Oikonet Reader 1: Contemporary Housing

Oikonet_Reading1_V7_front page

Table of Contents

Introduction     1

Chapter 1: Contemporary Housing Issues     2

Introduction     2

People’s Housing Needs     2

Environmentally Sustainable Housing     4

Socially Responsive Housing     4

Affordable Housing     5

Design tendencies     6

Conclusion     10

References     11

Chapter 2: Interspace thinking, capacity-building and codesign     14

Introduction     14

Capacity-building     14

Interplace     15

Codesign     16

Potential issues or questions     17

References     19

Chapter 3: Advanced concepts of energy efficient buildings’ planning     21

Introduction     21

The concept of reducing energy use in buildings by adjusting the external environment     21

The concept of planning a healthy, pleasant and productive indoor environment for all residents.. 22

The concept of design of building service systems based on weather forecasts     23

The concept of multi-functional and flexible building blocks envelope     23

The concept of directing users towards efficient energy consumption     23

Conclusion     24

References     25

Chapter 4: The Process of Gentrification     27

Introduction     27

What Gentrification Means?     27

Budapest – The Context of Gentrification     28

Conclusion     29

References     30

Chapter 5: Housing allowances – Housing policy and social policy     32

Introduction     32

Housing allowances – a widespread policy instrument     32

Housing allowances – a research agenda     33

References     35

Chapter 6: Public Rental Housing Programme as Innovation     36

Introduction     36

Zagreb – Context of Social Innovation      37

What are Social Innovations?     37

Framework of Housing Innovation     38

Conceptions of and ways of addressing users     40

Internal organisation and mode of working     40

Interaction with the local welfare system     41

Conclusion     41

References     42

Chapter 7: Research in the Design Studio: types of knowledge in housing studies     43

Introduction     43

Housing Research and pedagogy at UCY     43

Research in Architecture     44

Research-based and research-by design     44

Design Process: research based and design driven knowledge     45

Individual Knowledge     46

Transdisciplinary design studios     47

Transdisciplinary open process approach at UCY     48

Conclusion     50

References     51

Chapter 8: Housing Research: Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS)     53

IHS activities     53

Urban management, housing and urban environment     53

Linking theory to practice     53

International perspective     54

IHS activities in the field of housing in the MSc course     54

Housing research     55

Research workshop ‘Dynamic Urban Neighbourhoods’     55

Research Area     55

Focus topics of the housing academics     56

Zooming into the concept of resettlement     56

Zooming into social housing     57

Zooming into upgrading     57

Other research in the field of housing     57

Post-doc research     57

UN-Habitat: scoping paper on eviction practices     57

OSCE Best Practices for Roma integration     58

Guatamala city – establishing a social housing agency     58

National Association of Social Housing (NASHO) in South Africa     58

Reference     58

Epilogue     59

Contact     59


This Reader presents a selection of position papers written by partners involved in the project’s Work Package 2 on housing research. It illustrates current issues related to contemporary housing policy and research and explores avenues that the Oikonet network can exploit to benefit other Work Packages such as Participation and Pedagogy.

The Reader is structured into nine chapters. Chapter 1 discusses contemporary housing issues through a literature review and argues the need for environmentally sustainable, socially responsive and affordable housing. The chapter also highlights current tendencies in contemporary housing design. Chapter 2 summarises three concepts concerned with capacity building, codesign and interplace, and raises a number of questions on the relationship between these concepts and their potential contribution to Oikonet. Chapter 3 is a comprehensive summary of advanced concepts of energy efficient building design and planning. This chapter argues that successful planning for energy efficient building requires wider stakeholder participation, as well as new knowledgebase to be established and pedagogic programmes developed to enhance interdisciplinary collaboration.  Chapter 4 presents the process of gentrification using the case study of Budapest. Current work by the author of this chapter revolves around investigating the role of investors, policy makers and the creative industry in the process of inner city revitalisation. Chapter 5 discusses housing allowances within the context of socially oriented housing policy, and presents the research agenda at partner NOVA. Chapter 6 explains the public rental housing programme and associated social innovations in the field of housing in Zagreb. Chapter 7 summarises research in the design studio at University of Cyprus, by focussing on types of knowledge in housing studies. It critically discusses the relationship between design and research, and how to construct knowledge and understanding from a design process. Chapter 8 presents housing research undertaken at the Housing and Urban Development Studies (HIS) partner in The Netherlands. It highlights current activities in housing research and postgraduate degrees, and collaboration with international agencies.

Chapter 1: Contemporary Housing Issues

Karim Hadjri & Isaiah Oluremi Durosaiye

Grenfell-Baines School of Architecture, Construction & Environment

University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), Preston, United Kingdom


It is estimated that people in the developed world spend up to 90% of their time indoor (Simoni et al., 2003), including residential buildings, workplaces, schools and shopping centres. Houses impact greatly on human health and wellbeing (Matte and Jacobs, 2000) as much as it does on the environment (Woolley, 2013). It is thus paramount that the provision of modern housing, intended to fulfil the needs of our contemporary lifestyle, must be achieved in ways that human health and wellbeing are not only preserved, but actively supported; while the environmental impacts of housing are minimised (Balaras et al., 2007).

