Network members activities
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Thriving Through Crises

Posted on 22-11-2022

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, used the word ‘crisis’ ten times in her latest State of the Union. As one of her distant predecessors, Jean Monnet, once said that “Europe will be forged in crises”[i], I could hardly think of a more interesting time to be seconded in Brussels. Whether crises relate to housing, climate, energy, cost-of-living, or the war in Ukraine, they necessitate representatives to go beyond their own interests and come together in a constructive matter. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to take a closer look at this political dance during my secondment at Housing Europe.   Brussels comes with a unique dialect, often ridiculed and currently under scrutiny after a study (Rauh, 2022) showed that it baffles anyone except technocrats who use it on a day-to-day basis. Frankly, I did not have a clue what a ‘trilogue meeting’ consisted of before starting here, but now I have become fascinated by this closed-door negotiation process between the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council (i.e. national governments). In the past few weeks, I have tried to follow talks on the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) revision and the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) extension for Housing Europe.   Once you find your way through the EU’s web of acronyms, it is rather engaging to read through related documents and visit relevant events. They allow you to identify trends that will be further developed across the continent in the years after. While discussions about the promise of ‘one-stop-shops’ and ‘energy communities’ are not new, recent emphasis on these terms in European corridors suggest that a surge of policy incentives is to be expected in the near future. Another ubiquitous term, at least since last year’s surge in gas prices, lies at the heart of my research: energy poverty.   During Housing Europe’s annual Renovation Summit, held last week, energy poverty was even designated as one of the most pressing issues of our time by Alessia di Gregorio, deputy head of Social Economy at the European Commission. She urged member states to both monitor it continuously as well as address it with adequate retrofit policies. Marcos Ros Sempere, an MEP who serves as EPBD ‘shadow rapporteur’, referred to energy poverty alleviation as one of the main pillars of the Renovation Wave, emphasising the need to allocate funds to “the people who need it most”.   It strengthens me in my belief that national governments and other stakeholders (such as housing associations and energy suppliers) need to monitor which residents are most at risk. Not only because the revised Electricity Directive (Article 29 in Directive 2019/944 for EU insiders) and upcoming Social Climate Fund require them to, but because recognitional justice is a prerequisite for distributional justice. The only way to make the ‘just transition’ more than another empty shell is by identifying the disadvantaged, having them participate in the legislative process, and drafting policies that genuinely benefit their livelihoods.   [i] The original quote was "L'Europe se fera dans les crises et elle sera la somme des solutions apportées à ces crises" which would translate into "Europe will be forged in crises, and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises" (Monnet, 1976).   References   Monnet, J. (1976). Mémoires. Paris: Fayard.    Rauh, C. (2022). Clear messages to the European public? The language of European Commission press releases 1985–2020. Journal of European Integration, 1-19.

Author: T.Croon (ESR11)


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A fruitful time at Housing Europe

Posted on 08-11-2022

ESG risks being one of the most (over)used acronyms of this decade. Hailed as “the” solution to climate change or dismissed as greenwashing, it is also becoming important to review its relevance for social housing. This has precisely been the focus of my research at Housing Europe, framed within the RE-DWELL project, funded by the European Commission. Last week, I was invited to the 83rd session of the UNECE Committee on Urban Development to discuss the role of green finance in enabling the development and renovation of social housing. You can follow some of the points I raised at this event on a blog I wrote for Housing Europe in the link below:

Author: A.Fernandez (ESR12)


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Participatory budgets and Sustainable Development Goals

Posted on 29-10-2022

Nowadays, it feels almost impossible to speak about sustainability and not refer to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), developed under the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Agenda brings together economic, environmental and social stands of solutions to holistically address global challenges, based on the principle of “leaving no one behind”. The goals are set out in 169 targets and are formulated within five pillars: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership.   Committed to the Agenda, the UN member states adapt their national and local strategies not only for the implementation of measures that contribute to the achievement of the developed goals and targets, but equally significantly for the monitoring of their progress in this direction. In this regard, countries and municipalities develop mechanisms to recontextualise the global targets and report their annual progress.   Placing people as a key pillar for sustainable development denotes that the measures and monitoring should exceed the macroeconomic indicators and look into mechanisms that care for how individuals’ life change for the better. Measuring the effects of such mechanisms at a local level can be a challenging matter, as they entail parameters that are in general consensus difficult to quantify. In this context, in my 4-month secondment at the Department of Housing and Local Development at the Municipality of Lisbon I explored the contribution of the ongoing BIP/ZIP participatory budget in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Lisbon.   Participatory Budgets  Participatory budgets are mechanisms for democratising public funds in the sense that they enable the active participation of citizens in the decision-making of how national or municipal resources are spent. Among the main effects of participatory budgeting discussed in the research community are the modernisation of public administrations through transparency and accountability, the efficiency in tackling cross-disciplinary challenges, such as inclusivity and inequalities through the collaborative ways of urban governance they introduce, as well as the reorientation of public expenditures towards least advantaged populations. Doing so, the structures and processes they provide are particularly relevant for the discussion on sustainable development and according to the UN Habitat’s Report (2020) they are considered as accelerators for achieving the SDGs.   BIP/ZIP Portugal is seen as a paradigmatic case in disseminating participatory budgets issued by municipal agendas (Falanga & Lüchmann, 2019), counting more than 270 active programs in its mainland[1]. The BIP/ZIP Program in Lisbon that I am also researching as a case study beyond the limits of my secondment, was launched in 2011 as the first participatory budget implemented in a European capital city. The project annually funds bottom-up initiatives developed by local partnerships with the objective to promote social and territorial cohesion in priority areas.   During the four months that I was hosted at the Municipality of Lisbon, I was lucky enough to have access to the secondary data of the program and enrich my dataset with qualitative and quantitative information. Looking at the program’s data in correlation to the SDGs, I was able to draw direct and indirect links to specific goals and targets and deliver a preliminary data-driven methodology to measure the impact of the program for the city of Lisbon. Even at this early stage of the methodology, I could safely assume that after ten years of implementation, BIP/ZIP has a significant contribution on achieving the SDGs in Lisbon, so the emerging question is if it is taken into consideration when measuring the city’s progress towards achieving the SDGs.   To make a long answer short, my research showed that the program both at a strategic level and at the micro-scale of each project, is not really accounted in Lisbon’s SDG progress monitoring[2], which indicates that further effort should be made in integrating social indicators into the measuring processes.     Acknowledgements The end of my secondment was celebrated with a presentation of the results and a very engaging discussion with members of the Department of Housing and Local Development and the BIP/ZIP Division. For this as well as for all the support and hospitality during my stay at the Municipality, I would like to thank Filipa Roseta, Vasco Moreira Rato, Gonçalo Armindo and Isabela Teixeira da Mota, as well as members of the BIP/ZIP Division Maria Antónia Victória, Teresa Tome and Monica Alfredo.   ------- Notes [1] More information on   [2]  For more information on Portugal’s SDG monitoring process with information at municipal level, please visit ODS Local at   ------ References Falanga, R., & Lüchmann, L. H. H. (2019). Participatory budgets in Brazil and Portugal: comparing patterns of dissemination. Policy Studies, 41(6), 603–622.    UN-Habitat. (2020). Exploring the Role of Participatory Budgeting in Accelerating the SDGs: A Multidimensional Approach in Escobedo, Mexico.

