

    Departamento de Desenvolvimento Local

    Edifício Municipal, Campo Grande nº25, 6ºE | 1749 -099 Lisboa

    CONTACT US

    urbact.civicestate@gmail.com

    CONTACT US

    Laura González Méndez. Project coordinator.

    Gijón City Council

    CONTACT US

    Municipality of Piraeus

    CONTACT US

    City of Ljubljana

    Mestni trg 1

    1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia

    CONTACT US

    Project Coordinator Martin Neubert

    +49 371 355 7029

     

    CONTACT US

    Riga NGO House

    CONTACT US

    City of Antwarp
    Grote Markt 1 - 2000 Antwarpen

    Manchester City Council
    Manchester M2 5RT

    The focus of this Action Planning network was less about technology solutions per se, but more about governance structures, process and business models. The partner cities are specifically worked together to: develop models of how organisations can adapt their structures to deliver smart cities; effectively finance smart solutions and creating new ways of understanding value with co-investment strategies; develop and support innovation ecosystems within cities; explore the role of regulations and incentives, e.g. the carrot and stick approach; better understand how data integration and urban data platforms can support the smart city.

    Cities, people and the promotion of smart, sustainable development
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  • Small Scale Actions: an URBACT innovation helping cities experiment local solutions

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    15/11/2022

    From community assemblies to green city walks, trials are improving urban policymaking across the EU.

    News

    Small Scale Actions (SSA) have added a new dynamic to URBACT networks. Carried out with the support of EU partners and URBACT experts, these ‘trial runs’ enable cities to prototype local solutions and de-risk future actions, while engaging local stakeholders in ‘doing’ as well as ‘thinking’ together to tackle urban challenges. URBACT Programme Expert Sally Kneeshaw investigates…

    The latest round of 23 URBACT Action Planning Networks, launched in 2019, have benefited from the introduction of a new feature – Small Scale Actions. For the first time, a budget of EUR 10 000 was made available to each partner city to carry out experimentation that could inform their so-called Integrated Action Plan, or IAP. This final document is co-produced in each city to encapsulate planned actions tackling a specific urban challenge, with diverse topics ranging from digitalisation to waste management.

    SSAs were introduced in response to requests from previous networks to be able to spend resources on testing ideas before deciding if they should, or could, be part of the finalised plan. URBACT defined them as “an experiment. It is an idea or a concept, perhaps already tried in another city, which can be tested to check the relevance, feasibility and added value of its implementation in different local contexts. The Small Scale Actions are limited in time, scale and space and by their nature have the right to fail.”

    Daring to fail

    Inherent in the process of experimenting is the possibility of failure, and the opportunity to learn from failing. This is often a new departure in policy development for cities. The SSA was therefore also a process to allow public administrations to adopt more agile ways of acting, adapting methods from other sectors such as design and tech, and to be able to test ideas for sustainable change before creating long-term action plans. It can allow cities to design and build better and quicker, to iterate, or provide evidence that something should be discontinued rather than wasting public funds.

    Cities take up the SSA challenge

    According to our most recent survey, 85% of cities in these URBACT networks took up the challenge of piloting at least one Small Scale Action over the course of 2021. With the action plans due to be finalised by June 2022, we looked into how these new SSAs have worked in practice. Did they improve the urban realm, governance processes or the lives of citizens, and what can we, as a programme, learn from them?

    Given the wide variety of urban challenges undertaken by URBACT networks – from the circular economy, to sustainable tourism, to city branding – very different approaches to SSAs emerged. Most networks engaged in a process to identify which action would be most useful for them, in relation to their priorities and information gaps. In the end, events, information campaigns, new tools/methods for implementation, and small infrastructure interventions were the most popular SSAs, overall.

    Mini solutions emerge

    Here are just a few examples of the scores of local solutions that URBACT cities have trialled in 27 countries this past year, and are now ready to scale up.

    CULTURAL INCLUSION
    To improve inclusion in neighbourhoods with low levels of cultural and community activity, new interventions were tested in Vilnius (LT). They offered different formats and elements of interaction in different neighborhoods, such as musical picnics, open-air libraries, history rooms and ‘Tea & Chats’ inspired by Dublin (IE). Meanwhile, Sofia (BG) experimented with an info campaign on access to culture for 11 to 16 year old students, a group identified as having low levels of participation. The testing included a survey among students, training for teachers, and working with a popular blogger to communicate in ways that resonate with the students. (Find out more about the ACCESS network.) 

     

    RE-USE and RECYCLING
    In our environmentally focused networks, repair and re-use interventions, citizen engagement and awareness raising were tested. A project on circular textile consumption looked at how to mainstream leasing/renting models for fashion businesses, and start an operational model for the Belgian city of Mechelen. Bucharest 3rd District (RO) tried out a composting unit. (Find out more about the Resourceful Cities network.)

     

    NEW HOUSING SOLUTIONS
    In relation to homelessness, the aim was to try out, evaluate and verify what direction to take on the road towards implementing the ‘Housing First’ approach. Ghent (BE) tested a new form of collaboration between different support agencies by working in a new coordinated approach with three beneficiaries. In Toulouse (FR), a unique campaign to attract private renters through a single communication channel increased affordable private housing offers. This action proved the viability of extending the concept to the wider Métropole area. (See more information on the ROOF network.)

     

    SMART SENSORS
    New sensor technology was tested in several cities, for instance to analyse urban air quality data in real time in Razlog (BG) and communicate water temperature in the local bathing lakes in Ange (SE). Very practical lessons were learned, for example, how to avoid damage to sensors measuring rubbish collection. As a result of the testing, it is now easier to cost the amount required for scaling up.
    Lead Expert Eurico Neves said: “SSAs have been very successful for us – maybe because it’s a tech-oriented project, around Internet of Things and sensors, and is easy to conceptualise and implement small solutions around a number of sensors that can be later upscaled. All cities in our network are now well advanced into the drafting of IAPs and they’re in the process of planning this upscale of SSA as part of the IAP.”
    (Read more about the IoTXchange network.)

     

    PEOPLE-CENTERED STREETS
    Placemaking SSAs made a huge difference in engaging stakeholders. Implementing concrete physical changes, such as opening up streets, provoked a mix of positive, negative and unexpected reactions, and the realisation that more communication is needed, for example with shopkeepers. Actions will be modified based on these outcomes. (Find out more about the Thriving Streets network.)
    Dubrovnik (HR) was very ambitious and tested a new route to move tourists and residents around. Another city took an open approach to review their accessibility to visitors with reduced mobility, wanting to learn and improve the experience. (Find out more about the TOURISM-FRIENDLY CITIES network.)

     

    What were the challenges and what was learnt?

    The short time scale allocated to these local ‘test-runs’ within each URBACT network, combined in some cases with the need for procurement, made it difficult for certain cities to launch their actions as planned. And several found that by implementing pilot actions they had less time available to devote to building Integrated Action Plans.

    However, in many cities the SSA succeeded in getting local URBACT groups on board, boosting stakeholder engagement. It provided a great opportunity to act, not just discuss and plan, and for stakeholders to discuss specific tangible changes, not just ideas.

