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  • A roof over everyone’s head

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    What’s on the plate for cities? According to Laura Colini, URBACT Expert, it's due time to put ROOF’s pledge to eradicate homelessness into action.

    “Housing is a fundamental necessity and the access to housing is a fundamental right, as citizens who lack housing cannot participate fully in society of avail themselves of all their fundamental rights.”


    The report on the fundamental rights in the EU, adopted by the European Parliament in September 2022, comes at a right time when the ROOF Action Planning Network has wrapped up its activities. Through this network, for the first time in 20 years, the URBACT Programme has co-financed a project for cities to eradicate homelessness.


    The partner cities were led  to collaborate towards the same goal, building on several actions, commitments and initiatives. It’s a successful story of how local, national and European policies can be brought together by URBACT. In this case, tackling one of the most pressing issues: the right to adequate, dignified and affordable housing.


    Gathering the take-away lessons from ROOF, this article looks at the challenges lying ahead for our cities – which hopefully will inspire future Action Planning Networks’ partners.



    Encouraging cities to join forces


    Back in 2016, the EU Urban Agenda started its activities with the overall objective to create thematic and voluntary exchanges to group cities, Member States and international organisations in thematic partnerships to discuss better funding opportunities, knowledge production and regulations at EU level. At the time, none of the four pilot partnerships –  on migration, air quality , housing and poverty – officially had  the topic of homelessness in their agenda, nor did the URBACT III Programme.


    The European Federation of National Organisation Working with Homelessness (FEANTSA) – a major player at the EU level, providing studies, advocacy and annual reports on housing exclusion in Europe – was finally invited to join the EU Urban Agenda Partnership on Urban Poverty only a few months after its launch. Thanks to the knowledge and input provided by FEANTSA the partnership supported two actions: 


    • to end homelessness by 2030 through the reform of social inclusion strategies at national level; 
    • and to build capacities, so different funds – ERDF, ESF and FEAD – could be used to end homelessness. These actions were a plea for the participation of all levels of governance.


    URBACT came in in at the hinge of this call for action: the programme was timely ready to organise a lab session on the topic of housing and homelessness during the URBACT City Festival, which took place in Lisbon (PT) in September 2018; in addition to the ‘Cities fighting homelessness’ policy lab, which was co-organised by URBACT and FEANTSA in Paris (FR) later the same year, welcoming both beneficiary and new-comer cities.


    This policy lab was intended as follow up to the Urban Poverty Partnership, encouraging cities to engage and to take practical measures towards these two main partnership actions. Participants heard about the Housing First Hub, the re-use of vacant properties as temporary housing, homelessness prevention methods among vulnerable groups and the Housing Solution platform.


    The municipality of Paris shared its practices about the ‘Solidarity Night’ (“Nuit de la solidariété”) and a national representative from Finland presented the key findings of the Housing First model in Helsinki (FI), alongside national policy commitments. At last, the policy lab ended with a pitch from Patricia Vanderbauwhede, from Ghent’s city administration (BE), so other cities could join their 2019 bid to embark on the Action Planning Network journey.


    At the time, the city of Ghent had already committed to the United Nations’ pledge to #MakeTheShift and, today, it has successfully led nine EU cities in the framework of ROOF.



    It takes a village… a city, a country and the EU


    Ghent’s bid became a reality with the ROOF Action Planning Network, working at full speed to end homelessness using housing solutions. For three years, the cities of Braga (PT), Glasgow (UK), Liège (BE), Odense (DK), Pozńan (PL), Thessaloniki (EL), Toulouse Métropole (FR) and Timisoara (RO) have tested new ways of working and changing people’s mindset to change local and national policy-making, thus, putting the Housing First model in action. This is proof that it takes a city, a whole country and the EU to effectively end homelessness.


    Objective: end and prevent homelessness


    Following extensive documentation in terms of policy design, advocacy at all levels, capacity-building trainings and events – such as the network final conference and the Winter School – the ROOF Network has came up with four recommendations:


    • the EU must develop an Ending Homelessness Strategy 2024 – 2025, which must include tangible solutions to improve housing affordability and quality;
    •  the EU and the Member States should develop a joint monitoring system, with harmonized indicators and ad-hoc surveys, to inform policy decisions in regards to homelessness;
    • housing-led approaches, as the Housing First, should be promoted as key methods to tackle homelessness;
    • EU structural and investment funds should be allocated to tackle this challenge by expanding the affordable housing stock, while providing support to allow people to live and thrive independently.