Author: A.Pappa (ESR13)


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Defining homelessness as a housing problem

Posted on 28-10-2022

Homelessness is a complex social problem and an extreme form of poverty that is on the rise. It is not only income-related, but it also includes quality of life and safety.   It diminishes a person's dignity and productive potential. The most common causes of homelessness in Europe are limited access to affordable housing and a precarious labour market. As part of the RE-DWELL project, we are trying to define what affordable housing means, not only for the low- or middle-income population but also for those most in need of affordable and safe housing.    The European Typology of Homelessness and Housing Market Exclusion (ETHOS) typology is an international typology that aims to define and recognise different types of homelessness. The methodology was developed in 2005 by the European Federation of Organisations Working on Homelessness (FEANTSA) and includes four broad categories of homelessness: rooflessness, houselessness, insecure housing, and inadequate housing. These four categories are further subdivided into thirteen categories covering different housing situations that can be compared internationally and targeted by different policies.   The Croatian national definition of homelessness does not follow the ETHOS typology, but instead defines as homeless a person without a residence or means to meet housing needs who temporarily lives in a shelter or stays in public places for housing.    The immediate limitations of this definition are obvious, as the definition does not recognise any safety or quality housing standards and does not take into account people coming from different institutions (social care or prisons) who have no housing options other than emergency shelters.   In Croatia, local authorities are legally required to provide a minimum level of funding for soup kitchens and emergency shelters, but it is largely left to civil societies to apply for these funds and to provide these services to the homeless. Thus, Croatian service for homelessness is mostly “passive” and oriented towards emergency help and remedy programmes, with some additional services within shelters, but also there is an initiative towards an “active” form of service which is a Housing First pilot project in the city of Pula.    During my two-month assignment at the RE-DWELL partner organisation "CERANEO - Centre for the Development of Non-Profit Organisations" in Zagreb, Croatia, I had first-hand access to CERANEO's resources, which are the result of the organisation's fruitful cooperation with many civil society organisations. CERANEO addresses not only homelessness but also other social issues and through its work strengthens the position of other civil society organisations in Croatia through networking, cooperation and funding. The aim of the secondment was to interview providers of homelessness services and assess their financial, organisational and social sustainability in providing services. To this end, one of the key contacts was the Croatian Homeless Network (HMB), which provided helpful insights into the problems faced by service providers in Croatia    The bottom line is that civil society organisations providing services to the homeless in Croatia are the most important actors in the fight against homelessness and they need better dialogue with policy makers. They also need long-term funding for programmes that could improve services and eliminate homelessness. It is also important to properly define homelessness so that no one in need of housing is left behind.  

Author: M.Horvat (ESR6)


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Solar Decathlon Competition and LCA | Secondment with UPV