    For small cities, who often have less capacity to prototype and pilot, this new process has brought a winning combination of knowledge, skills and trust. For example, thanks to the iPlace network, city partners ran hackathons to generate ideas. As a result, the Latvian town of Saldus will continue to hold hackathons regularly and allocate grants to the winners.

    What next?

    At local level, each city is now bringing the learning that emerged from the testing into the wider planning process. At programme level, URBACT is monitoring cities closely to see how to refine SSA guidance for the future. It seems the great majority of URBACT partner cities surveyed are convinced that piloting is a helpful tool for implementing their Integrated Action Plans, especially in gathering evidence and establishing proof of concept.

    Liat Rogel, Lead Expert of the ROOF network, said: “Failing or succeeding, the Small Scale Actions all help the cities to make more effective action plans. There is a real strength in the opportunity to iterate through one’s own experience and that of others.”

    “In many cases SSAs introduced a new dynamic, that should be continued and embedded in future planning and delivery,” said Adele Bucella, Head of Programmes and Projects at URBACT. “Cities took ideas from each other and learned together, for instance how to work with stakeholders, how to measure impacts. This local testing de-risks the intended actions and makes them more investable. The next stage of the process is to make sure that the learning from the SSA is well-integrated into all the IAPs.”

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  • 23 Action Planning Networks ready for Phase 2!

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    15/11/2022

    On 7 May, URBACT's Monitoring Committee has officially approved all Action Planning Networks to proceed to Phase 2.

    News

     

    The main objective of Action Planning Networks is to bring together between 7 and 10 cities across Europe to exchange their experience in a particular thematic urban development challenge and to share their ideas about possible solutions, during a period of over 2 years. The Phase 1 (from late June 2019 to February 2020) focused on the development of baseline studies, city profiles and the production of the Application Form for Phase 2.

    Following the Monitoring Committee's approval of the networks, cities are now ready to focus on the exchange and learning activities using a range of learning tools and approaches in line with the URBACT Method. Every partner city will consolidate an URBACT Local Group, which will co-design Integrated Action Plans for future implementation. The Phase 2 also presents a novelty for the projects, from now on cities are encouraged to undertake pilot actions (Small Scale Actions), to experiment with new ideas for projects gained from other network exchanges and in line with the cities’ network topic.

    As a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, the URBACT Secretariat will follow up with a series of adapted activities to support these networks and their partners, including the delivery of trainings using online formats and a 3 months extension of the network life-cycle, meaning that projects will run until August 2022. Thus, networks will respect the following calendar:

     

    • Activation Stage (May - December 2020): putting together an Integrated Action Plan roadmap
    • Planning Actions (December 2020 - December 2021): drafting the Integrated Action Plan
    • Planning Implementation (December 2021 - June 2022): finalising the Integrated Action Plan
    • Integrated Action Plans Finale (June - August 2022): sharing knowledge

     

    You can find all approved networks in the table below, the Lead Partner city is indicated is bold. To find out more about each one of the projects, check the network's webpages.
    Congratulations to the 23 approved projects!

     

    NETWORK

    PARTNERS

    DESCRIPTION

    Research, technological development and innovation

    UrbSecurity

    Leiria (PT)
    - Longford (IE)
    - Madrid (ES)
    - Mechelen (BE)
    - Michalovce (SK)
    - Parma (IT)
    - Pella (EL)
    - Unione della Romagna Faentina (IT)
    - Szabolcs 05 Regional Development Association of Municipalities (HU)

    Security and safety are two common goods and fundamental components of European democracy. This network intends to analyse strategies and concepts of urban design and planning, which could contribute to prevent segregation and anti-social behaviour. Additionally, this network wishes to co-create an integrated approach towards urban security focusing on improving citizens’ quality of life and the city’s smart, sustainable and inclusive growth towards a good living environment.

    Find your Greatness

    Alba Iulia (RO)
    - Bragança (PT)
    - Candelaria (ES)
    - Perugia (IT)
    - Wroclaw (PL)
    - Võru (EE)
    - Limerick (IE)
    - Budafok-Tétény 22nd district of Budapest (HU)

    The challenge is to build on the cities' opportunities. The partners of the project need to identify locally a strength, which was built as a sustainable mechanism generating urban development. The goal of this network is to explore and enhance the potential of the city, combining strategic marketing approach with innovative smart city tools.

    Access to and use of ICT

    DigiPlace
    (previously DI4C)

    Messina (IT)
    - Botosani (RO)
    - Oulu (FI)
    - Portalegre (PT)
    - Roquetas de Mar (ES)
    - Saint- Quentin (FR)
    - Trikala (EL)
    - Ventspils Digital Centre (LV)

    This network aims to set up an acceleration mechanism to enable cities to catch up the digitalisation opportunities in hard & soft infrastructure. Remove all the obstacles encountered by mid-sized cities in their digital journey: lack of strategic & global vision lack of technical and engineering capacities difficulties in incorporating the digital innovation. Municipalities need to guaranty the uptake of digital innovation by the local stakeholders: citizen and entrepreneurs.

    IoTxChange

    Fundão (PT)
    - Dodoni (EL)
    - Jelgava (LV)
    - Nevers Agglomeration (FR)
    - Razlog (BG)
    - Ånge (SE)
    - Kežmarok (SK)
    - Åbo Akademi University (FI)

    The objective is to encourage the creation of a network of European cities committed to the design of digitalization plans based on Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to increase the quality of life in small and medium sized EU cities, guiding us through a new age of digital transformation.

    Competitiveness of SMEs

    iPlace

    Amarante (PT)
    - Balbriggan (IE)
    - Pori (FI)
    - Pärnu (EE)
    - Grosseto (IT)
    - Gabrovo (BG)
    - Heerlen (NL)
    - Kočevje (SI)
    - Medina del Campo
    (ES)

    - Saldus (LV)

    This network aim to produce 10 different and unique robust economic development strategies, targeting their own genuine niches, and generating urban innovation ecosystems. City partners will focus on deepening the understanding of their own local economic strengths and establish strategic methods to revitalise their economy, adapt their city to the next economy and to future economic changes, establishing methodological bases for generate resilient cities.

    Tourism Friendly Cities

    Genoa (IT)
    - Braga (PT)
    - Rovaniemi (FI)
    - Venice (IT)
    - Utrecht (NL)
    - Krakow (PL)
    - Cáceres (ES)
    - Druskininkai (LT)
    - Dún Laoghaire Rathdown (IE)
    - Dubrovnik Development Agency (HR)

    This network aims to explore how tourism can be sustainable in medium-sized cities, reducing the negative impact on neighbourhoods and areas interested by different types of tourism to reach this ambitious aim, the project will create integrated and inclusive strategies which can keep a balance between the needs of the local community, in terms of quality of life and of services available, and the promotion of sustainable urban development at environmental, social and economic level.