    When co-developing their local Integrated Action Plans, ROOF partners were able to experiment with different practices. For example, the Greek city of Thessaloniki set up a Social Rental Agency. This is a non-profit agency that, henceforth, addresses housing related issues from poor and vulnerable groups. It also works with generating affordable housing stock, piloting measures for future larger Housing First programmes.


    The city of Ghent has taken a more holistic approach. The municipality understood that mental health, drug care clinics and social were topics which should be dealt alongside housing solutions. That’s why the city has pilot a Small Scale Action where an Assertive Community Treatment team (ACT) was put in place, so different professionals could work together – from city planners, to public health and social workers. Using common data and an open dialogue approach, the ACT team collaborates to help vulnerable individuals and households. The results from this experience will feed the Housing First system and the training of future ACT members.


    Housing First - moving away from the staircase model


    The participation of the Tolouse Métropole in the ROOF Network has brought a shift in the territorial strategies: from the “staircase” approach to the Housing First model. This has led the metropolis towards a more precise knowledge around homelessness and a better overview of what can be practically achieved in the long run. This partner worked in its whole metropolitan area to raise awareness, to increase the affordable housing stock and to consolidate a multidisciplinary support offer.



    Call for long-term measures


    During the ROOF Network lifespan, a series of radical and sudden changes hit the world. The global pandemic showed the sheer evidence that those who experience homelessness are the most vulnerable. Covid-19 indeed made the misery more visible and harsh, but regardless of the virus, the conditions driving individuals towards homelessness are systemic.


    At the closure of the ROOF Network, housing has also proved to be an urgent matter in the context in Ukraine.  Back in July, the European Commission has approved the Safe Home Initiative, to support and guide Member and Partner States, regional and local authorities to organise and facilitate private housing initiatives  to prevent the risk of homelessness for those fleeing the war


    Likewise, the consequence of the skyrocketing electricity prices has increased an energy poverty, which will most likely affect people in vulnerable situations. According to the 2021 study by FEANTSA, energy poverty already touches about 50 million households in the EU. The study sees  ‘Just Transition Mechanism and Renovation Wave’ targeted to become decisive instruments of the energy transition towards a climate-neutral – and fair – economy. Thus, addressing not exclusively training and employment opportunities, but also the eradication of extreme forms of poverty through investment in adequate housing for low-income and vulnerable groups.


    Working to end homelessness means to rethink how societies function, how the economies and finance create inequalities, how all governments engage with their welfare, energy transition, social and housing policies. Not to mention urgent crisis, which are beyond anyone’s control.  This also shows that the actions pledged by the ROOF cities are fundamental to be prepared towards any kind of unprecedented scenario, because they work on reversing the mechanism of poverty.


    That’s precisely why local, national and European governments need to be ready for unexpected societal challenges, through long-term solutions. The ROOF cities have joined, with a manifesto, the European Platform on Combatting Homelessness (EPOCH), which is an important strategy to build a common understanding and commitment for concrete actions.


    As for now, many countries are taking the extra mile to re-design national plans and emphasise the Housing First model. In 2021, the Italian government has renewed its interest in homelessness prevention policies, via the ‘National Recovery and Resilience Plan’. It allocated 450 million EUR to the provision of Housing First services and it increased 2.8 billion EUR to the construction and rehabilitation of the social housing stock.


    In France, the draft for the ESF+ national programme on social inclusion (2021 – 2027) includes actions to support maintenance and access to housing. This shall be done via multidisciplinary support, which includes people based in temporary housing to promote access to permanent options.  This creates a new scope of use for the European Social Fund for tackling homelessness and pushing for the Housing First approach.


    Czech Republic, having first-hand witnessed the success of the Housing First pilot in the city of Brno (CZ) in 2016, has launched a national call on this subject with a budget of 6 million EUR, in 2018. Today, the country is trying to up-scale the initiative by drafting new calls, following a consultation process with the civil society. Both calls envisage a total budget of 35 million EUR until 2027, with the first one being published later this year.




    Cities needed NOW!


