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Elghandour, A., & Hadjri, K. (2023, August). Rethinking housing affordability to advocate the design for health and wellbeing. In 21st ISQOLS Annual Conference, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

https://isqols.org/2023

Posted on 24-05-2024

Poor housing conditions such as overcrowding, dampness, and inadequate thermal insulation often fall within the challenging realm of housing affordability. These conditions seriously risk a household's health and wellbeing (H+W) and the entire national health system. Decisions made during the design development stages of a residential building can contribute to both households' H+W and housing affordability. This study presents a review to explore the connection between housing affordability, households' H+W, and design. It aims to highlight the designers' role in advocating the rights of households' H+W in the design process of affordable housing. The review is carried out to achieve the following objectives: (1) to understand the common measuring methods of housing affordability to identify its potential to inform design stages, (2) to draw designers' attention to some of the current global challenges on H+W and affordability such as housing prices, energy poverty, and Covid-19 pandemic, (4) Identify the areas where design can contribute to H+W and housing affordability. The review revealed four key factors to be incorporated when labelling a house as "Affordable" to respect households' H+W. It also identified four housing affordability goals for designers and providers to support low-income households' H+W resilience during stressful times. In addition, three cost-related categories have been identified where design can contribute to housing affordability.

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Affordability

Community Empowerment

Life Cycle Costing

Measuring Housing Affordability

Social Sustainability

Area: Design, planning and building

Affordability is defined as the state of being cheap enough for people to be able to buy (Combley, 2011). Applied to housing, affordability, housing unaffordability and the mounting housing affordability crisis, are concepts that have come to the fore, especially in the contexts of free-market economies and housing systems led by private initiatives, due to the spiralling house prices that residents of major urban agglomerations across the world have experienced in recent years (Galster & Ok Lee, 2021). Notwithstanding, the seeming simplicity of the concept, the definition of housing affordability can vary depending on the context and approach to the issue, rendering its applicability in practice difficult. Likewise, its measurement implies a multidimensional and multi-disciplinary lens (Haffner & Hulse, 2021). One definition widely referred to of housing affordability is the one provided by Maclennan and Williams (1990, p.9): “‘Affordability’ is concerned with securing some given standard of housing (or different standards) at a price or a rent which does not impose, in the eyes of some third party (usually government) an unreasonable burden on household incomes”. Hence, the maximum expenditure a household should pay for housing is no more than 30% of its income (Paris, 2006). Otherwise, housing is deemed unaffordable. This measure of affordability reduces a complex issue to a simple calculation of the rent-to-income ratio or house-price-to-income ratio. In reality, a plethora of variables can affect affordability and should be considered when assessing it holistically, especially when judging what is acceptable or not in the context of specific individual and societal norms (see Haffner & Hulse, 2021; Hancock, 1993). Other approaches to measure housing affordability consider how much ‘non-housing’ expenditures are unattended after paying for housing. Whether this residual income is not sufficient to adequately cover other household’s needs, then there is an affordability problem (Stone, 2006). These approaches also distinguish between “purchase affordability” (the ability to borrow funds to purchase a house) and “repayment affordability” (the ability to afford housing finance repayments) (Bieri, 2014). Furthermore, housing production and, ultimately affordability, rely upon demand and supply factors that affect both the developers and home buyers. On the supply side, aspects such as the cost of land, high construction costs, stiff land-use regulations, and zoning codes have a crucial role in determining the ultimate price of housing (Paris, 2006). Likewise, on the policy side, insufficient government subsidies and lengthy approval processes may deter smaller developers from embarking on new projects. On the other hand, the demand for affordable housing keeps increasing alongside the prices, which remain high, as a consequence of the, sometimes deliberate incapacity of the construction sector to meet the consumers' needs (Halligan, 2021). Similarly, the difficulty of decreasing household expenditures while increasing incomes exacerbates the unaffordability of housing (Anacker, 2019). In the end, as more recent scholarship has pointed out (see Haffner & Hulse, 2021; Mulliner & Maliene, 2014), the issue of housing affordability has complex implications that go beyond the purely economic or financial ones. The authors argue that it has a direct impact on the quality of life and well-being of the affected and their relationship with the city, and thus, it requires a multidimensional assessment. Urban and spatial inequalities in the access to city services and resources, gentrification, segregation, fuel and commuting poverty, and suburbanisation are amongst its most notorious consequences. Brysch and Czischke, for example, found through a comparative analysis of 16 collaborative housing projects in Europe that affordability was increased by “strategic design decisions and self-organised activities aiming to reduce building costs” (2021, p.18). This demonstrates that there is a great potential for design and urban planning tools and mechanisms to contribute to the generation of innovative solutions to enable housing affordability considering all the dimensions involved, i.e., spatial, urban, social and economic. Examples range from public-private partnerships, new materials and building techniques, alternative housing schemes and tenure models (e.g., cohousing, housing cooperatives, Community Land Trusts, ‘Baugruppen’), to efficient interior design, (e.g., flexible design, design by layers[1]). Considering affordability from a design point of view can activate different levers to catalyse and bring forward housing solutions for cities; and stakeholders such as socially engaged real estate developers, policymakers, and municipal authorities have a decisive stake in creating an adequate environment for fostering, producing and delivering sustainable and affordable housing.   [1] (see Brand, 1995; Schneider & Till, 2007)