Posted on 27-10-2022

Leading up to the summer I completed my first secondment of three months at the Universitat Politènica de València (UPV), which was conveniently only a three-hour journey south along the Spanish coast from my host institution in Barcelona.   Life in Valencia involved drinking copious amounts of horchata (a local drink made from tiger nuts called Xufa) and enjoying Jardin del Turia, a park that was once a river which today hosts attractions such as gardens, sports facilities, and futuristic cultural buildings designed by architect Santiago Calatrava. I had the pleasure of working with my co-supervisor Ignacio Guillén and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) expert Alberto Quintana Gallardo, Ph. D. in the department of Applied Physics. Together they provided excellent support with my plans to investigate housing projects from this year’s Solar Decathlon competition and to learn and apply LCA to built case studies during my stay.   As my project investigates Design for Disassembly (DfD) – in addition to Industrialised Construction – the Solar Decathlon competition was an exciting and unique opportunity to observe the disassembly and reassembly of sustainable homes, including the Spanish entry from team Azalea at UPV. As a former practicing architect where I worked with sustainability consultants who normally carry out LCA’s, I was also very eager to learn how to actually do an LCA myself.   Solar Decathlon So what is the Solar Decathlon competition? It is an international competition where teams from universities build prototype homes known as ‘House Demonstration Units’ (HDU) that showcase the best in innovation and energy efficiency using renewable energy. Although the design aspect of the competition focusses on minimising operational carbon, the build challenge requires teams to first construct their HDU at a site in their home country, disassemble it, then transport and reassemble it in only two weeks at the competition site, also known as the Solar Campus. This means designing for disassembly is integral to the competition, making it a fantastic opportunity to study how housing can be more resource efficient over the building life cycle and understand practical building issues.   The competition and reassembly of the houses took place this year in May at the Solar Campus in Wuppertal, Germany. The 16 teams that made it to the build phase heralded from the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Romania, Czech Republic, Turkey, Taiwan, Germany itself, and of course Spain.   I seized the opportunity to observe and ask questions about the disassembly process, the reassembly process, and carry out interviews with each of the Solar Decathlon teams. When I arrived at UPV at the start of May, Team Azalea from UPV had finished building their HDU called the Escalà project on campus and had just held their inauguration event. Over the first two weeks of my secondment, I visited the house every day whilst it was slowly disappearing as it was taken apart and loaded onto five trucks headed to Germany, where the team would shortly reassemble it all over again! During this time, I got to know the team members who had bonded immensely during the intense competition period until this point. Before heading to Wuppertal myself, I was able to pilot interview questions covering technical and environmental sustainably aspects of the project with the Azalea team, as well as remotely with the SUM team from TU Delft.   The energy at the Solar Campus in Wuppertal was palpable as the teams were busy reassembling their HDU’s, each had an internal floor area of around 70m2 to give an idea of scale. I quickly got to know each of the projects and schedule interviews with the 16 teams, who kindly volunteered their time during the middle of the hectic reassembly period before the houses were judged and opened to the public. I managed to interview 13 teams on-site (the remaining teams were later interviewed online), including participants from different fields and both students and professors. Each team had a unique solution to the brief which called for either vertical and horizontal extensions or in-fill proposals. It was not only insightful but a pleasure speaking with true pioneering experts in housing designed for disassembly. Now’s time to complete the analysis of all that data!   LCA Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is an increasingly popular methodology and decision-supporting tool used by industry professionals and scholars to measure and compare the environmental impacts of buildings (European Commission, 2010). An LCA can be used to calculate Whole Life Carbon (WLC), which includes both embodied carbon from all the materials, processes, and transport to construct buildings and the operational carbon produced whilst a building is inhabited. WLC assessments are crucial to set environmental targets to decarbonise our building stock. There is currently a big knowledge gap around LCA amongst architectural practitioners and other stakeholders involved in the delivery of housing, partly due to the time-consuming nature of LCA’s. An LCA can be calculated simply with an excel spreadsheet or using various online platforms and plug-ins such as OneClick LCA, but amongst scholars more heavy software is called for, such as SimaPro – which is was what I would be learning to use whilst at UPV. My aim here was to carry out cradle-to-cradle LCA’s of case studies to quantify the benefits of DfD and the consideration of different lifespans for different parts of the building.   Work began on the first case study of a house designed and delivered by my co-supervisor Ignacio Guillén called Edificación Eco-Eficiente, or ‘EEE’, this was awarded a Class A energy rating and was the first single-family home in Spain to achieve the maximum VERDE* rating of 5 leaves. EEE was built using Industrialised Construction and prefabricated 2D elements that were assembled on-site in only 19 days. I was also able to visit the house on the UPV campus, though due to security reasons it can’t be used as a living-lab, which is a shame as it could provide some great in-use data on energy efficiency!   Using Simapro was (and still is) a steep learning curve with an incredible amount of precise and technical information that needs to be included. Imagine having to enter every single built element manually into a software, and not just modelled 3D objects but also coatings such as the surface area of zinc needed to galvanise steel, the grouting between tiles… the list goes on. Needless to say, LCA is an invaluable tool and will contribute greatly to my doctoral research project.     ¡Hasta pronto! I will be seeing my colleagues in Valencia again next month for the VIBRArch conference held by UPV to present my ongoing work on LCA. My secondment was invaluable in learning new skills and creating connections, particularly through the Solar Decathlon competition that I am continuing to follow up. Thank you to everyone at UPV, the Azalea team, and Solar Decathlon participants who provided such positive experiences and research opportunities!      *VERDE is a sustainability certification developed by Green Building Council Spain   Bibliography   Solar Decathlon Europe Competition website and knowledge platform with previous year’s entries   Team Azalea’s Instagram page and website   London Energy Transformation Initative ‘LETI’ provide an excellent embodied carbon primer for further reading on Whole Life Carbon     References European Commission. (2010). ILCD Handbook - General Guide for Life Cycle Assessment: Detailed Guidance (1st ed.). Publications Office of the European Union.  

