A new take on affordable housing through community owned and developed dwellings

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Imagine a city where residents of limited means co-develop affordable, decent and socially sustainable housing on communally-owned land with the help of public and private support.

How might a city create this future?

It may start with collaboration between housing associations in the city. Due to a housing crisis causing shortfalls in affordable decent housing for low-income and marginalised groups, such associations are likely to be active and looking for ways to make change. An idea they might take up is community owned and governed affordable housing.

In dreaming up this idea, they could build on collective experiences in the city with other affordable housing projects, such as a solidarity savings group or a passive solar building to house low income migrant families. For further inspiration and advice, a site visit to a successful model of community owned and governed affordable housing in another city should provide more concrete details, such as how to arrange their own governance system.

The caretakers of this increasingly concrete idea may wish to promptly use their collective expertise and influence to form a united appeal for the local government’s support. Such a productive and early engagement of these groups with the local government just might be crucial for the idea to take off, since government endorsement and funding will be essential.

If the local government recognizes this as an innovative opportunity to provide residents with decent, affordable housing, they could provide financial support to start-up, operate, and grow the initiative. This would likely come in the form of continued grants and investment subsidies. Revenue from residents’ mortgages would compliment this funding source, in addition to non-government grants and donations.

Unfortunately, such a heavy dependence on one funding source could be risky for the initiative. Since if government priorities change, the annual investment subsidies may be jeopardized. In the event of lost public funding, it would be necessary to turn to alternate sources such as charities and other funding organizations. Additionally, if all goes well, the affordable housing innovation will grow and need to secure increased reliable funding for its sustained operation into the future without over stretching capacities.

Trusting that government support will be retained, or that sufficient alternate funding is found, the future of a city with innovative governance of affordable housing comes into focus. Momentum builds as more projects are replicated and are able to serve more people in need. Initiative champions may even increase their ambitions to enable a wider movement to bring similar success to cities across Europe.

Do you want to learn more about this scenario?

Take a look at the detailed description of Community led affordable housing in Brussels that has inspired this scenario.

This scenario fits under the approaches:

  • Governance and participation processes. This approach geared toward urban sustainability emphasise defining and addressing environmental problems as well as envisioning the future of cities, mainly based on the co-production of knowledge through innovative, diverse and strategic partnerships.
  • Policies and practices for inclusion of disadvantaged groups. This approach aims to provide all citizens with equal access into urban life and ensure their right to the city.
  • Right to housing. This approach indicates the right of all individuals to have access to adequate shelter.

It addresses some drivers of injustice:

  • Material and livelihood inequalities. This driver refers to the ways that the underlying distribution of economic resources gets expressed within urban sustainability efforts, reinforcing or exacerbating unjust outcomes.
  • Unquestioned Neoliberal growth and austerity urbanism . This driver refers to the ways in which new urban developments might force trade-offs between the social and environmental goals of urban sustainability projects. It involves public efforts to improve a neighbourhood’s physical structure and boost its economy by attracting investment, usually in the sectors of real estate and tourism.
  • Limited citizen participation in urban planning. This driver refers to the limited involvement and engagement of citizens and citizens’initiatives in decision-making around the planning, design, implementation and/or evaluation of urban sustainability-oriented interventions.
  • Uneven and exclusionary urban intensification and regeneration. This driver refers to unequal exposure to harmful and health-impairing pollutants,conditions and urban environments and/or unequal access to safe and healthy environments.