Created on 03-06-2022

Author: L.Ricaurte (ESR15)

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Area: Policy and financing

Housing is usually deemed unaffordable when it consumes more than a set percentage of a household's monthly income. The Eurostat (2022) and the OECD (Chung et al., 2018) follow this threshold approach and define households overburdened with housing costs as those that spend more than 40% of their disposable income on housing. However, this indicator fails to capture financial hardship, particularly among lower-income households. In fact, lower-income households may be spending less than 40% of their income on housing and yet failing to meet adequate consumption levels for other goods. As a response, the residual income approach ascertains housing (un)affordability by defining a minimum level of consumption for a set of goods according to particular household types. The residual income approach builds on consumption data to define the minimum level of income necessary for a household to survive after housing costs. The main shortcoming of this approach is that relies on subjective measures of what constitutes the necessary minimal expenses for a household. These two definitions of affordability navigate two tensions 1) between housing and other types of consumption and 2) between the individual conceptions of what is affordable and what the government considers to be affordable (Haffner & Hulse, 2021). More recently, scholars have emphasized the multi-faceted nature of affordability to include commuting and transport costs together with energy costs (Haffner & Boumeester, 2010). Other approaches focus on supply-side measures, for instance on the share of the housing stock that a household can afford (Chung et al., 2018). Evolutions in the measurement of affordability bear witness to the complexity of housing systems. Affordability is not only dependent on housing consumption but also on housing supply, particularly in inelastic markets where providers have considerable power, see for example Kunovac & Zilic (2021). At the same time, displacement pressures and rising energy costs in an older and inefficient stock add pressure on households to access affordable housing.

Created on 21-04-2023

Author: A.Fernandez (ESR12), M.Haffner (Supervisor)

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Area: Community participation