    It’s important to grasp what cities can actually do in terms of housing and homelessness – the ROOF Network represents an incredible experience in this regard, yet a lot more remains to be done. Climate adaptation growing concerns related to aspects as the staggering energy prices or the “renoviction” – landlords who evict their tenants, on the grounds of planned renovations in the building.


    The 2019 EU Green Deal aims to make the EU climate-neutral by 2050, which includes a “renovation wave” to improve energy performance in buildings. This inaugurated an investment in energy efficiency renewal in the housing sector. Although overall all well intended, if proper measures are not put in place to protect the vulnerable from the adverse effects of the “greening”, we might witness a steep increase of urban poverty.


    There’s definitely no time to waste. There are plenty of actions cities can take to seize opportunities at EU level to find socially, environmentally and just responses. That’s why the upcoming call for URBACT Action Planning Networks – the first one for this programming period – is a great occasion for cities to explore ideas and experiment with new solutions.




    Find you next network partners


    Do you have an idea for a Action Planning Network on this subject? Submit it to the URBACT Partner Search Tool and find other cities and peers who are interested in tackling this challenge!
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    Kick-off meeting in September (Katowice).
    Transnational meetings in March (Ioanina) and October (Malmo).
    Final event in March (Rotterdam).

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


    Municipality of Santiago de Compostela


    Municipality of Udine (Italy)


    For any enquires into Tech Revolution, email:

    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
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    Av. Movimento das Forças Armadas

    2700-595 Amadora



    +351 21 436 9000

    Ext. 1801


    City of Rome

    Department of European Funds and Innovation

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



    Câmara Municipal de Lisboa

    Departamento de Desenvolvimento Local

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



    Laura González Méndez. Project coordinator.

    Gijón City Council


    Municipality of Piraeus


    City of Ljubljana

    Mestni trg 1

    1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia


    Project Coordinator Martin Neubert

    +49 371 355 7029



    Riga NGO House


    City of Antwarp
    Grote Markt 1 - 2000 Antwarpen

    Manchester City Council
    Manchester M2 5RT

    City of Rotterdam
    Coolsingel 40, 3011 AD Rotterdam

    Becoming more resilient means that a city strives to enhance its ability to bounce back and grow even stronger and better in the face of the chronic stresses and acute shocks. As such, city resilience is a continuous challenge for individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and infrastructure systems to address current trends and future transitions. This Action Planning network looked at the challenges of achieving resilience in and of our cities in a comprehensive and holistic way, by applying the lessons from the innovative governance approach of Transition Management. This approach is a process-oriented and participatory steering that enables social learning through iterations between collective vision development and experimenting.

    Improving city resilience
    Ref nid


    Kick-off meeting
    Rome Transnational Meeting
    Caen Transnational Meeting
    Vilnius Transnational Meeting
    Loures Transnational Meeting
    Thessaloniki Transnational Meeting + Mid Term Reflection
    A Coruña-Rome Bilateral ONLINE MEETING
    Krakow Online Transnational Meeting
    Krakow-Rome Bilateral ONLINE MEETING
    Vilnius-Rome Bilateral ONLINE MEETING
    Loures-Rome Bilateral ONLINE MEETING
    Caen-Rome Bilateral ONLINE MEETING
    Thessaloniki-Rome Bilateral ONLINE MEETING
    Network Final Event - A Coruña June 28 2021
    Thessaloniki Transnational online meeting
    Krakow TNM second part (in presence)

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


    Municipality of Santiago de Compostela


    Municipality of Udine (Italy)


    For any enquires into Tech Revolution, email:

    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:




    Av. Movimento das Forças Armadas

    2700-595 Amadora



    +351 21 436 9000

    Ext. 1801


    City of Rome

    This Transfer network builds upon the "Management model of Urban gardens in Rome" Good Practice, in order to transfer to EU cities geographically distant from each other to ensure sharing of experiences to enhance the capacities of local governance. Transfer efforts will be given to 3 distinct, interlinked, thematic components/elements that the Good Practice is divided into: Capacity building in organizing urban gardens, Inspiring and training people to manage urban gardens (Gardeners) and urban gardens governance & regulations.