Author: A.Davis (ESR1)


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RE- DWELL from the viewpoint of industry

Posted on 25-10-2022

The gap between academic and real world activities can seem wide, particularly for Early Stage Researchers (ESRs). While university research projects are always aiming for impact, demonstrating that research activity has been taken up, and made a beneficial contribution to society, the economy or the environment, it’s often hard to engage with those stakeholders that might make use of findings or experience the benefits.  As a very large national housing association Clarion is typical of social housing stakeholders; coming up with a multitude of potential research questions, having ongoing need for evidence to support decision-making strategy and policy, but so focused on delivery that there is little time for deep reflection.      Personally, I’ve benefited from working as a built environment researcher across domains (in academia, on government policy making, as well as a practicing architect) before heading up Clarion’s strategy, policy and research team. After working for 20 years, I took a career break to undertake a PhD investigating a housing related topic that had been troubling me for almost a decade. I still use what I learned about estate regeneration in my day job at Clarion, but equally applicable is the methodological discipline and rigorous thinking that the PhD process instils. RE-DWELL is closing the research-impact gap, providing a model to replicate an accelerated version of this iterative loop of real-world experience prompting highly valid questions, resulting in purposeful research, which can rapidly shape actions and improvement.    The trans-disciplinary, cross-subject ambition of the RE-DWELL programme is broad. The core topic, sustainable affordable housing across the European context, could provide the starting point for numerous PhDs.  The summaries here don’t do justice to the richness of the themes and ideas being explored, or the interconnections being made. Housing is a complex system with many stakeholders, each with particular views, motivations and fields of activity. RE-DWELL echoes this though the diversity of its partners.  It’s this mix of organisations that is offering both the diversity of academic of expertise and practical contexts.  The RE-DWELL network has reach; I’ve encountered RE-DWELL colleagues in unexpected circumstances (bumping into Pere Picorelli from Institut Català del Sòl at a UN Habitat Session in Bilbao). Knowing a few of the partner organisations well gave Clarion confidence to get involved in the consortium bid, and the RE-DWELL experience has already strengthened these existing relationships with EFL, Housing Europe and University of Reading. But all of the participants are bringing something to the partnership, and I’m looking forward to ongoing work across the consortium.    If the RE-DWELL family is establishing useful international professional contacts, the value of individuals coming together is also a huge advantage for the ESRs. Doing a PhD can be a very lonely journey. The RE-DWELL cohort are a sociable, supportive group of young collaborators, with backgrounds in different disciplines and nationalities, with different skills and viewpoints.  All the students can call on this emerging body of knowledge. Being located in a new country gives objectivity to the process of learning to draw comparisons and transferable lessons from distinct national contexts but with the support of colleagues who have greater familiarity of the local idiosyncrasies. The workshop at the International Festival of Housing in Helsinki was a practical example of this collaborative relationship.  A subset of the ESRs devised a realistically plausible urban regeneration scenario, and professionally facilitated the session to be engaging for all the participants, and to extract valuable insights from the attendees.  The opportunity to practice these kinds of skills, working together is invaluable and enhances future employability.    Consultancy or organisation based research can be characterised as impatient, requiring rapid answers to  immediate problems,  compared to the three years focus of a PhD.  Selecting just two issues to focus on from the broad list of ideas initially suggested in the bid on involved Clarion in a degree of casting forward for what might be the timeliest subjects. However, we need not have worried, Clarion would have learnt something useful from any of the topics proposed in the bid, and the two ESRs we have seconded to us have been flexible and intellectually open to the business’s ideas. Having met more of the ESRs  I’m certain we’d have had a similar positive experience with any of the fifteen,  due to the excellent recruitment process.   Secondments are intense, and have required careful preparation by the hosts, especially if the ESR is to grasp an organisation as complicated and sprawling as Clarion in a few short months. Both experienced a taste of the practical constraints experienced working in a housing association. Tijn arrived during lockdown when our offices were deserted, but quickly reached out, visiting homes undergoing retrofit, meeting work colleagues and residents.  Well in advance of his time with us, Leonardo met Clarion staff to explore research opportunities, and as typical in housing and regeneration, plans for schemes altered, so our research plans has evolved. Both have been hard-working, engaged and curious about Clarion. It’s been stimulating for myself and colleagues to host and engage with them.  Investing time as industry partners has been worthwhile, we bring alternative viewpoints to their academic supervisors.  All knowledge transfer partnerships are two-way exercises, balancing the academic needs of the students with the business drivers. We certainly don’t see this a ‘free consultancy’ and so far the secondments have been joint journeys of discovery.   Alongside the normal tasks expected of a PhD, the RE-DWELL training programme is extensive; while valuable these commitments form almost an additional workstream.  Having referred to them myself I can see how the case studies of housing schemes and the vocabulary is developing a shared set of precedents which will be a resource for professionals and students alike.  The complexity and pace of the programme is successful only because of the behind the scenes administration activities/ coordination. As with the secondments, extensive pre-work is needed to ensure everything at the summer school or other events runs smoothly. Attendance at the international workshops with the practicalities of traveling complicated by the pandemic has been eased by hybrid online participation, but not lessened the attraction of coming together and meeting in person.  The main appeal of RE-DWELL was as a way of bring new thinking into Clarion. So far, short reports and presentations to Clarion staff have piqued their curiosity about the other studies underway. The principal outputs are rightly focused on rigorous academic papers, and the PhDs themselves, but the blogs, website articles, social medial activity all add to the cloud of soft impact.  All which returns to the long tail of impact that RE-DWELL should have.    Two years into what already is a valuable well-established international network, RE-DWELL is providing a fast track introduction to the social housing sector, and a unique opportunity to understand its diversity, the practical challenges but also the opportunities it presents. Yet the true value and benefit - RE-DWELL’s wider legacy - will emerge over years or decades as the careers of the ERS’ mature. I’m confident the programme will exceed its ambitions, with the ESRs successfully awarded their PhDs for influential and rigorous studies, and that it may also entice knowledgeable, thoughtful practitioners into the social housing sector to make it their lifelong career.