Community empowerment appears in the literature of participatory action research (Minkler, 2004), participatory planning (Jo & Nabatchi, 2018), and community development (Luttrell et al., 2009) as a key element of participatory practices, understanding it as a process that enables communities to take control of their lives and their environments (Rappaport, 2008; Zimmerman, 2000). Many argue that community participation becomes meaningless if it does not lead to, or pass through community empowerment. As the term is being used in diverse and ubiquitous ways, it runs the risk of ending up as an empty definition and a catch-all phrase (McLaughlin, 2015). It is therefore important to specify the perspective through which we will view the term and clarify the nuances.  Since its origins, empowerment has been used in two different ways. Firstly, top-down as the power that had been ‘granted’ by a higher authority, such as the state or a religious institution, and secondly, bottom-up, as a process by which groups or individuals come to develop the capacity to act and acquire power. Examples of the latter can be found in social groups such as feminists working in nongovernmental organizations throughout the global south in the 1970s, who found a way to address social issues and inequalities that enabled social transformation based on women’s self-organization (Biewener & Bacqué, 2015). The term was gradually appropriated by welfare, neoliberal, and social-neoliberal agendas whose priority was individual agency and choice. In neoliberal rationality, empowerment is related to efficiency, economic growth, business productivity, and individual rational choice to maximize profit in a competitive market economy. In social liberalism agendas, empowerment is understood as ‘effective agency’, where ‘agency’ is not an inherent attribute, but something that needs to be constructed through ‘consciousness-raising’ (McLaughlin, 2016). A broader definition sees empowerment as a social action process through which individuals, communities, and organizations take control of their lives in the context of changing the social and political environment to improve equity and quality of life (Rappaport, 2008; Zimmerman, 2000). Rowlands (1997), refers to four types of empowerment: power over, as the ability to influence and coerce; power to, to organize and change existing hierarchies; power with, as the power from the collective action and power within, as the power from the individual consciousness. Using this classification, Biewener & Bacqué (2015), adopting a feminist approach, understand empowerment as a multilevel construct with three interrelated dimensions: 1) an internal, psychological one, where ‘power within’ and ‘power to’ are developed, 2) an organizational, where ‘power with’ and ‘power over’ are strengthened and 3) a social or political level, where institutional and structural change is made possible through collective action. Thus, community empowerment links the individual level, which involves self-determination, growth of individual awareness, and self-esteem, to the collective level, relating critical consciousness and capacity building with the structural level, where collective engagement and transformative social action take place. This view of empowerment, which considers its goals and processes, has a social dimension that is lacking in other approaches that prioritize individual empowerment. Aside from the feminist movements, the philosophy and practices of community empowerment have been greatly influenced by the work of Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator and an advocate on critical pedagogy. Freire proposed a dialogic problem-solving process based on equality and mutual respect between students and teachers; that engaged them in a process of iterative listening-discussing-acting. Through structured dialogue, group participants shared their experiences, discussed common problems, and looked for root causes and the connections among “problems behind the problems as symptoms” (Freire, 1970). The term conscientization, that Freire proposed, refers to the consciousness that arises through the involvement of people in the social analysis of conditions and their role in changing them. This awareness enables groups to be reflexive and open spaces, to enact change or to understand those limited situations that may deter change (Barndt, 1989). Empowerment can be understood as both a process and an outcome (Jo & Nabatchi, 2018). As a process, it refers to “the development and implementation of mechanisms to enable individuals or groups to gain control, develop skills and test knowledge”(Harrison & Waite, 2015) and it entails the creation of new subjects who have developed a critical consciousness and the formation of groups with a ‘collective agency’ ‚ or ‘social collective identity’ (Biewener & Bacqué, 2015). Empowerment as an outcome refers to “an affective state in which the individual or group feels that they have increased control, greater understanding and are involved and active” (Harrison & Waite, 2015). This can lead to a transformation of the social conditions by challenging the structures and institutionalized forms that reproduce inequalities. The values and the significance of community empowerment can be further applied in the participatory and community-based approaches of the housing sector. Examples of such approaches in the housing provision are the housing cooperatives, and self-developed and self-managed housing groups. Housing cooperatives aim at promoting co-creation to engage future residents, professionals, and non-profit organizations in all the stages of a housing project: problem-framing, designing, developing, cohabiting, managing, and maintaining. Such organisational models stress the importance and pave the way for community empowerment by uniting individuals with similar interests and ideals, enabling them to have housing that responds to their needs, preferences, and values. The participation of the residents aims to strengthen their sense of ownership of the process, the democratic decision-making and management, and the social collective identity, making community empowerment an integral characteristic of cooperative housing initiatives. With this social perspective, residents can gain individual and collective benefits while contributing to fairer and more sustainable urban development on a larger scale (Viskovic Rojs et al., 2020).

Created on 03-06-2022

Author: Z.Tzika (ESR10)

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Area: Design, planning and building