    Low carbon economy in all sectors

    Urb-En Pact

    Clermont Auvergne Metropole (FR)
    - Bialystok Association of the Functional Area (PL)
    - CIM Alto Minho (PT)
    - Rouen Normandie Metropole (FR)
    - Elefsina (EL)
    - Galati (RO)
    - Palma di Montechiaro (IT)
    - Tampere EcoFellows (FI)

    Local authorities embrace the ambitious goal to become a zero-net energy territory within the next 30 years. Thus, the aim is to define the local action plans to become zero-net (ZNE) territory by producing and delivering local, renewable and regulated sources of energy by the implementation of an energy loop which gathers all the stakeholders of this circular economy, especially the consumers included in this fair trade business in and around the metropolitan area.

    Zero Carbon Cities
    (previously ZCC)

    Manchester (UK)
    - Bistrita (RO)
    - Zadar (HR)
    - Modena (IT)
    - Frankfurt am Main (DE)
    - Tartu (EE)
    - Vilvoorde (BE)

    The network will support capacity building of cities to establish science-based carbon reduction targets and their Sustainable Energy Action Plans (SEAPs) aligned to Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Working with 7cities to adopt different approaches to carbon budgeting and science-based targets, the network will undertake a programme of capacity building in order to support their local activities and integrated action plan and influence Covenant of Mayors' signatory cities.

    Environmental protection and resource efficiency

    RiConnect

    Barcelona Metropolitan Area (ES)
    - Porto Metropolitan Area (PT)
    - Krakow Metropole Association (PL)
    - Paris Metropolitan Area (FR)
    - Gdansk-Gdynia-Sopot Metropolitan Area (PL)
    - Amsterdam Region (NL)
    - Transport for Greater Manchester (UK)
    - Thessaloniki Major Development Agency (EL)

    The overall goal is to rethink, transform and integrate mobility infrastructure aiming at reconnecting people, neighbourhoods, cities and natural spaces. The project will develop planning strategies, processes, instruments and partnerships, fostering public transport and active mobility, reducing externalities and unlocking opportunities of urban regeneration with the objectives of structuring the territory, and achieving a more sustainable, equitable and attractive metropolis.

    URGE

    Utrecht (NL)
    - Riga (LV)
    - Oeste CIM (PT)
    - Copenhagen (DK)
    - Granada (ES)
    - Munich (DE)
    - Kavala (EL)
    - Prato (IT)
    - Nigrad (SI)

    URGE (circUlaR buildinG citiEs) aims to design integrated urban policies on circularity in the building sector – a major consumer of raw materials – as there is a gap in knowledge on this topic. The result is an in-depth understanding of this theme and a first plan for a tailor-made methodology that allows the circular dimension to be widely integrated in the large construction tasks the URGE partnership is facing. URGE thus accelerates the transition towards a circular economy.

    Healthy Cities

    Vic (ES)
    - Anyksciai (LT)
    - Bradford (UK)
    - Alphen aan den Rijn (NL)
    - Falerna (IT)
    - Farkadona (EL)
    - Loulé (PT)
    - Pärnu (EE)
    - Malta Planning Authority (MT)

    This network aims to deepen the relationship between health and the urban environment, planning actions that focus on improving the population’s health, while developing a rigorous health impact assessment methodology around it. Urban Planning can become a health generator on many grounds, and this network of cities reflects the multiplicity of possible approaches to tackle the issue: green areas, mobility, social cohesion or promotion of sports are some examples.

    KAIRÓS

    Mula (ES)
    - Belene (BG)
    - Cesena (IT)
    - Malbork (PL)
    - Roskilde (DK)
    - Heraklion (EL)
    - Šibenik (HR)
    - Ukmergè (LT)

     

    The ultimate goal is to represent a moment of change, improving the urban environment of cities involved, developing heritage-led urban regeneration. It will enhance the potential of heritage in small and medium cities developing strategies for economic and social cohesion, inclusion and sustainable urban development. This network fosters the transnational exchange of experiences to test an innovative policy framework, combining a sound integrated approach with a real transformation purpose.

     

    Resourceful Cities
    (previously UrbReC)

    The Hague (NL)
    - Bucharest 3rd district (RO)
    - Ciudad Real (ES)
    - Mechelen (BE)
    - Cáceres (ES)
    - Patras (EL)
    - Oslo (NO)
    - Opole (PL)
    - Vila Nova Famalicão (PT)
    - Zagreb (HR)

     

    This network seeks to develop the next generation of urban resource centers to promote the positive economic, environmental and social impacts for the circular economy. They facilitate waste prevention, reuse, repair and recycling. The centers also work as connection points for citizens, new businesses, researchers and the public sector to co-create new ways to close resource loops at the local level.

    FOOD CORRIDORS
    (previously Rurban Food)

    Coimbra Region (PT)
    - Alba Iulia (RO)
    - Córdoba (ES)
    - Larissa (EL)
    - Szécsény (HU)
    - Bassa Romagna Union (IT)
    - Tartu Tartumaa Arendusselts (EE)
    - BSC Kranj and Gorenjska (SI)

    Recent experience suggests that it is necessary to promote a transition towards regional food systems. This network encourage the creation of a network of European cities committed to the design of food plans that extend from the urban and periurban areas through a corridor that facilitates urban-rural re-connection. This approach enhances production and consumption environments founded on a base of economic, social and environmental sustainability, integrated into development policies.

    Health&Greenspace

    Hegyvidék 12th district of Budapest (HU)
    - Espoo (FI)
    - Limerick (IE)
    - Messina (IT)
    - Breda (NL)
    - Poznań (PL)
    - Santa Pola (ES)
    - Suceava (RO)
    - Tartu (EE)

    As a response to the various health risks related to rapid urbanization and the densification of cities, this network project promotes health-responsive planning and management of urban green infrastructure with an overall aim to bring health and wellbeing benefits for citizens across Europe. The network applies a holistic approach that addresses the main functions provided by urban green infrastructure that deliver health and social benefits.

    Sustainable transport

    Space4People

    Bielefeld (DE)
    - Arad (RO)
    - Badalona (ES)
    - Nazaré (PT)
    - Turku (FI)
    - Guía de Isora (ES)
    - Panevèžys (LT)
    - Saint-Germain-en-Laye (FR)
    - Sérres (EL)
    - Valga (EE)

    This network improves quantity and quality of attractive public spaces in urban areas. For this, it tackles the main public space use being transportation in 3 aspects: improving user experience and adding space to pedestrian networks and (semi) pedestrianised places, upscaling intermodal hubs to urban centres of mixed use as well as reducing and optimising parking in public space. The project takes a user-centric approach by users assessing and creating future use and design of public space.

    Thriving Streets

    Parma (IT)
    - Antwerp (BE)
    - Igoumenitsa (EL)
    - Klaipèda (LT)
    - Nova Gorica (SI)
    - Oradea (RO)
    - Santo Tirso (PT)
    - Radom (PL)
    - Southwark London Borough (UK)
    - Debrecen Economic Development Centre (HU)

    This is a network that addresses the bottlenecks in sustainable urban mobility. The project will focus on the economic and social benefits of sustainable mobility, rather than on the widely demonstrated environmental effects. The network argues that working with local amenities and social networks at neighbourhood level could unlock the hidden demand for active mobility in cities, and thus act as enabler of behaviour change towards more resilient and liveable neighbourhoods.