Author: E.Warwick (Supervisor)


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The discussion for the right to housing. ENHR, Barcelona 2022

Posted on 12-09-2022

The annual conference of the European Network of Housing Research took place in Barcelona this year, under the title “The struggle for the right to housing. The pressures of globalization and affordability in cities today”. At the epicenter was the issue of the unaffordability of housing and its increasing financialization. As cities become part of a global arena, urban space is increasingly subjected to the flows of capital and market forces, leaving behind the needs and the voices of the local populations. This is what Raquel Rolnik referred to, during the conference, as the colonization of the built space by finance and the processes of dispossession that it implies. In these conditions, housing is being used as an exchange value, as the preferred asset for investment by funds, or for rental exploitation and speculation, by short-term rental corporations. This understanding of housing as an exchange value, demotes its use value, as the right for a shelter, for security, and as a place that is intertwined with people's lives and well-being.   At the same time, we observe how dominant paradigms of urban organization and planning, are spreading over the world, reconfiguring cities and territories. The urban mutations that are caused, for example, by the processes of touristification and gentrification, having a more profound impact on territories at the periphery (or semi-periphery) of capitalism, create unhostile cities for its residents, breaking the social fabric and disturbing social cohesion. As a consequence, these urban reconfigurations, lead to a restructuring of the housing regimes in terms of tenure forms. The rentierization of many housing markets, for example, leads to tenure and intergenerational inequalities between homeowners and renters, creating more precarious conditions for those at rent. On a policy level, important actions were discussed such as the regulation of short-term rentals and rent-control policies together with more supply of social housing, or public support of community-led housing initiatives.    As a counter-act to the ongoing processes of financialization and speculation, there are many bottom-up responses, from groups that are claiming housing as a right and are pushing for decommodified and affordable housing. The emergence of cooperative housing and community land trusts, is such a case, intending to create alternative forms of collective and non-speculative housing, separating the use-value from the exchange value. Through participatory processes and democratic decision-making, the initiatives are creating new forms of ownership, based on collective management. The objectives are plural, as apart from the demand for access to decent and affordable housing, the groups are creating more communal ways of living, in terms of spatial and social configurations and are reconsidering the meaning of sustainability in housing.   Aspects that were discussed in relation to cooperative housing were the affordability of the model and the opportunities for access by social groups in need of affordable, decent, and secure housing, such as low-income, single-parent or immigrant households. Also, the use of policy instruments to facilitate their production and regulate their access to them, as well as the long-term affordability of the model and the prevention of future privatization and speculation. Often the discussion on the inclusion of the model and the accessibility by different social groups is related to the question of governance, in all the phases of production, management, and administration of the housing cooperative, looking at the differences between more self-managed cases, and at others that are being developed in collaboration with associations and umbrella cooperative promoters.     Co-operative housing initiatives are framed by many researchers within the literature of the commons, and thus understood and analyzed by their capacity to create spaces and practices of commoning, embedded in the everyday lives of the inhabitants. This can be analyzed in the internal structure of the housing (spatially and socially), but also in relation to the neighborhood scale, and the impact it can have on the area. In close relation is found the research of cooperative housing through the lens of the ethics of care. The collectivization of the domestic sphere is creating opportunities for different forms of social reproduction that question the dominant ways of dwelling. There are current research projects that attempt to evaluate the contribution of cooperative housing, as a way of dwelling, in the life of its inhabitants, looking at the health and well-being of the communities or the potential to tackle the social rupture created by the individualization of housing, thus looking at the social impact it can generate.   As the model is expanding, and cases of collective, shared, and cooperative housing appear in different contexts from the global north to the south, it is important for the research community to keep shedding light on the potential, but also on the contradictions of these practices. The analysis and the comparison of different cases, help us to learn from the experiences of the groups and work to strengthen the idea of housing as a right, and as a space and a practice that can be meaningful for the communities.

Author: Z.Tzika (ESR10)

Conferences, Reflections

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ENHR 2022 | To avoid the perception trap

Posted on 10-09-2022

Housing across Europe is facing rapidly growing challenges, and most of these challenges go beyond construction, financing and management. They also extend to technology adaptation, policy changes, environmental threats and post-disaster and pandemic recovery. During the last week of August, more than 300 projects and contributions from all over Europe were presented to discuss these challenges and to show where we currently stand in terms of housing.   The European Network for Housing Research (ENHR), founded three decades ago with the aim of improving the quality and relevance of European housing research, has concluded its annual conference. This year, Barcelona was the destination for more than 360 participants. The conference, which spanned four days discussing the struggle for the right to housing, the pressures of globalisation and affordability in cities today, was a success in every respect. Plenary sessions, site visits, interactive presentations and more than 25 types of workshops covered a list of housing-related topics that I cannot even begin to list and explain. However, I will try to articulate some of my thoughts that emerged during the conference in relation to my research project.   The colour, nature and responsibility It is fascinating how we make sense of our surroundings and perceive reality - my understanding is that we have labelled everything, even our problems and its possible solutions. We have harmed our planet, so we said 'environmental problems', and to deal with these problems we have created a dozen concepts, including green building, blue building, sustainable building and so on.   At the fifth plenary session of the ENHR it was suggested that there is a 'green challenge' and that to 'solve' it we need innovative design of sustainable housing. I can agree with the last part, but not the first. Sustainability is a wicked problem, and its solution should have no colours. Jeremy Till, Professor of Architecture at the University of the Arts London, explains that the definition of the words we use could become a trap we need to avoid. I think this is a very effective way of dismantling the problem at hand and rethinking the meanings and perception of our terminology. I could argue that we need to look beyond the obvious meanings to discuss the essence of sustainability. I believe that sustainability is a tricky issue that cannot be magically or individually 'solved', but what we can do is contribute to the discussion.   “The problem at hand is neither amusing nor provocative; it is a serious problem that we all face. We must speak up, no matter who we upset in the process.” (Till, 2022)   We must accept our responsibility and understand that the contribution must come from all stakeholders, without excluding them. Government officials, private developers, citizens and researchers all have their share of responsibility. We need to keep reminding ourselves that we no longer have the power of choice and that there is no 'Planet B', even if our words are harsh and loud.   “We all carry a great responsibility to look beyond individuality in what we do; to succeed, we must join our efforts at all levels. We should do and contribute what we can, so that there will be better future for the next generations to come.” (Heindl, 2022)   Gabu Heindl, Professor of Urbanism and head of GABU Heindl Architektur in Vienna, explains that the work we do must be collective and that we must combine our efforts across all borders. I can only agree with that! I could add that the conventional approaches have worked so far, but they are no longer sufficient. There should be neither a top-down nor a bottom-up approach. The field should be level and the responsibility evenly distributed. The researcher should lead the way by creating clear and simple language and breaking through the walls of individuality. We need to rethink transdisciplinarity and the transferability of the knowledge we create. Before we suggest how to solve a wicked problem, we should talk to each other. So more ENHRs are needed, and perhaps we should set broader goals and call for a global network for housing research.   References HEINDL, GABU. 2022. Plenary Session 5 – Solving the Green Challenge: Innovative Design for Sustainable Housing, ENHR, Barcelona. TILL, JEREMY. 2022. Plenary Session 5 – Solving the Green Challenge: Innovative Design for Sustainable Housing, ENHR, Barcelona.