Life Cycle Costing (LCC) is a method used to estimate the overall cost of a building during its different life cycle stages, whether from cradle to grave or within a predetermined timeframe (Nucci et al., 2016; Wouterszoon Jansen et al., 2020). The Standardised Method of Life Cycle Costing (SMLCC) identifies LCC in line with the International Standard ISO 15686-5:2008 as "Methodology for the systematic economic evaluation of life cycle costs over a period of analysis, as defined in the agreed scope." (RICS, 2016). This evaluation can provide a useful breakdown of all costs associated with designing, constructing, operating, maintaining and disposing of this building (Dwaikat & Ali, 2018). Life cycle costs of an asset can be divided into two categories: (1) Initial costs, which are all the costs incurred before the occupation of the house, such as capital investment costs, purchase costs, and construction and installation costs (Goh & Sun, 2016; Kubba, 2010); (2) Future costs, which are those that occur after the occupancy phase of the dwelling. The future costs may involve operational costs, maintenance, occupancy and capital replacement (RICS, 2016). They may also include financing, resale, salvage, and end-of-life costs (Karatas & El-Rayes, 2014; Kubba, 2010; Rad et al., 2021). The costs to be included in a LCC analysis vary depending on its objective, scope and time period. Both the LCC objective and scope also determine whether the assessment will be conducted for the whole building, or for a certain building component or equipment (Liu & Qian, 2019; RICS, 2016). When LCC combines initial and future costs, it needs to consider the time value of money (Islam et al., 2015; Korpi & Ala-Risku, 2008). To do so, future costs need to be discounted to present value using what is known as "Discount Rate" (Islam et al., 2015; Korpi & Ala-Risku, 2008). LCC responds to the needs of the Architectural Engineering Construction (AEC) industry to recognise that value on the long term, as opposed to initial price, should be the focus of project financial assessments (Higham et al., 2015). LCC can be seen as a suitable management method to assess costs and available resources for housing projects, regardless of whether they are new or already exist. LCC looks beyond initial capital investment as it takes future operating and maintenance costs into account (Goh & Sun, 2016). Operating an asset over a 30-year lifespan could cost up to four times as much as the initial design and construction costs (Zanni et al., 2019). The costs associated with energy consumption often represent a large proportion of a building’s life cycle costs. For instance, the cumulative value of utility bills is almost half of the cost of a total building life cycle over a 50-year period in some countries (Ahmad & Thaheem, 2018; Inchauste et al., 2018). Prioritising initial cost reduction when selecting a design alternative, regardless of future costs, may not lead to an economically efficient building in the long run (Rad et al., 2021). LCC is a valuable appraising technique for an existing building to predict and assess "whether a project meets the client's performance requirements" (ISO, 2008). Similarly, during the design stages, LCC analysis can be applied to predict the long-term cost performance of a new building or a refurbishing project (Islam et al., 2015; RICS, 2016). Conducting LCC supports the decision-making in the design development stages has a number of benefits (Kubba, 2010). Decisions on building programme requirements, specifications, and systems can affect up to 80% of its environmental performance and operating costs (Bogenstätter, 2000; Goh & Sun, 2016). The absence of comprehensive information about the building's operational performance may result in uninformed decision-making that impacts its life cycle costs and future performance (Alsaadani & Bleil De Souza, 2018; Zanni et al., 2019). LCC can improve the selection of materials in order to reduce negative environmental impact and positively contribute to resourcing efficiency (Rad et al., 2021; Wouterszoon Jansen et al., 2020), in particular when combined with Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCA is concerned with the environmental aspects and impacts and the use of resources throughout a product's life cycle (ISO, 2006). Together, LCC and LCA contribute to adopt more comprehensive decisions to promote the sustainability of buildings (Kim, 2014). Therefore, both are part of the requirements of some green building certificates, such as LEED (Hajare & Elwakil, 2020).     LCC can be used to compare design, material, and/or equipment alternatives to find economically compelling solutions that respond to building performance goals, such as maximising human comfort and enhancing energy efficiency (Karatas & El-Rayes, 2014; Rad et al., 2021). Such solutions may have high initial costs but would decrease recurring future cost obligations by selecting the alternative that maximises net savings (Atmaca, 2016; Kubba, 2010; Zanni et al., 2019). LCC is particularly relevant for decisions on energy efficiency measures investments for both new buildings and building retrofitting. Such investments have been argued to be a dominant factor in lowering a building's life cycle cost (Fantozzi et al., 2019; Kazem et al., 2021). The financial effectiveness of such measures on decreasing energy-related operating costs, can be investigated using LCC analysis to compare air-condition systems, glazing options, etc. (Aktacir et al., 2006; Rad et al., 2021). Thus, LCC can be seen as a risk mitigation strategy for owners and occupants to overcome challenges associated with increasing energy prices (Kubba, 2010). The price of investing in energy-efficient measures increase over time. Therefore, LCC has the potential to significantly contribute to tackling housing affordability issues by not only making design decisions based on the building's initial costs but also its impact on future costs – for example energy bills - that will be paid by occupants (Cambier et al., 2021). The input data for a LCC analysis are useful for stakeholders involved in procurement and tendering processes as well as the long-term management of built assets (Korpi & Ala-Risku, 2008). Depending on the LCC scope, these data are extracted from information on installation, operating and maintenance costs and schedules as well as the life cycle performance and the quantity of materials, components and systems, (Goh & Sun, 2016) These information is then translated into cost data along with each element life expectancy in a typical life cycle cost plan (ISO, 2008). Such a process assists the procurement decisions whether for buildings, materials, or systems and/or hiring contractors and labour, in addition to supporting future decisions when needed (RICS, 2016). All this information can be organised using Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology (Kim, 2014; RICS, 2016). BIM is used to organise and structure building information in a digital model. In some countries, it has become mandatory that any procured project by a public sector be delivered in a BIM model to make informed decisions about that project (Government, 2012). Thus, conducting LCC aligns with the adoption purposes of BIM to facilitate the communication and  transfer of building information and data among various stakeholders (Juan & Hsing, 2017; Marzouk et al., 2018). However, conducting LCC is still challenging and not widely adopted in practice. The reliability and various formats of building related-data are some of the main barriers hindering the adoption of LCCs (Goh & Sun, 2016; Islam et al., 2015; Kehily & Underwood, 2017; Zanni et al., 2019).

