The Affordable Housing Initiative (AHI) - part of the EU Renovation Wave - that will pilot 100 lighthouse renovation districts focuses on creating quality, liveable, affordable homes for people and will mobilise cross-sectoral project partnerships. The initiative is still a blank page, let’s shape it together.
The second episode of the Affordable Housing Initiative series features the head of the Brussels Office of the City of Vienna, Michaela Kauer. Watch the video and read along.
Housing Europe: What is your vision of the Affordable Housing Initiative?
Michaela Kauer: Little is known yet with regard to the process of governance and finance, but what we know is that obviously there is a will of the commission to create liveable neighborhoods. So, I think that is already a change in mindset. Because, we were already talking about houses, buildings, constructions, technical norms, etc. Now, we are talking about “communities”, and I think that this is what it should be about. It should be about communities that create and co-create, and also participate to create better living conditions in their surroundings that you know as a space.
Housing Europe: What features should the projects supported by the Affordable Housing Initiative have?
Michaela Kauer: We have a very good project in Vienna which is called “smarter together”. This project was in a neighborhood where not so rich people- in fact working class people and a lot of migrants- were already living there for a long time. There, we really did a lot. We did work on obviously ecological housing, renovation buildings and so on. Becuse, we think that energy efficiency is a key to affordable housing. We also talked a lot about, for example, the model splits and car sharing schemes. People did not know that was even existing before. It was a very interesting experience to see that people were also changing mobility habits and patterns.
Housing Europe: What process would you like to see?
Michaela Kauer: As far as I know it by now which if it is to be really participatory on the ground, the Affordable Housing Initiative needs to allow for time to build the “confidence” that you need to do participatory projects in a way. It is also a question of “how do I get good results”. Because, if I empower everybody to co-create the space of the living environment and to be specially sure that I will stay there after the whole district has been renovated- because I still can “afford” it, then we are fine. And the other aspect that I would like to also mention is that whatever we did, we will have to use bureaucratic instruments. And also, these take time because they are also in the governance framework that is democratic and that has to allow for democratic participation.
Housing Europe: How should the initiative be financed?
Michaela Kauer: At the moment, I don’t see any concrete plans. I see that they want to use the emission trade system and the gains they get there on the national level to be redistributed to the local communities and these kinds of local projects. I think this will never be enough. This can be one element of funding and financing. Therefore, we need to involve more. We need to involve local, regional and national funding. And there we are already at one point which is very interesting, because when we think of the big recovery program, cities or urban communities are not really targeted. It is the national governments. Therefore, we really have an issue about how local is going to be if we are going to need the money. And now it is self-determined by the cities and their inhabitants, if it is depending so much on the national government that we get that money to the ground where we need it.
Housing Europe: How should the initiative be governed?
Michaela Kauer: It needs full transparency and diversity. Because when we talk about 100 lighthouse projects across Europe, we have to do this against the background of the “diversity” of local communities in Europe. There is a big difference in the governance, financing and the management across Europe. If we ever have something like a board or an expert group, etc, it has to be composed with cities and urban experts from the ground. Because they all know how to plan and manage. And they are also responsible if it doesn’t work.
For my last recommendation, I would like to say about the whole setup or governance which there is enough “experience” and expertise on the ground to use.
What is your vision for the Affordable Housing Initiative? Join the series powered by Housing Europe, the Federation for public, cooperative and social housing providers in Europe, and its initiative - #OurHomesOurDeal. Contact us.
Our Homes, Our Deal Website: https://www.ourhomesourdeal.eu/
Vienna House Website: https://www.wien.gv.at/wirtschaft/eu-strategie/wien-haus/