    Urban agriculture for resilient cities
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  • ROOF

    Lead Partner : Ghent - Belgium
    • Braga - Portugal
    • Glasgow
    • Liège - Belgium
    • ODENSE - Denmark
    • Poznań - Poland
    • Thessaloniki - Greece
    • Timisoara - Romania
    • Toulouse Métropole - France


    Housing Department, City of Ghent +32 9 266 76 40




    • Phase 1: Kick-Off Meeting in Paris (FR)

    • Final meeting phase 1 in Ghent (BE)
    • Phase 2: Kick-Off Meeting in Glasgow (UK) - online
    • ROOF workshop on storytelling - online
    • ROOF workshop on advocacy - online
    • Transnational meeting in Odense on data - online
    • Winter School Braga - online
    • Transnational meeting in Timisoara & Poznan - online
    • Advocacy network meeting discussing proposal of housing first/funding key messages for Europe - online
    • Advocacy network meeting discussing proposal of data key messages - online
    • Transnational meeting in Thessaloniki - online
    • Transnational meeting in Toulouse - online
    • Final event in Liège
    • Final event in Ghent



    • ROOF Methodology - Why arts?

      The ROOF Call for Artists project - how did we do it?

      The fields of arts/creativity and homelessness don’t immediately seem to fit together – one is about celebration, joy, expression; the other about poverty, trauma, isolation. And yet, these worlds are colliding together more and more in powerful and unexpected ways. 

    • Gent OCMW

      Housing First in Ghent: why tailor-made guidance is so important

      Housing First in Ghent: why tailor-made guidance is so important

    Integrated Action Plans

    ROOF Integrated Action Plan - City of Ghent

    Through the ROOF project, Ghent takes the ambition to end homelessness for legal residents by 2040. The Integrated Action Plan is a long term policy plan that describes the vision, the model and the necessary actions to reach the goal of Functional Zero. Read more here!

    Ghent - Belgium
    Toulouse Metropole (FR)
    ROOF Integrated Action Plan - Toulouse Métropole

    Toulouse Metropole benefits of an institutional commitment in policies contributing to the eradication of homelessness, at national, regional and local level making it easier to mobilise stakeholders. Read more here!

    Toulouse Métropole - France
    Ending Homelessness Across Europe - ROOF Integrated Action Plan Glasgow (UK)
    Co-design, collaboration and storytelling to prevent homelessness

    In recent years, Glasgow has made significant progress in addressing homelessness. The Glasgow Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan (RRTP) runs until 2024. Read more here!

    Glasgow - UK
    ROOF Pozńan Integrated Action Plan
    ROOF Integrated Action Plan - City of Pozńan

    As part of the project, the Housing Affairs Office created a Local URBACT Group to co-design an integrated strategy. Read more here!

    Pozńan - Poland
    Towards ending homelessness in Timisoara - ROOF Integrated Action Plan
    ROOF Integrated Action Plan - City of Timisoara

    High costs of living in Timisoara makes it very difficult for one person receiving minimum wage, disabilities benefits, social benefits, minimum pension or working half time. Read more here!

    Timisoara - Romania
    ROOF Liège Integrated Action Plan
    ROOF Integrated Action Plan - City of Liège

    The City of Liège has a long experience in the field of homelessness. Until the 2000s, the approach was mainly emergency oriented: low threshold reception, street work and accommodation. Read more here!

    Liège - Belgium
    ROOF Odense Integrated Action Plan
    ROOF Integrated Action Plan - City of Odense

    At the start of 2009, there were 4 998 homeless people in Denmark and at the last count in 2019, there were 6 431 homeless people. Read more here!

    Odense - Denmark
    ROOF Thessaloniki Integrated Action Plan
    Social and Affordable Housing and Combating Housing Exclusion and Homelessness in Thessaloniki

    Housing in Greece has been dealt with primarily as an individual matter with sporadic and defunct interventions in the field of social housing. Currently, Greece has 0% social housing stock, an exception among all EU countries. Read more here!

    Thessaloniki - Greece
    Braga House of Skills - ROOF Integrated Action Plan
    Braga House of Skills

    The House of Skills project aims to create an innovative permanent housing solution to gather people who are homeless or at risk of housing and social vulnerability. Read more here!

    Braga - Portugal

    To end homelessness through innovative housing solutions at city level is the main driver from the Action Planning network. It is not about managing homelessness, but rather putting an end to it using the Housing First model and gathering accurate data. ROOF aims to achieve the strategic goal of Functional Zero (no structural homelessness).