    Employment protection and resource efficiency

    SIBdev

    Heerlen (NL)
    - Aarhus (DK)
    - Baia Mare (RO)
    - Fundão (PT)
    - Kecskemét (HU)
    - Pordenone (IT)
    - Zaragoza (ES)
    - Võru Development Centre (EE)

    This network aims to explore how social impact bonds can be used to improve public service delivery in areas such as employment, ageing, and immigration. Often, the delivery of services is hindered by fragmented and siloed agencies and budgets, financial and political shorttermism, and an aversion to risk and difficulty creating change. The social impact bond is a promising model that ameliorates these issues by increasing collaboration, prevention, and innovation.

    Social inclusion and poverty

    ROOF

    Ghent (BE)
    - Braga (PT)
    - Glasgow (UK)
    - Thessaloniki (EL)
    - Liège (BE)
    - Odense (DK)
    - Poznań (PL)
    - Toulouse Metropole (FR)
    - Timisoara Department of Social Assistance (RO)

    This project aims to eradicate homelessness through innovative housing solutions at city level. It will exchange knowledge on how to gather accurate data and make the conceptual shift from the symptomatic management to the actual ending of homelessness, with Housing First and Housing Led as guidance model. This network will guide the partner cities towards integrated local action plans linked to the long-term strategic goal of Functional Zero (no structural homelessness).

    ActiveCitizens

    Agen (FR)
    - Bistrita (RO)
    - Cento (IT)
    - Dinslaken (DE)
    - Hradec Králové (CZ)
    - Santa Maria da Feira (PT)
    - Saint-Quentin (FR)
    - Tartu (EE)

    The aim of this network is to rethink the place of the citizens in the local governance by finding a balance between representative democracy and participatory democracy. This network of European small and medium-sized cities, with the same expectations and similar challenges, will notably take into account, to do this, new digital tools while integrating the issue of citizens away or not comfortable with digital tools.

    Access

    Amsterdam (NL)
    - Dublin (IE)
    - Lisbon (PT)
    - Riga (LV)
    - Sofia (BG)
    - Tallinn (EE)
    - Vilnius (LT)
    - London Greater Authority (UK)

    This network addresses the importance of inclusive cultural policies. A challenge all cities in this project face is that culture does not enrich or empower all people equally. We need to gain a better understanding of our communities in order to engage all citizens in our cities. We have identified four topics to work on that will enable us to gain that understanding and support us in reaching all population groups in the participating cities from the west, east and south of Europe.

    Genderedlandscape

    Umeå (SE)
    - Frankfurt am Main (DE)
    - Panevèžys (LT)
    - Trikala (EL)
    - La Rochelle (FR)
    - Barcelona Activa SA (ES)
    - Celje JZ Socio (SI)

    Creating conditions for gender equality through a holistic understanding of how gender inequality is created in the specific place. This network creates an exchange on challenges faced by cities with an understanding of gender inequality that is globally understood but locally contextualised.

    Education, skills and lifelong learning

    Cities4CSR

    Milan (IT)
    - Bratislava (SK)
    - Budaörs (HU)
    - Guimarães (PT)
    - Molina de Segura (ES)
    - Nantes Metropole (FR)
    - Rijeka (HR)
    - Kekava (LV)
    - Sofia (BG)
    -Vratsa (BG)

    Through intensive capacity building of local actors, the network will increase collaboration among municipalities, businesses and the civic society in order to promote sustainable, inclusive & innovative urban change. The project aims at increasing the role and added value of companies’ CSR activities at local level, towards urban regeneration and social innovation, with a special emphasis on education, in order to better address emerging and unmet local needs.

     

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    Interested in finding more about the approved networks and what they will do? Watch the URBACT Method video and check out the Action Planning Network's infographic!

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  • “Culture with everyone”: Why creating culturally inclusive cities is changing the way capital city policymakers approach their work

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    15/11/2022

    Happy, healthy, prosperous cities are rich in culture but culture does not enrich and empower everyone equally. 

    Articles
    City planning

    Groups of people or geographical areas can face barriers to accessing culture; existing cultural offers may not include the stories or cultural forms which reach out to current populations. To address these challenges, eight European capital cities have come together through URBACT to form the ACCESS network. Each participating city has committed to working together to include more people in and through culture and to adapting their approach to policymaking to make this happen.

     

    Amsterdam [NL], Dublin [IE], Lisbon [PT], London [UK], Sofia [BG], Talinn [EE], Riga [LV] and Vilnius [LT] each have rich and vibrant cultural offers but have each identified challenges specific to their cities in making their cultural offers more inclusive. In Riga, for example, 70% of all cultural institutions are concentrated in just two of 58 of the city’s neighbourhoods. Amsterdam, now a ‘majority minority’ city (ie most of the population is from a minority ethnic group), culture has not fully adapted to the demographic change. Tallinn has identified a knowledge gap such that they have no qualitative evidence that the city’s cultural offer is actually meeting people’s needs and contributing to wellbeing. Each city found resonance in the others’ challenges. Collectively, the network has therefore identified three areas of common need: to widen participation, to spread cultural infrastructure more equitably across the city and to improve data collection and use around cultural participation.

    They have also identified a new approach to policymaking as a central requirement. As Araf Ahmadali, Senior Policy Advisor for Arts and Culture, City of Amsterdam said, “We have to start with a recognition that as civil servants we don’t know all the answers; we’re not at the head of the table, we’re part of the table.” Work to deliver cultural inclusion needed to be genuinely inclusive: not culture for everyone, but culture with everyone.

    “Everything we do is based on conversation” Tracy Geraghty, Dublin City Culture Company

    Discussions between the partner cities and invited local stakeholders at the inaugural meeting of the ACCESS network in Amsterdam in September identified five key aspects of an inclusive approach to cultural policymaking:

    - an ongoing conversation: discussion about culture in the city should be continuous, not occasional. As Tracy Geraghty explained, this is already the cornerstone of the Dublin City Culture Company’s ‘tea and chat’ model of programme development: “Everything we do is based on conversation; we don’t do anything without having spoken to the communities we serve first.”

    - be open and accessible: make it easy for people and organisations to get in touch

    - listen and learn: many people and organisations have experience of how to share culture more widely and are keen to share their expertise

    - reconsider their city ‘centre’: if a different area was the city centre, what cultural offer would you expect to see there? what institutions and support would it need?

    - challenge existing definitions: what is talent? what is quality? what is culture? Policymakers must be open to new and different definitions.

    Each city has committed to developing this approach for their own cultural policymaking.

    The ACCESS network will continue to collaborate and share ideas and practice over the next two years as each city develops its own Action Plan for ‘culture with everyone.’ More policy and practice ideas from the network will be shared in future blogs.