Created on 05-12-2022

Author: A.Elghandour (ESR4)

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Area: Design, planning and building

Measuring housing affordability refers to assessing the extent to which households can secure suitable housing in relation to their financial resources and other relevant factors. To date there is no global agreement on measuring housing affordability, nor is there a single metric which comprehensively encompasses all the considerations regarding households' ability to access suitable housing in a convenient location at an affordable cost (Ezennia & Hoskara, 2019; OECD, 2021b). Several approaches exist to measure housing affordability, with two popular approaches, namely the Income Ratio Method (IRM), and the Residual Income Method (RIM) (Ezennia & Hoskara, 2019; Stone et al., 2011). Both are recommended to be accompanied by housing quality standards to evaluate what a household is paying for and a measure of housing satisfaction (Haffner & Heylen, 2011; OECD, 2021b). However, the perception of what constitutes satisfactory, quality, or affordable housing is subjective. This perception can be influenced by economic and social circumstances that policymakers may not perceive as directly relevant to housing policy (OECD, 2021b). The Income Ratio Method (IRM) is the most commonly used in policy and housing market-relevant statistics, as it is easy to measure and compare among different countries. It is based on the housing costs to income ratio defined by national authorities not to exceed a certain proportion (Haidar & Bahammam, 2021; Smith, 2007; Stone, 2006). The official EU indicator for IRM is the "Housing Cost Overburden" index. It considers households suffering from affordability issues if more than 40% of their net income is spent on housing costs (AHC, 2019; Hick et al., 2022; OECD, 2020). However, IRM has been widely criticised as it does not reflect if the household could afford non-housing costs and for how long. The focus on housing costs neglects non-housing costs of utility bills, schools, health, transportation, and so on (AHC, 2019). In this sense, Ezennia & Hoskara, (2019) investigation of the weaknesses of measuring housing affordability emphasised the need to reflect a household's capability to balance current and future costs to attain a house – "access to a house at a certain period" while maintaining other basic expenses without experiencing any financial hardship. The Residual Income Method (RIM) is the second dominant approach. It recognises that after paying the housing costs, a household might be unable to satisfy its non-housing requirements. Thus, the RIM is the remaining income after subtracting housing costs, based on the idea that Housing Affordability is the households' ability to cover their housing costs while still being able to pay their non-housing expenditures (Stone et al., 2011; Stone, 2006). The residual income method took a step closer to resonating with non-housing costs. However, both Haffner & Heylen (2011) and Bramley (2012) advised that the IRM and RIM approaches "are not interchangeable" and need to be combined to provide a comprehensive perception of housing affordability. This combination becomes apparent when comparing both for different household compositions, health, or work conditions. For instance, a house might be affordable when measured using the IRM from the housing costs standpoint, but it might not be affordable utilising the RIM, which is connected with non-housing costs. This combination is referred to as the Composite Method from which several advanced economic modelling approaches to measure housing affordability were developed (Ezennia & Hoskara, 2019). However, relying solely on economic criteria to assess affordability and thus overlooking quality and sustainability may not prove sufficient. A poor-quality house can impose hardships on its residents, and an unsustainable dwelling can strain the environment. Mitigating this issue may involve complementing affordability measurements with indicators reflecting housing quality and sustainability to expand the purely economic view (Ezennia & Hoskara, 2019; Haffner & Heylen, 2011; Mulliner et al., 2013; Salama, 2011). Various indicators can be used to assess housing quality beyond just its cost. These indicators could be seen as serving three primary purposes: (1) to measure the quality of a housing scheme and compare it to others within a country (Homes and Communities Agency, 2011), (2) to measure the quality of housing in one country and compare it to other countries (OECD, 2021b), and (3) to measure housing satisfaction across groups (OECD, 2021a; Riazi & Emami, 2018). An example of the first purpose is England's Housing Quality Indicators (HQIs) system (Homes and Communities Agency, 2011), which is currently withdrawn. HQIs served  as “ measurement and assessment tool to evaluate housing schemes on the basis of quality rather than just cost” design standards mandated for affordable housing providers funded through the National Affordable Housing Programme from 2008 to 2011 and the Affordable Homes Programme from 2011 to 2015. The system comprised ten indicators, which can be categorized into four groups. The first category focused on the location and proximity to amenities and services. The second dealt with site-related aspects such as landscaping, open spaces, and pathways. The third pertained to the housing unit itself, encompassing factors like noise, lighting, accessibility, and sustainability. Lastly, the fourth category addressed the external environment (Homes and Communities Agency, 2011). To enable meaningful cross-country comparisons, it is crucial that the data used for measuring and assessing these indicators are both available and up-to-date. However, it is important to acknowledge that this may not be the case in all countries, as pointed out by the OECD in 2021 (OECD, 2021b). Consequently, to accurately determine what residents are paying for in terms of quality and to facilitate meaningful comparisons, the OECD 2021 Policy Brief on Affordable Housing has emphasized the necessity of two additional housing quality indicators to complement affordability measurements. The first proposed indicator is the "Overcrowding Rate," which evaluates whether a dwelling provides sufficient space for household members based on their composition. This metric assesses whether residents have adequate living space according to the size and structure of their household. The second indicator is the "Housing Deprivation Rates," which gauge inadequate housing conditions. This encompasses issues related to maintenance, such as roofs, walls, floors, foundations, and deteriorating window frames. Moreover, these rates consider the absence of essential amenities, including sanitary facilities. By taking all these factors into account, this indicator offers a comprehensive perspective on the overall quality and habitability of housing in a specific area. Considering subjective measures of housing affordability can be advantageous when assessing housing affordability and quality based on household perceptions. These measures aim to capture housing satisfaction, reflecting the quality of the dwelling as accommodation (OECD, 2021a). In a broader context, housing satisfaction might be termed residential satisfaction, encompassing not just the dwelling but also its surroundings, including places and people. Residential satisfaction assesses how well the current residence and surrounding environment align with the household's desired living conditions (Riazi & Emami, 2018). Therefore, incorporating subjective measures is valuable in assessing housing affordability, helping to identify the determinants of housing satisfaction. Indicators such as satisfaction with the availability of good and affordable housing are crucial aspects to consider in this context (OECD, 2021a). When it comes to sustainability indicators, incorporating them into the measurement of housing affordability remains a wicked  problem. Finding a single comprehensive measure that encompasses the multifaceted aspects of sustainability related to housing affordability is challenging. The technical complexity stems from the necessity to integrate assessments of household characteristics, environmental impacts, financing, and financial aspects, along with housing stress factors. This challenge is exacerbated by the persistent fluctuations in housing prices and recurring expenses like water and energy bills (AHC, 2019). Hence, easily calculable methods such as the Income-to-Rent Ratio (IRM) and Residual Income Model (RIM) continue to be widely used for assessing housing affordability from a top-down perspective at a macro level. Although imperfect, these methods still provide valuable support for policy decision-making to a certain extent (AHC, 2019; Haffner & Heylen, 2011; OECD, 2021a).   