    ROOF - Ending homelessness
    Ending homelessness
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  • RiConnect


    Lead Partner : Barcelona Metropolitan Area - Spain
    • Thessaloniki - Greece
    • Métropole du Grand Paris - France
    • Kraków Metropolis Association - Poland
    • Amsterdam Region - Netherlands
    • Gdansk-Gdynia-Sopot Metropolitan Area - Poland
    • Porto Metropolitan Area (AMP) - Portugal
    • Greater Manchester


    Àrea Metropolitana de Barcelona - Coordinació de Planejament Urbanístic

    (0034) 93 223 51 51 CONTACT US

    All RiConnect videos are available here.



    • SEP 26-27 > Kick-off meeting | Phase 1



    • JAN 30-31 > Final meeting | Phase 1
    • JUN 29-30 > Kick-off meeting | Phase 2
    • OCT 22-23 > Thematic Meeting 1 | Reorganising how we move
    • FEB 04-05 > Thematic Meeting 2 | Integrating the infrastructure
    • APR 22-23 > Thematic Meeting 3 | Adding ecosystem functions
    • JUL 05-06 > Thematic Meeting 4 | Planning the metropolis
    • OCT 25-29 > Midterm reflection meeting


    • FEB 21-22 > Implementation meeting
    • JUL 6-8 > Final meeting | Phase 2



    RiConnect Final ReportRiConnect case studiesRiConnect chronicles

    Integrated Action Plans

    RiConnect partners


    Read all the local Integrated Action Plans from the RiConnect partners!

    RiConnect Avinguda del Valles - Barcelona Metropolitan Area
    Avinguda del Vallès


    Read the Integrated Action Plan here.

    Barcelona Metropolitan Area
    Skawina - Krakow Metropolis Association


    Read the Integrated Action Plan here.

    Krakow Metropolis Association (PL)
    Hel Peninsula - Gdansk Gdynia Sopot Metropolitan Area
    Hel Peninsula


    Read the Integrated Action Plan here.

    Gdańsk - Gdynia - Sopot Metropolitan Area (PL)



    Lelylaan - Vervorregio Amsterdam


    Read the Integrated Action Plan here.

    Vervorregio Amsterdam
    Oldham - Transport for Greater Manchester


    Read the Integrated Action Plan here.

    Transport for Greater Manchester
    Livry-Gargan - Greater Paris Metropolis


    Read the Integrated Action Plan here.

    Greater Paris Metropolis
    Arranha - Porto Metropolitan Area


    Read the Integrated Action Plan here.

    Porto Metropolitan Area
    Kodra camp-to-park - Thessaloniki
    Kodra camp-to-park


    Read the Integrated Action Plan here.



    Find here all the documents created by the RiConnect network! Click on each icon to view and download the documents:


    RiConnect Baseline studyRiConnect RoadmapsRiConnect newsletter

    RiConnect is an Action Planning Network of 8 metropolises which aim is to rethink, transform and integrate mobility infrastructures in order to reconnect people, neighbourhoods, cities and natural spaces. We will develop planning strategies, processes, instruments and partnerships to foster public transport and active mobility, reduce externalities and social segregation and unlock opportunities for urban regeneration. Our long-term vision is a more sustainable, equitable and attractive metropolis for all.

    RiConnect - rethinking infrastructure
    Rethinking infrastructure
    Ref nid
  • Engaging cities to reject housing exclusion as a ‘fact of life’

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

    Urban design

    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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  • 23 Action Planning Networks ready for Phase 2!

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



    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!





    Research, technological development and innovation


    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

    (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.


    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


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

    - 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


    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.


    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.


    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.

    (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.


    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


    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


    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


    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).


    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.


    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.


    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


    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.




    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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  • Cities engaging in the right to housing

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    Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) and URBACT are joining forces on housing!


    Throughout 2020, UIA and URBACT have explored how cities can design housing policies and practical solutions to implement the right to housing.


    We have collected stories and concrete examples from European cities already implementing the right to housing that others can take inspiration from.

    Three questions were leading this work:

    • What are the most innovative practices at city level concretely delivering the right to housing?
    • What can cities do to ensure that everyone – particularly the most disadvantaged groups - have access to safe, adequate and affordable housing?
    • How can the EU and member States create an enabling environment for cities to innovate?

    The ultimate goal is to push the agenda on the right to housing EU wide and to further enrich the work done by the EU Urban Agenda.