    Network
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  • ACCESS

    LEAD PARTNER : Amsterdam - Netherlands
    • Sofia - Bulgaria
    • Tallinn - Estonia
    • Dublin - Ireland
    • Vilnius - Lithuania
    • Riga - Latvia
    • Lisbon - Portugal
    • London

    Integrated Action Plans

    Making culture accessible to everyone, and everyone part of culture

    Amsterdam is a world city for culture, but a lot of stories in our city are still untold, unrecognized or undervalued. Access to culture is not always assured for everyone. The city of Amsterdam wants to broaden and diversify arts and culture in the city. Read more here!

    Amsterdam - Netherlands
    Vilnius city municipality Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here!

    Vilnius - Lithuania
    Culture for Tallinn

    Read more here!

    Tallinn - Estonia
    SOFIA GROWS WITH CULTURE YOUTH, EDUCATION AND CULTURE - SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT ON A LOCAL LEVEL

    Read more here !

    Sofia - Bulgaria
    ACCESS Culture for All Integrated Action plan RIGA - All for One: Better Access in Northern Riga

    Read more here !

    Riga - Latvia
    ACCESS – London: Shifting the dial on equal access

    Read more here

    London - United Kingdom
    Place of Culture: Promoting Community Cultural Development in Santa Clara

    Read more here !

    Lisbon - Portugal

    The ACCESS Action Planning Network believes that a more inclusive culture has the ability to facilitate greater understanding of individuals and their lives, increase empathy towards others and develop an appreciation of the diversity of human experience and cultures. Culture plays an important role in finding solutions to the complex issues of today's urban metropolises. Eight European capital cities collaborate on inclusive cultural policies to open up culture to all citizens. The aim is to bring about a real shift in cultural policymaking and as a result ensure access to culture for all citizens.

    Culture for all
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  • High tech Aveiro’s new Citizen Card makes life easier

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    15/11/2022

    When a high tech town simplifies citizens’ access to public services thanks to the Card4All network.

    Articles
    Digital transitions

    While launching a wealth of new tech initiatives including an interactive urban digital platform and 5G network, after a long history of digital innovation, the Portuguese town of Aveiro realised it was time to pause and simplify citizens’ access to public services. Inspired by Gijón (ES) and other cites in the URBACT Card4All network, municipal departments are working together to create a one-stop-shop citizen card for Aveiro.

    The small port-city of Aveiro in northwest Portugal has long been known not just for its picturesque street canals and colourful Moliceiros boats – but also for pioneering telecommunication research and digital transition.

    Since being named Portugal’s first “Digital City” back in 2003, the municipality has continued to develop as a digital territory for innovation, culminating in the current Aveiro Tech City. This includes a 5G testbed, supported by the Urban Innovative Actions STEAM city initiative (2019-21), in partnership with Altice Labs and other stakeholders to help the city “transition into a knowledge-based economy”.

    But one downside of adopting new digital solutions over the years is that Aveiro’s citizens – and the city administration – are having to juggle more and more cards, interfaces and information sources for services around the city, whether it’s to borrow a library book, catch a bus or manage school services.

    The new technological revolution with the wide adoption of a 5G infrastructure and IoT platform will transform the local innovation ecosystem,” says Miguel Sousa, Lead Expert for the URBACT Card4All network. Seeing this as an opportunity to simplify access to services and improve local governance, in 2018 Aveiro joined Card4All, an URBACT transfer network that helps small and medium sized cities learn from Gijón’s (ES) successful Citizen Card.

    In Gijón, citizens, businesses and tourists have been using a personalised card since 2002 to access multiple municipal services, reducing bureaucracy and saving time, while also promoting policies of social inclusion, sustainability, smart growth and sustainable mobility. The card acts as an electric wallet to pay for parking tickets, bus fares and access to sports facilities. Cardholders can also enter a personal code to access official documents and the status of applications. And Gijón’s municipal employees can even use their card to open certain council vehicles.

    Aveiro decided to start designing their Citizen Card by learning from three main public services that until now have their own separate cards:

    1. Schools, as currently children need two or three different cards as they move from kindergarten through to high school – for buying lunches and supplies, staying after school, or accessing certain buildings;
    2. Public libraries;
    3. An upgraded bike sharing system, due to launch in 2020.

    The card could also enable quick access to the museum, wi-fi, and sports bookings. And the system should allow more services to be added later, whether they are run by public or private entities.

    The aim is to have a first version of the one-stop-shop Citizen Card ready to test by mid 2020, and reach at least 35,000 of the region’s 40,0000 inhabitants in the first year.

    We need to make things more efficient, simple and clear for people,” says Aveiro’s Card4All project manager Maria Angela Cunho, responsible for the Economic development and innovation sub-unit. “The initial phase is connecting what already exists. Having one interface will simplify people’s lives.”

    Relevant municipal department chiefs met early on and agreed a structured plan for the two-year URBACT project. “It’s a huge thing to get them to work together on one card!” says Cunha.

    With the goal to “improve city performance, fostering technological development and innovation as a contribution for better policies and services”, this URBACT Local Group (ULG) meets every few months – sometimes with their Card4All European partners and URBACT expert. It includes people working on the following:

    - Mobility (for bikes, buses and parking);
    - Education;
    - Sports;
    - Culture (for libraries, museums, the theatre, youth and elderly, and tourism);
    - IT (for public wi-fi);
    - the Front Office that deals directly with citizens.

    Each department acts as an intermediary with their own stakeholders, often operators of external services such as transport, energy or food supply companies who may join the card later.

    Next transnational steps

    Armed with questions defined by the ULG, interviewers recently set off around the city to meet citizens face-to-face and understand their priorities for local public services. This insight will help Aveiro start working with external developers to prepare a public tender for the Citizen Card’s development. Then, early in 2020, members of the ULG – including the city’s tech department and external developers – will travel to URBACT Good Practice city Gijon for an intensive meeting with their peers there. That will help Aveiro finalise the public tender.

    I think it’s important to see Gijon’s experience because it shows that it’s possible. They’ve added lots of services, even external services. It helps to have a goal, something to look at,” says Cunha.

    The Municipality of Aveiro has a large experience in transnational collaborative projects where the city acquired knowledge and gained relevant experience in the design and implementation of strategic plans to support economic development and RD&I activities,” says Sousa, Card4All Lead Expert. “I believe that the transnational cooperation experience speed up the digital transition in Aveiro.”

    Avoiding digital pitfalls in local governance

    Providing access to essential services and listening to all voices in decision-making, including those of the less privileged and most vulnerable - these are just two fundamental elements of good local governance for cities to have in mind when developing digital tools. Others are to ensure the city has necessary IT skills in-house, and the resources to answer new messages from citizens.

    Christophe Gouache, Lead Expert for the URBACT ActiveCitizen network recently launched in Agen (FR) to promote better local governance, warns that for cities, “the biggest danger facing citizen participation and local democracy is to rush into the ‘digital promise’… and to suppress other, low tech, modes of participation”. By this he means collaborative events like neighbourhood meetings, or workshops with inhabitants. “Digital is only a tool, a complementary channel of connection with inhabitants,” he adds.