Author: M.Alsaeed (ESR5)

Conferences, Reflections

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A Turning Point Conversation on Portuguese Public Dwellings Design, Is it some kind of Feminism?

Posted on 06-09-2022

You know those kinds of conversations that are filled with enthusiasm and passion. It's one of those moments that proves to you: yes! Passion exists and it works!   This time it was passion for design as a tool to indirectly empower people and their sense of belonging. It's about promoting social justice!   Currently in Lisbon, there are several affordable rent programmes "Programa de Renda Acessível" (PRA) run by the City Council in view of the high rent prices in the city. Some programmes are public-private partnerships like this initiative. Other programmes are purely public investments from start to finish, where people can apply for rental housing through this website, for example.   My co-supervisor Dr Vasco Moreira Rato from ISCTE - where I had my secondment - is also chief advisor to Lisbon City Councillor on Housing and Public Works, Filipa Roseta. Dealing at the front line with housing issues, the discussions with him were very informative, practical and honest, both from the research and the authorities' point of view. In the process, he wanted to show me an example of how parametric design can benefit public housing in the context of affordability to determine the suitable design parameters within a certain budget while responding to various requirements.       And here comes one of those memorable and inspiring conversations as a Marie Curie ESR.   I had a fruitful conversation with the architects Susana Rato and Joana Couto from SRU (Sociedade de Reabilitação Urbana). They were responsible for preparing the Public Housing concept design for low-cost housing projects that are fully financed by the public sector.  They explained what, why and how they created this schematic design to achieve ambitious design goals within a certain given construction budget. They had a limited budget of about 1000 euros per square metre for construction. Thus, they exploited the power of geometric parametrisation to determine appropriate modern design parameters while meeting the various requirements such as space ratios, areas, technical requirements and regulations.       It is interesting to note that one of the main objectives of this schematic design process is to ensure that future residents feel comfortable where they live and to support their right to live in affordable, durable and beautiful homes.   How did they do so?   They ensured that the spatial needs of different family structures were accommodated by adhering to Portuguese building codes and regulations. As two Portuguese ladies, they questioned the design as if this house would be their own house, that of their relatives or the future home of their children. They insisted on providing terraces for each living unit as an extension of the house to connect the residents with nature, which benefits their soul and mind. They also know that Portuguese people love being outside. Various services have also been proposed, such as a shared laundry room and a communal room. For buildings in neighbourhoods where there are no kindergartens, a kindergarten on the ground floor was proposed.   They worked with energy specialists to design energy-efficient building envelopes, define the technical requirements for walls, doors and windows, and decide on the appropriate renewable energy and water heating techniques. In addition, the distribution of daylight in the interior spaces was investigated. A construction economist accompanied all steps of their design journey, simultaneously calculating construction costs and investigating economic feasibility to modify the design accordingly without compromising the quality and performance requirements of the residential building. This hard work does not negate the fact that they were unable to work with the community itself during the design process due to the tight timeframe of the project. This reflects the reality of many architects in practise. They also expressed their interest in using the possibilities of Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the future, as it would have saved them a lot of time in working with other disciplines to complete this project. It would also be an important tool for management and cost control during construction.       When I returned to Sheffield and while attending Doina Petrescu class on feminism research as part of my PhD training.   I immediately remembered Susana and Joana! Now I see their work and enthusiasm as a kind of feminist action – consistent, practical and balanced - advocating the public housing residents' rights and doing the best in the area under their control. I cannot deny that it was admirable and inspirable.       To sum up!   This conversation triggered the turning point of my PhD research. Currently, I am passionately investigating literature to answer how to design a house that promotes household health and wellbeing?   But, Why?   I dream of Affordable Happy Healthy Housing [Why not?]. Can you label a house as sustainable if it is negatively impacting your physical and mental health?   Hmmm, nope. But in reality, it does not sound that simple …   Sim Senhor [Yes Sir in Portuguese] and that is what we are here to contribute to 😊 See you in the next blog post! Goodbye!       Relevant Sources

Author: A.Elghandour (ESR4)


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Sustainable developments in social housing, a secondment at South Yorkshire Housing Association.