    The launch of the joint initiative happended during the Cities Forum on 31 January 2020. Experimenting new housing models and governance structures, designing strategies for those locked out of the housing market, and implementing anti-speculation measures were some of the main themes arising from the discussions regarding the role of municipalities.

    Webinar series


    A series of webinars and more digital outputs were delivered on the following themes:


    Save-the-date for our webinars

    Community-led practices: cooperative, co-housing and CLT practices

    24 April 2020

    No one left behind: addressing specific issues of accessibility to adequate housing by vulnerable groups

    26 June 2020

    Fair finance : municipal strategies protecting housing from speculation

    19 November 2020

    An additional session was organised during the European Week on How to implement the Right to Housing in Covid times.

    Beyond the cities working with UIA and URBACT on this topic, the success of this knowledge activity relies on the contribution of key stakeholders representing housing practitioners, administrations, EU wide organisations, academia and civil society initiatives. 

    To receive more information and get involved, click here.


    More activities are planned for 2021. Videos, podcasts and more inspiring content will be available through a new platform soon to be launched.


    If you have any questions, you can contact:

    Amélie Cousin,
    Alice Fauvel,


    Interested in the topic? Click here to read the article written by Laura Colini, Programme Expert coordinating the joint activity!

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  • Rethinking the mobility infrastructure of Europe's metropolises

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    RiConnect is exploring more efficient, equitable, and attractive metropolitan mobility systems.


    The fundamental aim of mobility infrastructure has always been to connect people, link settlements and structure the territory. Humanity’s history is the history of mobility infrastructure. Without paths, bridges, tunnels and roads, there are no stories to tell.

    But looking at Europe now, where most population lives in urban areas, often surrounded by overused, congested, noisy, and air-polluting mobility infrastructure we must ask ourselves: How did we get here? How should we begin to address this issue?


    Cities are growing. Today’s global population is increasingly urban and this trend is expected to continue. Less than 30% of the total human population lived in cities in 1950 and over half of all people do so today. In 2050 the world’s population is expected to increase by 2 billion and it is estimated that 70% of the total will live in urban areas. In the European context, despite the fact that Europe is not expected to grow, the urbanisation process is unstoppable, and almost 85% of the European population will live in cities by 2050, making the reality of the European community majorly urban.

    From an urban point of view, when we say cities, we mean urban areas organised around multiple cities; in other words, a complex structure of cities -few or many- that works as a whole; that is, a metropolis.


    If we wonder why cities grow, we can answer that people mainly move to urban areas to access all the opportunities the metropolis has to offer.

    Urban area’s appeal resides in the extensive array of services available for their citizenry - everything we need and everything we want - from the most functional to the most spiritual. People will therefore try to access them in the quickest and most comfortable ways.

    People move, as they already did in the past, they do today and will continue to do so in the future. From subsistence-driven migration in the past, to the contemporary new-nomadism of our digital and interconnected era, including daily commutes today, people’s movement within the urban area are increasing substantially.

    People still move driven by subsistence – food or labour – but also do so to access to knowledge, education, culture, leisure activities and due to social relations.

    Regardless of its driving force, movement is a vital element in people’s lives. People don’t move to cities to be isolated, hence the importance of providing and organising mobility and accessibility for everybody and everywhere.

    The right to mobility is, in fact, the right to the whole city. And it is not only a functional element but also a fundamental and structural value in the way to an inclusive and non-discriminatory society.


    Paradoxically, not all metropolises today ensure the adequate connectivity of everybody to the places they may need to commute to. This is so because metropolitan mobility infrastructure design and use has mostly revolved around the use of private cars, with the exception of train tracks.

    As population increases, the urban area grows, and infrastructures that once lay stretched apart, now are getting closer and closer, especially in the suburbs. Roads and other tracks are not integrated with the city around it. They are not accessible to everyone and their use doesn't adapt to the new mobility requirements arising from the current citizen's contemporary lifestyle.

    These mobility infrastructures generate fragmentation, disconnections and other negative externalities. They usually consist in high-speed fenced roads with few traffic-light crossings, separating neighbourhoods and causing discontinuities in green spaces. They are often overused, therefore inefficient even for car mobility, and have no exclusive lanes for public transport or for active mobility, which makes them doubly ineffective.