    Meanwhile, the Aveiro Tech City scheme includes the development of a single urban platform with multi-source data-collection to support decision-making by the mayor and elected representatives, civil servants, and citizens. André Costa, Head of Economic development and entrepreneurship, says the platform will be similar to those of larger cities like Dublin, Barcelona, Milan – and could take up to a decade to develop. “At any moment,” says Costa, “our mayor will be able to know the city’s level of revenue. He will be able to know the number of processes requested for the requalification of urban buildings. He will know the level of CO2 emissions that we are able to reduce once we’ve implemented electrical buses, electric engines in our municipal boats, and electrical ferry boats. And we’ll be able to inform our citizens so they know the results and the outcomes of the investments being made.”

    Aveiro’s Card4All will be designed to link in with this new urban platform. It would be technically possible to produce a mobile app to access public services virtually instead of printing individual cards for everyone. That would save costs, not just on producing the cards, but also acquiring, installing and maintaining card readers. But Cunha says a physical card is still necessary for children, the elderly, and other people excluded from technology: “I guess for now we have to have both solutions”.

    Summing up the project, José Ribau Esteves, Mayor of Aveiro, said, “The Card4All project is a part of our global initiative – Aveiro Tech City – that intends to support the City of Aveiro transition into a knowledge-based economy, while providing better services to our citizens and visitors. Economically, we aim at competing with the stronger national economic centres, being able to attract and retain the necessary talents for our economy to grow and produce more added-value, making Aveiro a more competitive city globally. Socially, we intend to provide better services to our citizens using digital tools, and Citizen Card will play a very important role in this regard.

    Further reading on urban governance
    A chapter from the Future of cities report by the European Commission’s Knowledge Centre for Territorial Policies.

    Many more URBACT cities are using digital tools to improve quality of life
    They include, Helsinki (FI), in the URBACT REFILL network; and cities in the new URBACT IoTxChange network, led by Fundao (PT).

    URBACT and Digital Transition: https://urbact.eu/digital-transition

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  • The housing paradox: what can local municipalities do?

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    15/11/2022

    The negative consequences of the financialisation of housing can be felt first and foremost on a local level, in the urban housing markets. Thus the crucial questions are: what are local municipalities doing? Or to what extent can the growing problem of affordable housing be handled on a local level?

    Articles
    Housing

    The differences between European cities are even larger than between countries – depending on political colours, cities within the same country might have totally different answers to the same challenges.

    Here is a short overview of positive examples, i.e. cases where cities achieved success to mitigate or prevent the problems on the housing market – either through subtracting land out of the property market (i.e. limiting speculation) or through creating additional resources to make housing affordable. The sources of the information are international meetings and the very informative book of Patti-Polyák (2017).

    Community-led housing models

    According to Patti-Polyák a diversity of community-led housing (CLH) models have emerged across Europe including the Danish co-housing model focuses on shared spaces and environmental sustainability and the traditional cooperative housing model in Germany, Switzerland and France - which are undergoing a renewal with a focus on democratic governance and anti-speculation. Meanwhile, the Anglophone Community Land Trust model that aims to pull land out of the property market, is progressively gaining a foothold in continental Europe.

    Community-Led Housing projects are costly and require investments exceeding the financial capacity of most inhabitants, particularly low-income households. To be viable and to leverage sufficient economic resources, community-driven housing initiatives need to organise a wide range of actors around their project and attract external funders. For example, the organisations Stiftung Trias and Edith Maryon Stiftung are acquiring land for non-profit purposes and providing long-term leaseholds to civic actors with the aim of enabling non-speculative housing developments. Community-Led Housing projects usually start by aggregating their economic capacities and financial means in the form of savings. Resources that were put in common are then used to leverage further public and private funding. In fact, the success and adaptability of Community-Led Housing models depend largely on the capacity of inhabitants to negotiate external funding at favourable conditions (at low interest rates, for instance) and to advocate for public support mechanisms, such as public guarantees or enabling public policies.

    Since 2015 Barcelona (ES) introduced new models for affordable housing. One form of this is based on giving public land to cooperatives. Javier Buron Cuadrado, Housing Manager of Barcelona city council described this model in the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona (November 2018), starting from the point that in Spain cities do not have power in housing policy, as this is regulated on regional level. Even so, Barcelona has set up the Right to Housing Plan 2016-2025 with the aim to create more than 18 000 affordable housing units, mainly on rental basis. New ideas are used, such as building temporary places and using rooftops. Barcelona also tries to negotiate with the settlements of the metropolitan area, where at least 75 000 affordable units are missing. All types of financial and technological ideas are discussed, especially how to build faster and cheaper. Barcelona is open to all solutions existing in other cities, coming from residents and the academia, to find answers to the affordable housing challenge.

    The Community Land Trust (Patti-Polyák) is an interesting Anglophone model. This is an organisational form in which communities come together to address housing issues. Perceiving a need, a group starts to look for land. This can be in the form of raising capital from an ethical lender for buying land, asking for municipally owned land or through private negotiations with a farmer. The next step is building new houses or redeveloping existing houses into affordable homes. When the community achieves ownership of the land, they can make housing on it affordable. They can sell homes or properties, at about half the market rate. It can be a shared ownership model, or be a socially rented model.

    In the book, the case of the Granby Four street Community Land Trust is described in details. In a poor area of Liverpool (UK), a former residents association was re-created as Community Land Trust in 2011. They met up with a few partners and began to draw plans together for an urban regeneration process with very small incremental stages. In 2012, the association won a small urban garden competition, the result of which got noticed by the Steinbeck Studio social investment organisation. They saw what was happening in the neighbourhood, liked the idea of citizens being active in the community and offered a £ 500 000 loan. From that moment, Liverpool City Council also began to take notice and started discussions with the Community Land Trust, finally deciding to transfer 10 properties over to the Granby 4 Streets Community Land Trust. The Community Land Trust holds the land in trust, separating its value from the building on it, and it fixes the price the buildings can be sold for later. Any value increase is locked in by the Community Land Trust for community benefit, so the profit motive has been cut out.

    Using public land in new way

    Berlin (DE) is well known as a city of pioneering attempts to change the usual market oriented models. During a long period of experimentation with temporary use projects, and initiatives mobilising protests against large-scale development projects like the Media Spree, the idea emerged to develop economically sound and secure models of tenancy, based on long-term rental contracts or cooperative ownership arrangements. An example for that is the StadtNeuDenken initiative with a new concept for privatisation (Patti-Polyák). The basic idea is to change the privatisation mechanisms from the highest bid to fixed prices and the best concept.

    This idea was soon adopted by the municipality of Paris (FR) and shortly after the victory of Anne Hidalgo in 2014 their own top-down version of concept-based privatisation was launched in a series of competitions. Besides defining affordable housing goals, Hidalgo and deputy mayor Missika launched the urban development competition: Reinventing Paris. 23 municipally owned sites were selected in Paris – some in quite deprived and remote areas to sell public land, linking sales price to its future use. In an attempt to foster innovation in real estate and extending the scope of urban commons only multi-disciplinary teams could win, and the final users had to be included from the beginning. The competition was very successful and since then two new rounds were launched, on a similar basis.