Created on 17-10-2023

Author: A.Elghandour (ESR4), K.Hadjri (Supervisor)

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Area: Community participation

From the three pillars of sustainable development, economic, environmental and social, the latter  involving social equity and the sustainability of communities, has  been especially neglected. Ongoing problems caused by conflicting economic, environmental and social goals with regard to the processes of urbanisation continue. underpinning economic growth that contradict principles of environmental and social justice (Boström, 2012; Cuthill, 2010; Winston, 2009). Research on sustainable development highlights the need for further investigation of social sustainability (Murphy, 2012; Vallance et al., 2011). Social sustainability has been interpreted as an umbrella term encompassing many other related concepts; “social equity and justice, social capital, social cohesion, social exclusion, environmental justice, quality of life, and urban liveability” (Shirazi & Keivani, 2019, p. 4). A vast number of studies have been dedicated to defining social sustainability by developing theoretical frameworks and indicators particularly relevant to urban development and housing discourse (Cuthill, 2010; Dempsey et al., 2011; Murphy, 2012; Woodcraft, 2012). However, with a lack of consensus on the way of utilising these frameworks in a practical way, especially when applied to planning, social sustainability has remained difficult to evaluate or measure. Consequently, planning experts, housing providers and inhabitants alike understand social sustainability as a normative concept, according to established social norms, and less as an opportunity to critically examine existing institutions. Vallance et al (2011) provide three categories to analyse social sustainability, development, bridge and maintenance sustainability: (a) social development improves conditions of poverty and inequity, from the provision of basic needs to the redistribution of power to influence existing development paradigms; (b) the conditions necessary to bridge social with ecological sustainability, overcoming currently disconnected social and ecological concerns; and (c) the social practices, cultural preferences as well as the environments which are maintained over time. Maintenance social sustainability particularly deals with how people interpret what is to be maintained and includes “new housing developments, the layout of streets, open spaces, residential densities, the location of services, an awareness of habitual movements in place, and how they connect with housing cultures, preferences, practices and values, particularly those for low-density, suburban lifestyles” (Vallance et al., 2011, p. 345). Therefore, the notion of maintenance is especially important in defining social sustainability by directly investigating the established institutions, or “sets of norms” that constitute the social practices and rules, that in turn, affect responsibilities for planning urban spaces. A conceptual framework that appears frequently in social sustainability literature is that of Dempsey et al. (2011)⁠ following Bramley et al. (2009), defining social sustainability according to the variables of social equity and sustainability of community and their relationship to urban form, significantly at the local scale of the neighbourhood. In terms of the built environment, social equity (used interchangeably with social justice) is understood as the accessibility and equal opportunities to frequently used services, facilities, decent and affordable housing, and good public transport. In this description of local, as opposed to regional services, proximity and accessibility are important. Equitable access to such local services effectively connects housing to key aspects of everyday life and to the wider urban infrastructures that support it. Sustainability of community is associated with the abilities of society to develop networks of collective organisation and action and is dependent on social interaction. The associated term social capital has also been used extensively to describe social norms and networks that can be witnessed particularly at the community level to facilitate collective action (Woolcock, 2001, p. 70). They might include a diversity of issues such as resident interaction, reciprocity, cooperation and trust expressed by common exchanges between residents, civic engagement, lower crime rates and other positive neighbourhood qualities that are dependent on sharing a commitment to place (Foster, 2006; Putnam, 1995; Temkin & Rohe, 1998). In fact, “the heightened sense of ownership and belonging to a locale” is considered to encourage the development of social relations (Hamiduddin & Adelfio, 2019, p. 188). However, the gap between theoretical discussions about social sustainability and their practical application has continued. For example, the emphasis of social sustainability as a target outcome rather than as a process has been prioritised in technocratic approaches to planning new housing developments and to measuring their success by factors which are tangible and easier to count and audit. Private housing developers that deal with urban regeneration make bold claims to social sustainability yet profound questions are raised regarding the effects of gentrification (Dixon, 2019). Accordingly, the attempted methods of public participation as planning tools for integrating the ‘social’ have been found to be less effective - their potential being undercut due to the reality that decision-making power has remained at the top (Eizenberg & Jabareen, 2017). Therefore, social sustainability is not a fixed concept, it is contingent on the interdependence of the procedural aspects (how to achieve social sustainability) and substantive aspects (what are the outcomes of social sustainability goals) (Boström, 2012). From this point of view, social sustainability reveals its process-oriented nature and the need to establish processes of practicing social sustainability that begin with the participation of citizens in decision-making processes in producing equitable (i.e. socially sustainable) development. As a dimension of sustainable development that is harder to quantify than the economic or environmental aspects, the operationalisation of social sustainability goals into spatial, actionable principles has remained a burgeoning area of research. In such research, methods for enhancing citizen participation are a particularly important concern in order to engage and empower people with “non-expert” knowledge to collaborate with academic researchers.

Created on 03-06-2022

Author: A.Panagidis (ESR8)

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