    Also, they produce externalities that directly affect the nearby population, such as low-quality space around them, pollution and noise. Other externalities such as climate change, driven by excessive energy consumption and CO2 production, end up affecting the whole community. Nobody wants to live in such a place!

    Better cities

    If mobility operating patterns remain based on car use, as they are today, the existing infrastructure will continue to be insufficient, as it is already proving to be on many accounts today. To realise this, we must simply look around and see how congested cities’ connecting roads are or count the hours lost by suburban commuters in daily displacements.

    Instead of adapting mobility infrastructure to an increase in car use, what if we betted for optimising infrastructure we already have?

    "While metropolises grow, we have two options: to further increase the space allocated to infrastructure, which, in most cases, is unfeasible in many aspects, or to rethink, transform and integrate existing mobility infrastructure with the city around it, making it more efficient, equitable, sustainable and spatially attractive while reducing social segregation among other externalities”. This, says Joan Caba (urban planner at AMB and the project’s coordinator), is the main goal of RiConnect Action Plan Network.

    RiConnect is an Urbact III’ Action Planning Network (APN) composed of 8 metropolitan entities: Area Metropolitana do Porto (AMP), Obszar Metropolitalny Gdansk-Gdynia-Sopot (OMG-G-S), Stowarzyszenie Metropolia Krakowska (SMK), Major Development Agency Thessaloniki SA (MDAT), Vervoerregio Amsterdam (VA), Métropole du Grand Paris (MGP) and Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), led by Area Metropolitana de Barcelona (AMB).

    RiConnect is a network of metropolitan authorities that want to address a particular issue - the right to mobility- that affects all citizens, mending possible disconnections between the centre and peripheral areas and uniting the city as a whole.

    Cities that are rethinking the urban mobility infrastructure within them are blooming in Europe. They have already begun to restructure the use of the streets, recovering the space that had been allocated to cars and using it to foster public transport and active mobility.

    However, few have done so on a metropolitan scale.

    The metropolitan authorities are essential for making future decisions that take into account the interests of all parties. Without their commitment, it would be impossible to achieve the main goal, which requires leadership and management capacity of the benefits for several municipalities.

    So far, eight metropolises have already committed to doing so.



    The Street-Path-Road-Highway-Street story

    It is interesting to observe the dynamics of roads connecting metropolitan cities. This road here started as a path, maybe even a dirt track that stretched away from a street in the town centre. As the city surrounding it started to grow, it became a road at the edge of the city’s centre, but also became the main street for the neighbouring cities. As the cities grew, cars, scooters, trucks and buses started circulating along fresh pavement that covered the dust and cobblestones that once defined it.

    This paved road eventually became a fenced highway, but the unbearable traffic transiting along it made the villages decide to build a bypass to divert its traffic, with the intention of recovering the highway-road-path as the city’s main street. However, it continued being a road in the cities’ suburbs. That is why both municipalities agreed to transform the highway into a broad metropolitan avenue connecting both towns, to bring back the concept behind the first paths and roads that connected them.

    While cycling, Oriol Ribera, urban planner from the Barcelona Metropolitan Area, showed us a similar metamorphosis: "The C-245 could transform after C-32 construction. It used to be a fenced four-lane road only for cars, and now it will change into a four-lane road, two of them for cars and the other two exclusively for buses and parallel lanes for bikes and pedestrians on both sides. The roundabouts will transform into urban squares. This transformation will increase the surroundings development potentialities instead of reducing them".

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  • 9 European cities acting together to end homelessness. Ambitious? Hell, yes!

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    What do we talk about during a 2,5 day summit on transforming planning? Catch a glimpse on our Day 2 Recap.

    Homeless people are increasing in all European countries except one: Finland. The most extreme form of poverty is becoming ever more urgent to tackle. Cities are struggling with understanding the numbers they deal with, define their specific problem and finally find innovative solutions to work with. A time of crisis calls for radical answers and a shift in mind-set. Can the collaboration between 9 European cities lead towards the end of an era? 

    “I see this lady, just outside the centre where they distribute methadone. Every morning she stands there. She is old and not in a good shape. I have been walking past her every day for the last year; -a whole year, every day. Now we wave hello to each other. She reminds me of why I do my job”. Says Steven as we walk away from the MSOC in Ghent, a medical centre where people can get methadone and support. Steven Vanden Broucke has been working for the Belgian city of Ghent since 2018 and is working on a local action plan to end chronic homelessness. 200 people arrive at the MSOC every day suffering from drug dependency and often mental disease. About half of them are homeless. “Not all of them are without a roof,” tells us one of the project medical doctors “but many live in insecure, inappropriate housing or couch surf.” 