    Municipal regulation against housing speculation

    Vienna (AT) is known worldwide for sustainable and inclusive urban development, of which housing policy is one of the corner-stones. The city is probably the biggest public landlord in the world with 220 000 public rental units. A particular challenge recently was the quick growth of the city, having in the last years 12-20 000 people moving yearly to Vienna. This means a need for building at least an additional 6 000 housing units yearly. There is, thus, a growing interest for land, suitable for new housing.

    Vienna recognised quickly, that in the case of open competition the interest of international investors would lead to the increase of prices of the scarce land reserves for housing. One of the leading principles of urban development in Vienna is the inclusivity of the city, avoiding changes in the housing market that would push certain strata out. In order to avoid price increases as consequence of speculative capital investments, making housing in the longer term unaffordable, Vienna reacted quickly. A new regulation is about to be introduced, limiting access of investors to real estate that is potentially suitable for affordable housing. The regulation aims to maximize the purchase price for the land, introducing a rule so flats cannot be sold for 40 years to maximise the rent of new units. Moreover, another new decision requires that half (later 2/3) of any new housing projects should qualify for the affordable housing model, determined by the city. These are important initiatives by the public sector to regulate the market, to avoid price increases - as a consequence of financialisation of housing.

    Need for cross-country agreement on the social understanding of housing

    For the moment, the efforts to handle the negative consequences of the financialisation of housing lead only to limited results on a national level and the local attempts face even more challenges.
    For example, Sorcha Edwards from Housing Europe reported on a Dublin (IE) case, where a local group was bidding for an empty standing building to turn it into social housing, but their position was hopeless as their competitor was the largest US pension fund.

    It is clear that international cooperation and joint efforts are needed to strengthen the social aspect of housing, as opposed to the market commodity understanding of it.

    In the Vienna Housing for All conference a range of ideas were raised on how such an international effort could be initiated.

    EU or national government intervention

    Barbara Steenbergen, International Union of Tenants, emphasized that mergers between real estate funds are going on in order to avoid national taxation. The EU and national governments should find out ways to keep housing affordable: real estate investors should be limited or stopped at all to buy up the existing affordable housing stock.

    A European housing forum

    Kieran McCarthy, Member of the EU Committee of the Regions, Councillor of the City of Cork (IE), suggested organizing a European Housing Forum. In the Committee of the Regions housing, it should be taken more seriously, it cannot remain one of the last priorities.

    A set rate of income share, a basic right and the end of VAT

    Evelyn Regner, Member of the European Parliament (S&D), pointed to the European Semester as one of the possibilities, where housing could be included without making huge changes in the basic documents of the EU. She suggested including the principle that people should not spend more than a given share of their incomes for housing costs. Housing should be acknowledged as a basic right. The EU should take steps to achieve housing-related expenses without or with little VAT, which would bring a real decrease of housing costs to normal people.

    The European Semester

    Jörg Wojahn, Representative of the European Commission in Austria, also mentioned the importance of the European Semester, turning soft law into a harder tool. Already today large sums of EU money, some EUR 1,5 billion is invested into housing. Also, loans from EIB and some parts of the Juncker fund (for the energy efficiency in buildings), should be taken into account. However it is clear, that e.g. energy efficiency investments make housing more expensive, thus such investments have to be acknowledged as long term financial commitments, and should be made exempt from the deficit rules. The European elections are a good moment to vote for candidates who agree in the importance of urban and housing issues against the dominance of agriculture and other investment goals.

    EU and municipal responsibility

    Lea Ortiz, deputy mayor Barcelona complained about dozens of evictions weekly in the city (against all efforts of the municipality), and about the fact that investors are buying up growing parts of the city. She also suggested turning to Europe, influencing the upcoming EP elections. The view that “housing is not responsibility of the EU” should be changed. Sustainable and just cities cannot be achieved without a growing public influence on the housing markets and the EU has a large responsibility to achieve that. The movement of cities - the emerging municipal cooperation - should push housing to become part of the discussions in Europe.

    Banning private equity fund investments and airtime at the G20   

    Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing suggested putting the financialisation of housing on the agenda of G20, as the finance ministers of this group are of crucial importance. After food security, housing should be on their agenda. Private equity funds should be banned from investing into residential housing just as investments into harmful environmental investments is already prohibited.

    A basic human right

    In her passionate speech at the Housing for All conference Leilani Farha emphasized that gold is a commodity, but housing not – it is a human right. Seizmic, paradigmatic shift is needed, as the present problems are not only market failures, but so is the lack of viewing housing as a human right. All levels of government have to show up and adopt comprehensive, human rights based housing policies. Housing must be based on laws protecting basic rights, and strategies must be based on the rights of people. She announced the establishment of a new movement: SHIFT, which already has 25 signatory cities, including Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam (NL), Seoul (KR).

    Housing is a human right which should not be sold to the highest bidder.

    Progress in the EU on housing

    Compared to the situation a decade ago, there is some progress in the handling of housing in the European Union. Within the EU Governance (European Semester, Macroeconomic conditionality, Reform Support Instrument, Rule of Law) housing is not considered exclusively from a competition policy perspective, but also as a matter of the Rule of Law in which basic human rights are slowly gaining some importance. There is a chance that fundamental rights will become one of the horizontal enabling conditions in the post-2020 Cohesion Policy regulation.

    On the other hand, according to reports of the Corporate Europe Observatory, there are discussions going on between the lobby groups of the sharing economy sectors (including Airbnb, Uber, etc.) and the Commission departments responsible for competition and free market regulation. The outcome of these negotiations is not yet known, but the EU approach may unilaterally support the forms of collaborative economy against the will of national and local governments to constrain the platforms in order to protect affordable housing. In practice, the regulations on Airbnb introduced in Barcelona, Amsterdam, Paris, Lisbon (PT), etc. might be annulled by the Commission as hurting the competition law.

    Housing is one of the sectors where the fight between the competition and solidarity aspects is the sharpest. There seems to be a long way to go to achieve socially justified limitations on international capital investors, i.e. regulating the financialisation of housing – without limiting private actors in their will to invest along non-speculative principles into social/affordable housing.

    ***

    "The housing paradox: more financing - less affordability?" - previous part of this article by Ivan Tosics can be read here.

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  • Housing for all - Experiences of URBACT cities on affordable housing

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    15/11/2022

    What can be done to avoid evictions? How can a city provide housing to the most vulnerable groups and to the young talented people? Can low-carbon housing be affordable?
    Barcelona (ES), Dupnitsa (BG) and Poznan (PL) – 3 URBACT Good Practice cities - have developed interesting initiatives to work towards “Housing for All”, looking at the social, environmental and physical aspects of housing policies.

    Affordable Housing: the issue makes its come back on the European Agenda

    Articles
    Housing

    Two decades ago the housing problem was thought to be solved in European cities. The large construction programmes of the 1960s and 1970s decreased housing shortage, while the neoliberal economic turn and the reduction of the welfare state benefits to those who were considered to be the most in need (residual welfare system) further decreased the effective demand of families. This artificial balance of demand and supply suddenly changed with the economic crisis, which affected the construction industry to a very large extent. The huge drop in new housing construction, together with the austerity policies of the states (causing a further shrinking in welfare payments) led to a quick increase of the housing problems. Not only the number of homeless people grew but also of those who are living in very bad physical housing conditions and/or in overcrowded units. As a long-term consequence of the financial crisis also the number of families, which are threatened by eviction for not being able to pay their increasing housing costs, soared.

