In the evening of Day 3 of the 2nd International Social Housing Festival, the European Responsible Housing Awards ceremony took place on the grounds of Université Catholique de Lyon, and was attended by policy-makers, European politicians, academics, practitioners and festival-goers alike.
This third edition of the Responsible Housing Awards saw a record-breaking number of 87 submissions (an increase of 29% compared to 2016) across five categories from 16 countries. The jury members had a tough decision at hand but in the end everyone is a winner in the responsible housing community. All winners and most finalists as well as winners from previous years and jury members got together in Lyon to celebrate the responsible housing values that guide their work. Meet the winners below and download the Handbook of best practices with all 25 projects of the finalists.
The first category “Fair financing for housing affordability”, highlighting sustainable investment which minimises housing costs as well as mitigating real estate speculation, saw the Award going to Institut Municipal de l’Habitage i Rehabilitacio (IMHAB) of the City of Barcelona for their successful and continuous pursuit of “Place-based anti-speculation housing policies”.
“Anti-speculation housing policies in Barcelona were made possible thanks to a strong political commitment, which materialized into increased budget for capital investment and additional human resources, as well as improved public-private partnerships. The City commissioned several studies and a vacant housing census to develop a territorialised diagnosis. Different types of subsidies were provided to incentivize the mobilization of vacant market-rate units into the affordable housing stock, with support from private non-profit entities to manage some of the programmes. Finally, public support and the willingness of property owners to work with the City were also essential to make the project possible.”
The second category “More than a roof- supporting communities of equal opportunities”, means ensuring decent, affordable housing (and which will remain so in the future), this being key to avoiding social and spatial segregation and promoting social cohesion in neighbourhoods. This year, the award went to housing cooperative Berliner Bau- und Wohnungsgenossenschaft von 1892 eG for their project “Nettelbeckplatz - An experimental way of renewal a cooperative housing estate in Berlin”.
Dirk Lönnecker, nember of the Board, highlights the essential elements that made this project possible:
"The title of the category “More than a roof” is the key theme of housing cooperatives. As democratic members’ organizations they combine sustainable building, social and cultural aims.Although economic reasons play an important role to save building costs and to make affordable housing possible, non-financial benefits like a strong local community, egalitarian living standards and multi-generational solidarity are also important guidelines. Furthermore the success of the project was the result of a “co-operative/ co-working” process between all partners: research teams, architects, welfare organizations - in close interaction with the residents, neighborhood committees and the interdisciplinary staff of the “1892”."
In the same category, a special prize for Innovation went to Barcelona-based non-profit cooperative Habitatge La Borda SCCL for their project La Borda, in which they spent 6 years pursuing a bottom-up organisational scheme in order to create a 28-unit housing cooperative, with low environmental impact and high community spirit. The residents initiated the design, funding, legal and economic decisions, conviviality schemes, with the help of social networks, surrounding neighbourhood and external expertise.
“One truly innovative element is that the entire development was funded without conventional banks. 2 million € (67% of the initial budged) comes from alternative sources of funding, including a loan from the Coop57 (a cooperative for ethical financial services with the objective of financing projects in the social and solidarity economy) and microloans from more than 300 individuals and organizations that supported the project. The inhabitants made a down payment of 18.500€ per unit, that recover if they leave, and now pay an affordable monthly fee to pay back the loans."
Focussing on the environment, the category “Leaders of innovation, agents of fair energy transition” looked for entrants where housing providers and tenants used creative strategies or undertook new approaches to building, housing and living in a way that decreases our ecological footprint. Non-profit organsation Alwel in Roosendaal, Netherlands won with their project Moerwijkzicht Breda, where they “future-proofed” their housing complex and so initiated a major energy renovation of 241 social rental homes, with participation of and collaboration with the residents.
Regarding the sustainability element, Alwel say that,
“Making Moerwijkzicht sustainable was a unique project in which we invested immensely in clearer communication among all the residents. From the start, we wanted to work together with the residents to jointly inform them and make choices collectively. In order to realise this, we asked 25 residents to act as contact persons. The concept of working together with the residents and the way in which the forms of communication were shaped and resident participation was achieved, are seen as the biggest success factors by all parties involved and were crucial for achieving sustainability for this big residential building!”
Villeneuve-Saint-Georges OPH of Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, France proved that “no one is an island” and certainly, no (responsible) housing association works in isolation. They won the category “Building strategic alliances, fostering community participation" with their Kaleidoscope Project, which acknowledged structural challenges in the area and vulnerable residents in the community. The project recognised the need to evolve decision-making processes, involving tenants more fully, in fact, by pursuing a “100% participation” policy. Practically this meant prioritisation of projects, exchange of ideas, conversational walks, participatory work-camp, amongst other actions.
Alice Cantin, project officer at OPH, said,
“In 2018, I experienced a memorable participatory process at “Les Tours” residency. It was the first time we implemented the “full” methodology: from a need expressed by tenants through the “Shared reflections” questionnaires, to an “Eureka” session discussing accommodations and common areas improvements, until reaching shared priorities with an allocated budget and finally the implementation of technical solutions.“
We are nothing without our people, working together and supporting each other. With their project “Power to the People – empowering the team to improve services”, public body ATC del Piemonte Centrale in Torino, Italy win the category “Empowering the team, addressing employees changing needs”. The project involved the strategic repositioning of the organisation, meaning comprehensive training of 100 staff members, as well as redefining dialogue with stakeholders, implementing new procedural and managerial methods, and service-oriented approaches.