    The city of Ghent (BE) has the challenging role of leading the new Action Planning Network ROOF in the URBACT program. ROOF is focusing on ending homelessness through innovative housing solutions. The project is a partnership between 9 cities: Ghent (Lead partner), Braga (PT), Glasgow (UK), Gothenburg (SE), Liège (BE), Naples (IT), Timisoara (RO), Thessaloniki (EL) and Toulouse (FR). The cities will compare best and worst practices, learn from one another and grow together with two main objectives: 1. gather accurate data about homelessness in their own city 2. make the shift from managing to the actual ending of homelessness, with Housing First and Housing Led as guidance model.

    Room in a homeless shelter in Naples (Italy)

    To measure is to know

    Homelessness does not have one single definition, and this lack of definition is also part of the problem. While the common image of a homeless person is a person living in the streets, many homeless people are sleeping with friends or relatives, in their cars or in unsuitable conditions. Homeless people often do not want to be seen. When visiting one of the day shelters for the homeless in Liège, the director explained: “The people coming to our service to get a meal and a bed, may remain anonymous. We only ask them to maintain the same identity for the whole season.” Patricia Vanderbauwhede who works for the Housing Department of the city of Ghent and ROOF project leader, is certain that an accurate data collection on homelessness is a crucial step towards solving the problem. “It is very convenient for a city to think the numbers are smaller than they really are. We have to work together in order to make this problem visible and reveal the real numbers”.

    Even though the numbers are difficult to collect and compare, studies show that more than 4 million people are affected by homelessness each year in Europe. "Only crisis -actual or perceived- produces real change" said Milton Friedman. And for homelessness, the multiple crisis level is evident: the Global Financial Crisis brought higher levels of poverty; the Housing Crisis today makes the housing market become highly inaccessible for most vulnerable people and the European migrant crisis causes difficulty for migrants in finding affordable housing and a homelessness risk, due to their complex situation (such as lack of finances, language barriers, cultural differences, (mental) health issues.


    Street art in Sanità neighbourhood in Naples (Italy)


    The house as a human right, not a reward.

    The ROOF project will not stop at understanding the problem but will explore innovative housing solutions, and especially “Housing First”. The reasons for that come from the observation of, -the only European country showing positive trends on homelessness. It is the only country with a long and successful experience with “Housing First”. The traditional model is a staircase model, where people have to go through several steps before they can get a house, for example by curing their addiction first. In “Housing First”, to be given a home is a first step. Once one has a home, other problems are taken care of, with freedom of choice and flexibility. This puts the house as a human right and not as a reward. Temporary solutions in housing are often unsuccessful for people with complex needs. I met three young adults in Queens Cross housing association in Glasgow during my city visit. “I am very easily influenced,” one of them shared, “going back to an institution or a temporary housing solution, and living with other people that have similar problems would have meant going back to drugs, losing my job… I needed my own space, I needed to put my life together, on my own.” The three young adults now live in small and independent apartments, and have 24/7 support from the housing association if needed.

    Study visit to Glasgow (Scotland)

    The URBACT framework is perfect for this network, it facilitates exchange and learning on transnational and local level, it offers capacity building, it provides cities with guidance to make a local action plan together with their stakeholders and puts focus on communication and dissemination. These four aspects make a great opportunity for the cities to act. “URBACT allows each city to have a spotlight on a desired topic, to bring it to the political agenda and to the citizens’ attention,” says Ariana Tabaku, from the coordination team of the City of Ghent. “All cities should use this opportunity strategically.”

    Professor Eoin O'Sullivan (Trinity College, Dublin) speaks at ROOF kick-off meeting

    The ROOF network is determined to influence the European strategies on the topic. Europe does not have a specific policy for homelessness. During the network Kick-off Meeting in Naples this October, Professor Eoin O’Sullivan spoke about the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with one of its aims to reduce homelessness to functional zero (meaning homelessness is rare, brief and non-recurrent) in all member states by 2030. Action plans of 9 cities and small scale solutions in the next two years, may well serve the ambitious aim to end homelessness.







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