    In an excellent article on the meaning of affordable housing,Laura Colini wrote the following: “If affordable housing simply means that adequate housing should be accessible and affordable to all, -and primarily to those at risk of becoming or already less well off- its meaning remains not universally shared in public policies all over Europe… the statistics on Affordability of housing by Eurostat from November 2015 are reporting for 2014 that 11.4 % share of the EU-28 population lived in households that spent 40% or more of their “equivalised disposable income” on housing.”

    Housing is a key topic among the URBACT Good Practice cities. The “housing” keyword is found in 56 projects among the 97 Good Practices. Although the number of “real” housing projects is obviously smaller, around 10 or so, the result illustrates how high housing is on the agenda of European cities.

    Inspirations and Learning from Barcelona, Dupnitsa and Poznan

    Preventing Evictions: Barcelona’s example shows how cities are bound by the national legal framework
    Cities, when designing their own policies towards affordable housing, do not operate in a vacuum: many aspects of housing policies are determined on national level. The URBACT Good Practice of Barcelona is a prime example of this.

    When Ada Colau, a former housing activist, became mayor of Barcelona in 2015, the political strategy of Barcelona changed radically and the Right to housing became an important element of it.

    “Housing First” is a well-known approach among cities, which have socially sensitive local housing. It responds to homelessness through offering housing units at the bottom of the housing market instead of placing homeless people into shelters.

    Barcelona went further and also introduced the “Housing Last” program, which tries to keep people threatened by evictions as long as possible in their flats.

    The number of planned evictions is high in Barcelona, around 30 evictions per week. Earlier the main reason for evictions was foreclosure. It has now become the high level of rents, partly boosted by AirBnB rentals.

    The original political aim of the city was to stop evictions to happen at all, or at least to make it so that the final decision be taken at the local municipality level, as being the closest to citizens and knowing best the real circumstances. This would be in line with the proposals of the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless, Feantsa, an EU-wide NGO focused on protecting the homeless. Unfortunately, Barcelona had to face the reality: in Spain, as in most other EU countries, housing competences are divided between the different levels of government and the quite strict national regulation on evictions can not be changed by local municipalities.

    The URBACT City Festival in Tallinn was the occasion to discuss the Barcelona case in an international perspective. In Poland, the national housing law does not allow to evict families to the street. The “Housing Last” program of Barcelona, which handles some 80% of eviction cases, either stopping the process or offering alternative accommodation for families where eviction cannot be avoided would not be needed in Poland, since the right to housing is there ensured (at least for families) by national law. No wonder that the representatives of Barcelona and Poznan exchanged their business cards: Barcelona seemed interested to study further the details of Polish housing law.

    How Dupnitsa and Poznan defined eligibility to affordable housing to reach out to specific populations

    Affordability of housing is a complex topic. There is no unilaterally accepted definition across EU countries, as the cases of Dupnitsa and Poznan show. Income limits, a key element to determine eligibility for affordable housing, have to be locally defined.
     

    A Home for Everyone, the Good Practice of Dupnitsa, Bulgaria, aimed at the construction of 150 new social housing units for vulnerable families. Eligibility to the new social flats, was defined locally according to the following criteria: being a Bulgarian citizens, living at least since 5 years in Dupnitsa; having no properties suitable for permanent dwelling; having no ownership of non-built-up landed property, not owning factories, workshops, shops, commercial and business warehouses; having no ownership of property, including motor vehicles, of a total value greater than the market value of a dwelling in Dupnitsa. Besides these factors an upper income limit was given in the following way: one quarter of the total annual income of the household should be less than the cost of a market rental price for a home corresponding to the needs of the household.

    The number of residents, which were considered as eligible on the basis of these factors, was much higher than the number of flats available. Thus a second step ranking system was introduced, based on employment, age, education, health and family status. Within this ranking the chances of families were higher if working (as opposed to unemployed), being middle aged (as opposed to younger and older); having higher education (as opposed to lower educated); being single parent or having many children (as opposed to families without children).

    To sum up: in Dupnitsa those people had the chance to get a new social flat who did not have property and had middle or lower income. Within this group, however, the better educated and employed people had the advantage. The latter criteria hint to the efforts of the municipality to select those parts of the needy population which seems to have more ambitions to learn and work (which means excluding the “undeserving poor”).

    Poznan developed a different approach, focussed on retaining university graduates and young talents in the city, offering them affordable rental flat for up to 10 years. Tenants are chosen on the basis of several selection criteria: they should be university graduates within the last five years, below 36 years old, and should not own any other apartment in Poznań. They must work in or run a business in Poznań and pay taxes there. There is also an upper and a lower income limit.

    In both cities the new housing construction programme aimed for affordable housing to certain population groups. In order to achieve their aims, both programmes used interesting mixtures of upper and lower limits: with upper income and property limits to focus the programme to the relatively needy population but exclude (with the lower/minimum income, education and employment criteria) those who are the poorest, low educated or long-term unemployed.

    Of course the latter can appear to be highly controversial conditions, which illustrates well the complexity of the affordable housing topic.

    How to do it? The decisive impact of the institutional background

    Affordable housing programmes require strong leadership of the local municipality. Such programmes might apply very different tools, depending on their focus, whether it is keeping vulnerable families in their flats, improving low quality housing or constructing new housing for specific population groups.

    The URBACT Good Practice cities mentioned here share the strong political will to develop housing policies with social aims and have developed the corresponding professional capacity within the local municipality to steer such programmes.

    There are differences in other details, e.g. Poznań has created the Social Housing Association (PTBS), a public company which can manage the housing programme for graduates, when the other cities do not have such institutions.

    In Tallinn, the extent to which such city owned housing companies are needed to implement affordable housing programmes successfully was discussed heavily. This discussion led to further exchange between Antwerp and Poznan. Antwerp does not have its own housing company. The representatives of the city became interested in Poznan housing for graduates project and wondered if such a programme could be carried out on the basis of renting housing from the private market.

    Learning from one corner of Europe to the other

    One and half hour is not much time for discussions on such a complex issue as affordable housing. The Good Practices showcased in this panel at URBACT City Festival raised many interesting dilemmas, such as which population groups need help with affordable housing, how their selection can best be performed (income and other selection criteria) and to what extent publicly owned institutional background is needed for this. Besides these issues it was striking to see how well-developed and rich Western European cities (Barcelona and Antwerp) became interested to learn from innovative examples elaborated in less rich cities (Poznan and Dupnitsa) of the new member states. It is my hope that the exchanges among these good practices during the URBACT City Festival in Tallinn and the freshly established links between the cities last long and lead to new Transfer Networks in the future.

    Read more about the topic: "A fresh approach to housing: Poznan’s innovative offer to keep young talent in the city" by Karolina Prymas
     

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