The weather was excellent in Amsterdam throughout the International Social Housing Festival, so we decided to meet outside in the shade a few hours before his official election as the new President of Housing Europe, the European Federation of Public, Cooperative and Social Housing. After many years of experience in France, making strong impact in the Metropolitan Region of Lyon and in Villeurbanne in particular, Cédric Van Styvendael, 43, decided that it was time to try to have his mark at EU level, leading for the next years the work of 43,000 housing providers from 24 countries. We thought a quick set of ping pong was the best introduction to Cédric and his work. Instead of winning points, he had to give responses to 11 questions in order for us to leave him alone! Let’s serve…
1. What has been your main incentive to apply for the President’s position at Housing Europe?
My vision and my desire is to bring social housing at the core of a more socially oriented Europe.
2. What is social housing in your opinion?
Social housing is a crucial investment, it’s definitely not an expense. Housing associations actively change society by providing homes, offering jobs, bringing people together.
3. The International Social Housing Festival has actually been a dynamic, open debate about the future of housing in a radically urbanizing world. How will housing look like in the future cities?
Social housing can make our cities great again! I really believe that by investing in social innovation and in quality homes we can make people more actively involved in their neighbourhoods, in their communities. The more people have access to affordable housing, the greater social cohesion will be.
4. What are your priorities as President of Housing Europe?
We should work hard to boost production of affordable homes and to improve the energy performance of the existing housing stock. To this end, partnership with cities, with local and regional authorities is very important as we are facing common concerns. Overall, it’s our obligation to come up with positive responses to the challenges of our times.
5. How should housing providers adapt the way they operate in the future?
I would summarize what we have to do it in 5 points: Invest-Adapt-Go local-Team up and Get Smart. We need to stimulate investment in our sector, adapt our work to the rapidly changing context, we have to focus more on the local level, while we should stay at the centre of the digital revolution and team up with diverse stakeholders that will help us achieve harmonized development and mixed tenure. Quite a few things, don’t you think?
6. How would you introduce Est Métropole Habitat to the EU audience?
We are a social housing organization, HLM as we are called in French, in the Metropolitan Region of Lyon that manages around 16,000 homes. We are part of the umbrella housing group, GIE EST Habitat. In the national landscape of social housing, EMH is recognized to be a creative and human focussed organisation.
7. But your mission goes beyond just housing provision, right?
Definitely! Social and technological innovation is at the core of our mission. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, of course, but we have to develop new ways of living together in close collaboration with a number of partner and most of all with our tenants. Tenants are at the centre of our work, empowering them can only bring added value in our communities.
8. What is your ambition at local level?
At Est Métropole Habitat we keep always one vision in our head; we contribute in as many ways as possible towards a city of quality, cohesion and balance in which everyone can live well.
9. What are the 3 words that define you most?
10. We are almost over; I am saying this because you look at your tablet…
Let’s count this as a question, if this is ok with you. Twitter is a passion and a working tool for me. Personally, it helps me get a lot of information and also keep an eye to the outside world, well beyond the borders of Lyon or France.
11. Match point! Would you please share with us one unexpected thing we don’t know about you?
Well… Most people wouldn’t know that I have been a passionate scout in my life. I really believe it’s an activity that shapes one’s life to a certain extent.
* Cédric has been eligible for President as Est Métropole Habitat is a member of Union Sociale pour l’ Habitat, the French member of Housing Europe.