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Urban densification, energy efficiency and affordability of housing

Architectural solutions and social consequences for the public, cooperative and social housing providers

Paris, 20 September 2018Save the date
Picture: Paris Habitat
Picture: Paris Habitat

Organised by Housing Europe and hosted by Paris Habitat. Supported by the European Commission as part of the ABRACADABRA project. Venue: Paris Habitat Offices | 21 bis rue Claude Bernard 75005 PARIS Metro line 7 (Censier-Daubenton).

Cities and social housing providers are facing 2 challenges: how to find the land to build more and cheaper housing units and how to accelerate the renovation of existing homes. To propose common solutions to those challenges, the European project ABRACADABRA has tested and implemented measure to increase the urban density by adding habitable space to existing buildings. This extra surface, through the income it creates for the social housing provider, can help finance the renovation of the entire building. It can also help reshape the urban landscape, or transform former non-residential buildings into housing units.

Find the land

“Access to land is typically the biggest constraint for housing development and one of the major drivers of cost. In places such as Auckland and Rio de Janeiro, the cost of land often exceeds 40 % of total property prices. In extreme cases such as San Francisco, land is so scarce that it can account for as much as 80 % of a home’s price”[1].

Finance energy efficiency

The renovation of social housing is the most obvious example of how environment and social justice considerations can be combined.  Making renovation affordable for low-income social housing residents is the key question for social housing providers.

In this context, the cost of renovation and the various schemes and mechanisms to finance it are determining factors. Bringing down the cost of renovation and, at the same time, the cost of finance are the challenges housing providers are confronted with. The regulatory and financial frameworks in the different countries can either help or on hamper the search for such cost efficient investments. 

Improve the city

Transforming empty non-residential buildings (like former factories or military barracks) into affordable housing units, adding residential units of top of schools or public buildings, adding new common areas (like roof gardens) are examples of how city landscape and social interactions can change for the better. New services can emerge thanks to innovative architectural solutions like adds-on. In that context, successful collaboration and co-creation with residents becomes even more central to the developments. Indeed densify the city will have to go hand in hand with the provision of new services for children, elderly people, young workers, etc.

Draft Agenda:

09:00 – 10:00


Welcome from the host, Stephane Dauphin, Director-General, Paris Habitat

Moderation: Sorcha Edwards, Secretary-General, Housing Europe

10:00 – 10:15


  • Cédric Van Styvendael, President, Housing Europe
  • Dominique Ristori, Director-General for Energy, European Commission (tbc)

Morning session: focus on the strategic decisions for cities and social housing providers

The aim of this session is to give the opportunities for policy makers at the city level to reflect on the challenges and opportunities provided by densification measures such as building extensions including renewable energy system. This is also seen as a facilitator of the energy transition thanks to new incomes it generated.

10:15 -11:00

Key-note presentation:

„Rethinking Urban Sprawl“, Walid Oueslati, OECD

Q&A with the audience

11:00 – 11:15

Coffee break

11:15 – 12:30

Round table discussion: The challenge of densification and energy transition  in growing urban areas – impact on cities and social housing providers

  • Jean-Louis Missika, Deputy-Mayor in charge of urban planing, Paris (tbc)
  • Jane Briginshaw, Director, Design England
  • Claire Roumet, Director, Energy Cities
  • Christophe Boucaux, Director for developement, USH, French social housing federation (tbc)

12:30 – 14:00

 Lunch break

Afternoon session: focus on challenges and solutions for social housing providers

The aim of this session is to identify solutions and useful policies to help social housing providers overcome the obstacles linked to buildings extension. This discussion will serve to feed into the policy recommendations developed by the ABRACADABRA project.

14:00 – 15:00

Panel n°1: Building extension as a solution to renovation – is there a business model for the social housing sector?

Moderation: to be announced


  • Achieving the holistic approach in social housing, the example of  Märkische Scholle Wohnungsunternehmen eG, Laura Vanhué (consultant)
  • The importance of supportive legislative framework for renewable energy, Aurélie Beauvais, Policy Director, Solar Power Europe
  • A regional strategy for densification and social housing : the example of Brussels, speaker from SLRB

Q&A with panelists

15:00 – 15:30

Coffee break

15:30 – 16:30

Panel n°2:  How to increase acceptance for building extension and use of renewable energy solutions

Moderation: to be announced

  • Gaining support from tenants: the wider urban regeneration approach: example from Paris Habitat, Helene Schwoerer, Paris Habitat
  • creating social acceptance through sustainability :the example of Greenhouse Augustenborg in Malmö (tbc)
  • building in neighbourhoods with additional floors : the German perspective, Bernd Hunger, GdW
  • Holistic renovation of social housing in a suburban area: the example of Pranard, Thomas Vallet, Est Metropole Habitat

 16:30 – 17:00

Wrap-up of main recommendations for social housing and feedback from the audience

Julien Dijol, Housing Europe & Reactions from Annarita Ferrante, ABRACADABRA Project Leader, University of Bologna