This September Tirana (Tiranë) will host more than 300 participants from all over Europe and beyond in one of the biggest events on housing – the European Network for Housing Research Conference. During these three days 23 workshops will take place, 8 plenary sessions with a wide range of topics and 7 field trips in the most critical residential areas from housing, urban planning and sociological points of view. Undoubtedly, these in combination with new research outcomes will give rise to fascinating discussions among participants.
By Doris Andoni, Chair of the Local Organizing Committee
Why Tirana for the 2017 ENHR Conference?
Tirana is a city in constant transformation since 1990. Even after two Censuses that took place after the collapse of the centralized regime, we still are not sure about the number of people living in Tirana. This is due to the social dynamics that on the one hand tend to flow towards Tirana from other regions and those that tend to leave the city and the country. Unclear de-facto boundaries of the city until 2015, when the territorial and administrative reform in the country reduced the number of local administrations from 370 to 63, made counting more difficult. However, according to the Municipality of Tirana’s website the population of the city on the 1st of January of 2015 amounted to approximately 800,000 inhabitants, which encompass almost 30% of the country’s population.
Rapid urbanization, which in the last decade of the last century it reached a rhythm as high as 6% yearly, accelerated the metamorphosis of the city. Due to such rapid urbanization rates the country’s urban population exceeded the rural population by 2011. This change has challenged the sustainability of the Albanian cities development in all its facets, including its territory, economy, environment, housing and people. The country has undertaken significant reforms to formalize the economy and encourage business activities. The GDP growth rate has recovered in 2016 reaching 3.2%. However, poor property/ownership systems, high poverty and corruption do not attract significant domestic and foreign investments and the benefits of development are not felt by lower-income groups of the society.
In early March of 2017 the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Ms. Leilani Fahra noted that housing has lost its “social function”, it has become, for investors, “a means of accumulating wealth” rather than a place to live in dignity, to raise a family and thrive within a community. She indicated that the connection between real estate wealth and the political elite is the most alarming practice that is leaving the vulnerable powerless to influence decisions or to claim their rights.
Adequate Housing in Tirana is not affordable for vulnerable and low-income families. These families cannot afford housing under private market conditions and according to the legislation they are eligible for state assistance, mainly through social housing. The questions that often arise are: Can a low GDP country (although by international organizations Albania now is classified as middle income) afford social welfare policies, including housing? Can social housing be an affordable housing solution for low-income families and for the general public? What policies should be applied to extend the benefits of globalization in the less-developed countries and for the less-advantaged groups of society? Should we rely only on the economic development and wait until everyone in the society can afford to house him/herself with an adequate standard without the help of the state?
These questions are the quintessence of the main theme of the conference: Affordable Housing for All! Redefining the roles of Public and Private SectorsRead More
The conference will provide a perfect platform to open a local and European debate about practical values that go beyond the academic and scientific goals over what is happening today in global politics and how these policies are affecting private sector development, people's lives and environment, from the perspective of housing policy.
Through the plenary session dedicated to the Albanian case, workshops and field trips the organizers of this conference – Polis University and the Municipality of Tirana - will share the phases of Tirana’s housing and urban transformation: from privatization of state-owned houses to informal housing; from social housing projects to private sector housing development; from the “new” model of residential developments in the periphery to the inner city ‘urban acupuncture’ interventions by the Mayor. In short, you will be led through the major challenges of housing and urban development of our cities today with a view towards the future.
The conference will be addressed, among others, by the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Ms. Leilani Fahra; by the Mayor of Tirana, Mr. Erion Veliaj; the President of ENHR, Mr. Peter Boelhwouer; the President of Housing Europe, Professor Peter King – just to mention few of them.
A very special guest will honor the conference on the occasion of his book “Cities for People” (2010) translated in Albanian. The world renowned Danish architect Jan Gehl, an expert in all things related to urban design and public spaces, will share his ideas on the importance of design in the quality of life of people.
We will welcome you in Tirana in one of the most beautiful and romantic seasons, at a moment when the heat of summer’s sun nicely leaves the place to a friendly beginning of autumn. If you take more time, you will have the chance to visit the beauties of the Albanian nature, its landscape from the mountains to the sea and its ancient history. Last, but not least, be on a diet before arriving in Tirana, in order to be able to exaggerate tasting the Albanian cuisine, which is a mixture of Mediterranean food and products.