Posted on 18-08-2022

It's been a few months now since I completed my secondment with South Yorkshire Housing Association (SYHA) and writing this post is more difficult than I expected. However, before I continue, I need to clarify some of the key terms mentioned so far. Firstly, a secondment is a defined period of time during which an employee is sent to another organisation to gain experience, increase the workforce or share knowledge (Cambridge, n.d.). A housing association is broadly defined as a society, trust or company that provides, builds, improves or manages housing, or facilitates or promotes the construction of housing, and operates on a not-for-profit basis (HMSO, 1985). Its role has recently expanded to include other social services that focus on vulnerable at-risk groups. Against this background, my work at SYHA has been to research and identify the process of developing sustainable social housing and to participate in real projects to measure housing sustainability and to work with housing associations. Background. The story of South Yorkshire Housing Association begins when founder John Belcher set up Sheffield Family Housing Association to help young homeless families after watching the BBC drama 'Cathy Come Home' in 1972. Almost 50 years later, South Yorkshire Housing Association still builds and manages a range of services, including social housing, affordable rented housing, shared ownership housing and other social support services (SYHA, 2021a). In recent years, SYHA has changed its business model to the concept of "The business is more than housing", focusing on and prioritising other important challenges such as the wellbeing and social needs of its tenants and environmental challenges, in particular climate change, energy efficiency and carbon emissions (SYHA, 2021b). Unlike the conventional 'departmental organisational structure' that follows a strict service typology or structures tailored to role descriptions. SYHA has a unique and dynamic organisational structure guided by the principles of goal setting and services defined as continuous strengthening of resources and improvement of staff performance (SYHA, 2021b, Jacobides, 2007). According to SYHA's latest annual report, total assets owned, managed or under construction amount to more than 6,000 housing units. These include flats, terraced houses, detached houses, semi-detached houses and residential communities (SYHA, 2021c). From strategic plan to theory. Housing is a big part of the climate change problem, accounting for 27 per cent of UK carbon emissions and consuming up to 30 per cent of inland generated energy (DBEIS, 2020). In response, SYHA has developed a strategic plan to achieve the UK's 2050 zero carbon target and help mitigate the impact of climate change on people's health, wellbeing and access to housing (SYHA, 2020). The strategic plan is to (1) identify and calculate the current carbon footprint (2) improve the management of asset data, (3) identify the necessary behavioural changes and engage with end users to reduce their impact on the natural and built environment (read Andreas Panagidis post on participation in planning), (4) improve the energy efficiency of existing homes and tackle fuel poverty (read Tijn Croon post on energy poverty), (5) build new homes to high environmental standards and develop future-proof changes to our current design standard, as well as test new approaches, (6) reduce fossil fuel use across all business areas, (7) update the business plan to respond to various challenges. From theory to practice. In analysing several projects, I have found that SYHA has successfully translated strategic plans into practical guidelines for 'best practice', creating several award-winning projects such as the North Wingfield social housing complex. The guidelines include: (1) Spatial requirements by creating a meeting point between building regulations and actual needs and recognising the different lifestyle preferences of end users, (2) The design of residential neighbourhoods taking into account cultural and natural elements, (3) The connectivity and accessibility of projects and maximising the use of existing infrastructure without depleting resources, (4) Sustainable landscaping and drainage to reduce the impact of artificial landscapes and integrate native components into projects, (5) Modern construction methods that enable safe and fast construction with minimal waste generation.. From practice to research. The main aim of the secondment is to engage the researcher in real projects to measure environmental sustainability and develop a framework for affordable, low-carbon homes. To achieve this goal, I was expected to (1) conduct quantitative and qualitative research and engage with local and international partners and stakeholders, and (2) accurately record and analyse data to provide useful insights for other academics, funders, policy makers and practitioners. I used a variety of research methods such as systematic content analysis, informal interviews and observation. The data collected was analysed from an intervention research perspective. From research to practice. The outcome of the secondment was the development of an online platform that overcomes the challenges and risks identified in the analysis; the platform includes, among other functions, the following. (1) Sustainability practices, by clarifying the principles, tools and structure of environmental sustainability that enhance the existing SYHA project flow chart and overall development processes. (2) Reduce misunderstandings about sustainability and social housing by creating a top-down glossary of terminologies that unifies the language within housing association practices. From SYHA to RE-DWELL. At the end of the secondment, I was able to list and explain the processes used by SYHA and other housing associations in the UK to develop sustainable social housing. The process is complicated and requires extensive analysis of building regulations, policy development and project flow charts. More importantly, I have tested and validated my research gaps to ultimately create valid research questions that respond to real-life challenges. The analysis of SYAH practices provided valuable input for my PhD thesis and helped in the selection of exploratory case studies. All in all, the secondment was an important tool that RE-DWELL used to guide and support my research project. Acknowledgement. The three months I spent at SYHA provided me with great theoretical data, but what was really interesting was meeting the people of SYHA. I received tremendous support from all the team members, and so I have to thank everyone at SYHA and especially Jon Walker, Natalie Newman, Eira Capelan and Robert Milne.     References CAMBRIDGE n.d. Secondment definition In: UNIVERSITY, C. (ed.) Cambridge dictionary. United Kingdom.   DBEIS 2020. Energy Consumption in the UK (ECUK) 1970 to 2019 In: (ONS), O. O. N. S. (ed.) National Statistics. London: Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.   HMSO 1985. The Housing Associations Act 1985: Chapter 69. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office.   JACOBIDES, M. G. 2007. The inherent limits of organizational structure and the unfulfilled role of hierarchy: Lessons from a near-war. Organization Science, 18, 455-477.   SYHA. 2020. Our Strategic Plan 2020-2023 [Online]. UK: South Yorkshire Housing Association. Available: [Accessed 2021].   SYHA. 2021a. Our history [Online]. UK. Available: [Accessed].   SYHA. 2021b. Our purpose [Online]. UK: South Yorkshire Housing Association. Available: [Accessed].   SYHA. 2021c. Who we are [Online]. UK: South Yorkshire Housing Association. Available: [Accessed].

