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The World Urban Forum, or how to meet with sector representatives from across the globe

A never-ending learning process through witnessing practices from very different contexts

13 July 2022 | Published in Urban, Social

This end of June was marked by the 11th edition of the World Urban Forum. The event, established by the United Nations, is the largest global conference on sustainable urbanization. Katowice lies in one of the main industrial hubs in Europe. With a high number of jobs dependent on fossil fuel extraction, Katowice will be an important marker of the necessary fair green transition, which should leave no one behind.

Housing Europe contributed to this complex topic through two different but complementary approaches. Housing Europe, together with UNECE and UN-Habitat created the #Housing2030 report. Its aim is to put forward solutions to the housing affordability crisis in Europe, highlighting related policy instruments and good practices to ensure more affordable, safe and accessible homes and neighbourhoods. It is important to keep in mind that housing is a core point of the Sustainable Development Goals, being mentioned in Goal 11 – Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. More information about the study, its conclusions and recommendations, can be found on the websites of #Housing2030 and UNECE.

The SHAPE-EU project was created to accelerate the Renovation Wave in the social and affordable housing sector, by supporting the planning and delivery of innovative district level renovation projects that go the extra mile in terms of innovation, with liveability and affordability at their core.

There is a clear need to speed up the renovations. Taking part in different events, Housing Europe Innovation and Project Manager, João Gonçalves, shared the experience of the organisation’s members in decarbonising the housing stock in an inclusive and affordable way.

European Social Housing Providers have identified two main risks when it comes to renovation. There is a potential negative socio-economic impact of decreasing housing affordability, a phenomenon flagged by members of Housing Europe, especially in urban areas. Another risk is influenced by factors such as an increase in construction costs, delays due to disruption in the supply chain and unfulfilled demand for labour and skills in the construction sector. Worth mentioning is also the tension between affordability and energy efficiency standards and requirements. However, at the same time, the green transition provides opportunities for innovation and a positive impact on residents and the environment.

One efficient solution could be the district approach. District renovation can have effects on diminishing costs, reduce the environmental impact, but also provide a holistic approach to social problems, rendering the neighbourhood attractive for the residents.

This was the reasoning behind the establishment of the European Affordable Housing Consortium: Sustainable Housing for Social Impact (SHAPE-EU for short). The mission of the Consortium is to support SMEs, public authorities and social and affordable housing providers, in their planning and building renovation projects in social and affordable districts. The aim is to transform business as usual renovations into “lighthouse” projects, or to be precise, projects that stand out in terms of:

  • Smart, circular or modular renovation approaches
  • People-centred models
  • Experiment co-creation and engagement approaches (with occupants or neighbours for example).

In more concrete terms, there is a process of supporting social housing providers in planning and implementing lighthouse projects, for which the partners are collecting best practices and mapping funding so as to draft the blueprints for replication. This initiative aims to pilot 100 lighthouse districts, meaning to show examples or blueprints for other districts to follow the way, setting liveability and the latest innovations at the forefront. This information and the network built will be used to provide peer-based support to leaders in the planning phase of renovations. One of the main products of the SHAPE-EU project, the Blueprints will be divided into 3 modules: implementation, social innovation and technical issues, each one led by a technical partner.

To better understand what this is all about, we have the example of the retrofitting work from Lyon, France. The retrofitting used a combination of technologies in a “toolkit”: multifunctional external thermal insulation and windows refurbishment;  two units of high-efficiency heat pumps connected to 54 smart-fan coils which provide both heating and cooling to the apartments; coverage of the roof with photovoltaics; thermal storage of about 8000 litres and a battery pack of 6 kWh to ensure self-consumption. The result is the transformation of the buildings into NZEBS (Nearly zero-energy buildings). Thus, there are less energy costs and more comfortable for residents.

As a conclusion, João Gonçalves said:

For Housing Europe, the World Urban Forum was, particularly, an occasion to learn how social housing stakeholders in other continents are dealing with the current global housing challenges. What we found was an increased reliance on sharing networks where potential solutions to the problems most of us are facing are discussed and experimented with collectively, including housing affordability and lowering carbon emissions. This is also the intent of SHAPE-EU, the flagship project of the Affordable Housing Initiative, which Housing Europe is coordinating. We aim to pool all the good work and expertise that is currently scattered across Europe to the benefit of the housing providers or cities that are planning or already delivering social and affordable district renovations.

Get in touch

SHAPE-EU is looking for experts to support the process. For more information on the SHAPE-EU project, you can contact Housing Europe's Innovation and Project Manager, or follow the LinkedIn and Twitter accounts.