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Celebrating Responsible Housing

The highlights of the 2nd European Responsible Housing Award Ceremony

Brussels, 5 December 2016 | Published in Energy, Urban, Economy, Social

The Award Ceremony of the 2nd edition of the European Responsible Housing Awards took place on November 23rd at the Committee of the Regions in Brussels.

The competition that was jointly organised by Housing Europe, Delphis and the International Union of Tenants (IUT) shares the innovative responses of affordable housing providers to the local, social and environmental challenges of our times. 4 Awards were handed during the ceremony to the winners of each category that corresponds to the core elements of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

However, the day started with panel debate that made the link between the housing practice and policy. Housing Europe Secretary General, Sorcha Edwards and Barbara Steenbergen, Head of Brussels Liaison Office of the International Union of Tenants (IUT) welcomed the European Commission Director General for Employment and Social Affairs, Georg Fischer as well as Elena Szolgayova, Chair of the EU Urban Agenda Partnership for Housing.

In her initial address, Mrs. Szolgayova highlighted that “the call for cultural adequacy becomes more and more important when we talk about urban development & housing”. At the same time as a representative of the Slovak Presidency of the EU, Elena stress also that “environmental policy is particularly crucial to sustain responsible housing providers”.

Georg Fischer on the other hand made the link between the EU Pillar for Social Rights and housing identifying three main contributions of the EU to social rights: Promotion of best practices-Knowledge Sharing & Funding. “The starting point behind the EU Social Pillar is to bring together economic and social sustainability”, said Mr. Fischer. Closing his contribution, Georg Fischer underlined the added value of the work carried out by responsible housing providers that indeed offer a reason to celebrate.

Closing the first part of the day Bob Heil of Honeywell showcased the potential of the private sector in making living conditions for tenants better, presenting a journey through the history of the company’s household products. 

The Award Ceremony

The second part of the day was dedicated to the celebration of responsible housing! The Ceremony took place in the sunny Atrium of the European Committee of the Regions. The First Vice-President of the Committee of the Regions, Karl-Heinz Lambertz opened the ceremony, welcoming the finalists by stressing the important regional dimension of housing. Mr. Lambertz stressed the importance of social housing in addressing not only the poorest but also the middle-income population groups.

Barbara Steenbergen as Chair of the Jury presented the background behind the European Responsible Housing Initiative that started back in 2014.


Local Social Sustainability

Goedkope Woning from Kortrijk in Belgium was the winner of the category ‘Local Social Sustainability’ for their ‘Venning Eco-Life’, a ground-breaking construction project whose objective was to transform the most disadvantage district in Kortrijk into the most sustainable, not just focusing on energy performance, ecology and CO2 neutrality, but also on a turning Venning into a pleasant place to live, stripping it of its social stigma. The initiative was implemented within the framework of the European Programme Eco-Life.

After receiving the Award from Gyorgy Sumeghy of Habitat for Humanity, the winners presented a short video about their project. You may watch it here

The 4 finalists were the following:

  1. Woonbedrijf from Eindhoven in the Netherlands submitted ‘Space-S’
  2. ‘Staudenhof’ was the project by ProPotsdam from Potsdam in German
  3. ‘Homebuilder’ was the participation of ÖrebroBostäder from Örebro, Sweden
  4. Est Métropole Habitat (EMH) in Villeurbanne, France shared their best practice ‘Making new consumption patterns affordable in social housing’


Environmental Sustainability

‘An innovative coupling to tackle energy precariousness’ was the contribution of ICF Habitat La Sablière from Paris that secured them the award of the category ‘Environmental Sustainability’. The French organisation aimed to do its part in the emission reduction potential of the building sector in France. The housing stock uses more than 40% of the total energy in the country and is responsible for 20% of the national greenhouse gas emissions, while older buildings with high-energy consumption represent more than 90% of France’s housing stock. The main idea behind the initiative is a domestic hot water production system, operated by a thermodynamic hybrid generator running on natural gas, consisting of four heat pumps with wasted heat recovery, coupled with two gas-fuelled mini-cogeneration units. This hybrid system leads to significant energy savings.

After receiving the Award from the Director of Energy Cities, Claire Roumet, the winners presented a short video about their project. You may watch it here.

The 4 finalists were the following:

  1. Uppsalahem in Uppsala, Sweden submitted ‘Klimaträtt’ that stands for “climate friendly” in Swedish
  2. ‘Öbo Climate Concept’ was the project of ÖrebroBostäder from Örebro, Sweden
  3. The ‘Renovation of 30 apartments in Zaramaga’ in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain was part of VISESA and Basque Government strategy to improve the quality of life of citizens
  4. Habitat 62/59 Picardie from Coquelles, France initiated its project ‘Innovation and Sustainable Construction’


Good Governance and Fair Relations with Stakeholders

The core idea behind the ‘Big Conversation’ of the Shepherds Bush Housing Group in London, UK has been to ask residents to assess the service provided by SBHG. This innovative approach made it till the award of the category ‘Good Governance and Fair Relations with Stakeholders’. Now in its 10th year, Big Conversation sees all SBHG staff- from the chief executive to apprentices but excluding repairs operatives who visit homes daily- out visiting residents in their own homes. Each member of staff is personally responsible for following through any actions from the visits, helping them engage with the service.

After receiving the Award from Sander Scheurwater, Director Corporate Affairs, Europe of RICS, the winners presented a short video about their project. You may watch it here.

The 4 finalists were the following:

  1. Paris Habitat in Paris, France attempted to ‘involve the various stakeholders in the conversion of former military barracks’
  2. The ‘Dialogue with the Habitat Stakeholders in order to build a strategic vision’ has been the aim of Société Dauphinoise pour l’Habitat (SDH) in Échirolles, France
  3. Helm Housing in Belfast, N.Ireland transformed ‘Hemsworth Court into a Dementia Friendly Community Hub’
  4. FSM in Melun, France developed a ‘Website for Corporate Governance’ as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) approach and its commitment to improve communication with its Board of Directors


Responsible Human Resources Management

In the last category of the day Gewobag from Berlin in Germany was the winner thanks to the exceptional use of vocational training for the integration of refugees. Central goal of the project was the successful integration of refugees through the individual development of their vocational and professional qualifications. Learning the language is vital. With this project, Gewobag acknowledges its corporate social responsibility and at the same time, sets an example for other companies to follow. Therefore, transparent reports will be made available to the relevant committees, various networks and internal and external media. The recently launched integration project marks another stage in the conscious expansion of Gewobag’s strategy and guiding motto “die ganze Vielfalt Berlins”, in other words “All the Diversity of Berlin”.

After receiving the Award from the General Director of the Dutch Tenants’ Organisation (Woonbond), Ronald Paping, the winners presented a short video about their project. You may watch it here.

The 4 finalists were the following:

  1. Groupe 3F in Paris, France invested in the ‘Individual Operational Preparation for Employment (POEI)’
  2. Paris Habitat in Paris, France came up with the idea to ‘Recognize and Value Employees while also engaging them in the preservation of the Environment’
  3. ‘Responsibility and Leadership in Safety and Health in Construction Works’ was the priority for VISESA in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain
  4. Habitat 62/59 Picardie in Coquelles, France submitted a project that focused on the ‘Well-being and Fitness of Colleagues’

The day concluded with a panel discussion between the 4 winners, Elena Szolgayova and the Chair of the Jury, Barbara Steenbergen.