Author: M.Alsaeed (ESR5)


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The wave of participation: bottom-up and top-down

Posted on 28-07-2022

Last month I had the chance to participate at the conference 'Nature for inclusive Urban Regeneration' organised by URBINAT in Milan. I was very pleased to present my working paper ‘Commoning (in) the Neighbourhood, Righting the City’ and discuss a definition of the Right to the City (R2C) through commoning and the role of the state in this discourse, looking at the case of Lisbon.   The first formulation of R2C dates back to 1960’s Henry Lefebvre (1996), but since then it has been a highly discussed topic and one of the main ideas reclaimed by emancipatory practices and practitioners, including the urban commoners. So, while the definition of the R2C through bottom-up commoning activities in the neighbourhoods clearly entails representations of collective struggles of communities to reclaim the urban value (Borch & Kornberger, 2015), there is a debate among theorists on the role of the state in these negotiations. In other words, the question that emerges is: Can the R2C and commoning be seen in terms of existing state and market principals? Possibly oversimplifying Huron’s (2018) analysis of two antithetical positions by anticapitalists on the one hand and institutionalists on the other, the response would be ‘no’ and ‘yes’ respectively.   Yet, exploring what lies between binary responses, I would argue, can also reveal radical alternatives. This consideration arose in my research explorations already since our RE-DWELL very first training activity back in September 2021, namely the Lisbon Workshop. There, during a highly engaging open discussion on participatory processes among Early-Stage Researchers, supervisors and representatives from our non-academic partners, Miguel Brito from the Municipality of Lisbon illustrated the notions of bottom-up and top-down initiated participatory processes as a wave. I spent days reflecting on the strength of this expressive image. What does it offer to conceptualise top-down and bottom-up initiated participation, or in extrapolation other emancipatory practices, such as commoning and the R2C, as a wave and what does this meeting serve?   The urgency for this encounter relates to the transformation of knowledge from static, siloed and self-referential that contributes to the preservation of the existing power structures, to dynamic flow between grassroots informal urbanisation and top-down formal urbanisation that can produce new strategies in research and practice. In this way, as Melanie Dodd (2019) explains, in one direction we must consider the ways in which urban activism can transform institutional structures and produce new kinds of institutions; on the other direction, ways that institutional resources can reach disadvantaged sites and transform unhealthy norms ingraining creative intelligence in informal dynamics.   Arguably, these knowledge flows need to be curated until the two notions reach a balance, in which communities remain committed to practicing their R2C and formal urban planning allows for real synergies and transformations to emerge. Until then, a great challenge remains. How to facilitate such dialogues without abandoning one’s radical values or serving unintentionally co-optation agendas?     References   Borch, C., & Kornberger, M. (2015). Urban commons: Rethinking the city. Routledge.    Dodd, M. (2019). Spatial practices: Modes of action and engagement with the city. Taylor & Francis.   Huron, A. (2018). Carving Out the Commons: Tenant Organizing and Housing Cooperatives in Washington, D.C. 1 edn. Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press.   Lefebvre, H. (1996). The Right to the City. In E. Lebas, Elizabeth, Kofman (Ed.), Writings on Cities (Vol. 53, Issue 2, p. 260). Mass, USA Blackwell Publishers.

Author: A.Pappa (ESR13)

Conferences, Reflections, Workshops

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It's Pride Month! Let's talk about queering housing economics

Posted on 05-06-2022

It’s pride month and we queers get to celebrate our identity. That is, unless we are in one of the 71 countries that still criminalise homosexuality. In fact, in 11 of them not being straight can get you executed. But hey, you don’t need to go to Uganda to get killed for being gay, just going out with your friends can end up with you getting beaten to death as it happened to a 23-year-old last year in my home region. [1]   At least our cheesy teenager romcoms are better, just like Hearstopper on Netflix has proven to the whole world once again. That being said, I’m not here to (just) shame all the straight readers and celebrate queer culture alone. I have something to say about housing economics. Because economics is queer. This is not only because Keynes, the father of macroeconomics whose birthday is today, was a queer himself (and a Gemini) but because economic inequalities affect sexual minorities harder.  But enough about Keynes's hook-up list which proves that gay sex was already ubiquitous even before Grindr. [2]   I want to draw your attention to some facts. The charity AKT reports that as many as 24% of young (aged 16 to 25) homeless people in the UK are LGBT+. This is a more than worrisome figure given queers are less than 10% of the population. Abuse, poverty and exclusion are still the daily realities of many a queer youth. Please have a look at their latest report here. [3] [4] [5]   However, the discrimination of queer people is not only tangible in homelessness but permeates housing provision tout court. According to research by Freddie Mac, the government agency tasked with expanding the secondary market for mortgages in the US, LGBT ownership lags behind the general population. 49% of LGBT community members are likely to own a home, considerably lower than the current national rate (64.3).  Gays and lesbians are the most likely to own (52%) “while LGBT African-Americans (30 per cent) and LGBT Millennials (23 per cent) were the least likely to be homeowners.” [6]   Homeownership has come to occupy a central role in wealth building and welfare provision, particularly for the middle classes and those well-off. This is a direct result of a set of housing policies, including mortgage interest deduction and lack of capital gain tax, often enacted by governments across the political spectrum. Problematising the distributional impact of these policies on queer households is paramount to the reformulation of housing provision.   You can now go click on Keyne’s hook-up list, which together with his latest biography by Zachary D. Carter is not to be missed.    [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

Author: A.Fernandez (ESR12)





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