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More than a housing provider

Housing Europe visits Spar- und Bauverein Dortmund

Dortmund, Germany, 27 October 2014 | Social
Visiting the office of Spar- und Bauverein Dortmund
Visiting the office of Spar- und Bauverein Dortmund

The impact of the work carried out by a housing provider in the life of a city. Highlights from the visit of a Housing Europe delegation to Spar- und Bauverein Dortmund.

It owns around 12.000 dwellings and consists of over 18.600 cooperative members in one of the most important cities of what was once Europe’s industrial centre and today faces numerous challenges. Established in 1893 Spar- und Bauverein (S & B) Dortmund has been changing for well over a century people’s lives in the heart of the Ruhr valley. A Housing Europe delegation paid a visit to S & B and got a better understanding of the fieldwork done.

Being not only a cooperative housing provider but also a savings institution, one of the GdW members, focuses in fulfilling a wider social mission. Funds gathered through the savings schemes are invested into housing projects, guaranteeing thus liquidity and funding sustainability to the organisation. With a solid volume of savings that accounts up to 88 million Euros S & B contributes decisively to a rather “relaxed” housing market in the area.

Social integration is a vital part of S & B mission, since Dortmund and the wider Ruhr are have traditionally (for more than 130-140 years) been sort of a melting pot for Germany. With the number of migrants constantly rising over the years of the financial crisis led to a steadily increasing demand for affordable housing.  At the same time unemployment is quite of an issue for the local community, since according to recent data the rate has climbed up to 13% in a city of around 560.000 inhabitants.

As far as innovation is concerned, S & B has been planning to construct Energy Plus buildings, i.e. buildings that can produce even more energy than the quantity they consume, moving thus a step further than nearly Zero Energy Buildings (nZEB).

Housing Europe Secretary General, Sorcha Edwards highlights also another aspect of S & B activities:

"S & B Verein’s highlighted activities fit well into the definition of responsible housing developed together with the International Union of Tenants within the ERHIN initiative. This covers economic sustainability, affordability for their cooperative tenants and optimal collaboration with public authorities, local NGOs and companies to meet the divergent needs of local communities. In environmental terms, with a mainstreaming of low energy construction and use of renewable energy sources with the first energy positive building project due for completion next year we see that future-proofing homes for tenants is also a priority."

The Housing Europe delegation had the chance to visit some of the most significant project sites around the city of Dortmund. Let us walk you through them...

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The Concordia Art House

This creative art house opened its doors in 2014 in a building that used to be a bank branch. S & B, the architectural and urban planning office BASTA and the city of Dortmund have cooperated to create this space where local artists may work and sell their products. Apart from generating employment opportunities the project also aims to contribute to changing the rather bad reputation of the neighbourhood. The ambition of the project partners is that once the public funding stops in 2015 Concordia will have become financially independent and sustainable.

Neighbourhood meeting- Planerladen

In order to serve its social mission, S & B teams up with Planerladen in Dortmund Nordstadt. The organisation consists of a team of experienced facilitators and teachers who adapt their services to the needs of the local community in an attempt to make each and every inhabitant feel part of a wider group and active member of the neighbourhood. Services range from language courses to IT classes and from cooking gatherings to sports activities. Daily trips are offered to children, too. Above all, discussions during the frequent neighbourhood meetings help tear down all kinds of stereotypes. It has to be underlined that most of the above mentioned services are offered either for free or at a very low cost. In total, 21 people, professionals but also volunteers have been keeping Planerladen running in an area full of S & B dwellings since 1982.

The Phoenixsee “miracle”

S & B is also participating in one of the most innovative projects that have taken place in Germany over the last years. In a formerly industrial area, a lake has been created out of nothing and around it a whole new neighbourhood full of modern and sustainable dwellings has been developing rapidly. The Phoenixsee project will soon include a S & B apartment block that will contribute to the social mix in the area.  

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