The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, it critically examines the current issues that affect the provision of contemporary housing in Europe; then it explores current design tendencies that may support the provision of contemporary housing within the European Union, however hypothetical and/or prematurely idealistic such propositions might seem. To start with, it is important to establish a common, if not uniform, understanding of what contemporary housing is. In the absence of a European Union level housing policy, defining contemporary housing is quite daunting. As opposed to vernacular architecture, which demonstrates uniqueness in “time and place” (Asquith and Vellinga, 2005), contemporary housing lends itself to currency and dynamism. Contemporary housing will exhibit generally acceptable design features and standards of its time and, as such, may not be place specific. Against this background, contemporary housing can be defined as modern residential dwelling that meets the needs of the present occupants, while being environmentally sustainable, socially responsive and, at the same time, affordable. These four interrelated features are discussed in the paragraphs that follow.

People’s Housing Needs

Firstly, the catalyst to the evolution of contemporary housing in Europe was the need for the construction of mass housing in post-war Europe in the 1950s. According to Cupers (2011), in France, for example, contemporary housing emerged from the increase in public awareness, fuelled by the demand for mass housing needs, whose notion went beyond the provision of basic shelter and whereas the modern housing was expected to be user-focused, delivered through public engagement and participation in urban housing schemes. Urbanisation and economic migration, only increased the demand for large-scale modern housing, as people moved from the rural parts of the country to the economic affluent cities due to better job prospects (Newsome, 2009), which gained a nationwide political support (Bullock, 2007).

The process started a few decades earlier in Britain, when during the 1920s and 1930s widespread supply of affordable mass housing not only encouraged home ownership, but also resulted in public participation in the forging of the characteristics of modern dwellings (Scott, 2008). It was during this period that the application of large-scale industrialised building methods like prefabrication became prevalent (White, 1965). White further suggested that technological advancement and the political drive to use mass production to reduce the cost of erecting new buildings, as well as resolve critical shortages in the availability of dwellings for the masses, paved way for the evolution of modern residential buildings after World War II.

Post-war West Germany, on the other hand, pursued the fulfilling of public housing needs in form of suburban development. With about 22% of its 1939 housing stock completely destroyed, post-war West Germany faced acute shortages of habitable residential dwellings (Diefendorf, 1993). This period saw the erection of nucleus family bungalows en masse (Ebert, 2008). (Figure 1).

While the origin of contemporary housing need can thus be traced back to post-war era in Europe, a series of events in the decades that followed were key to the development of contemporary housing, as it is known today (Chapman and Hockey, 2002). For example, the oil crisis of the early 1970s (U.S. Department of State, 2013) and the sustainability awareness of the 1980s (Brundtland, 1987) were important landmarks in the formation of contemporary housing needs and the evolution of an innovative climate to fulfil these needs.

It can be noted, however, that while public participation played a vital role in the formation of contemporary housing in post-war Europe; public mass housing expectation was only presented through a series of diverse individualism (Glendinning, 2010). Housing associations (and agencies), the relevant governmental bodies and architects and engineers had to harmonise emerging modernity of public needs into aesthetic architectural designs (Balchin, 1996). (Figure 2).

Environmentally Sustainable Housing

Secondly, there is a consensus among industry professionals, researchers and political elites, that buildings, especially space heating, are the largest single consumer of energy and natural resources in Europe. For example, it is presumed that more than 40% of total energy consumption across Europe can be attributed to buildings, while households in Europe are spending a greater proportion of their income on residential fuel consumption (Badescu, 2011, Brunklaus et al., 2010, Dodoo et al., 2010).

Furthermore, global warming and climate change are recurring issues that have dominated international political debates in the last two decades. Since the burning of fossil fuel, a major source of primary energy in Europe, is directly linked to greenhouse gas emissions and is a major contributor to climate change, it has become evident that alternative energy source or reduction in consumption levels must be sought.

The most recent and overarching driving force behind the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe is the Europe 2020 Strategy of the European Union. This strategy paper sets out concrete and ambitious plans that is expected to facilitate “…smart, sustainable and inclusive growth…” (EUROPEAN COMMISSION, 2010a). One of the flagship targets of the Europe 2020 Strategy is resource efficiency. It aims at “…decoupling economic growth from the use of resources and support the shift toward renewable energy sources, while promoting energy efficiency…” (European Commission, 2010b). Accordingly, the European Union plans to obtain 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, which include, wind, solar, hydroelectric and tidal power, geothermal energy and biomass (European Commission, 2009).

In line with these goals is the recast of the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive (Directive 2010/31/EU), which requires all public and privately owned buildings to be of high-energy performance by 2018 and 2020, respectively, having nearly zero or very low energy requirement (European Commission, 2013a). Most of this energy need is expected to be covered “…to a very significant extent, by energy from renewable sources, including energy from renewable sources produced onsite or nearby” (European Commission, 2013b).

Energy efficiency in housing cuts across social, economic and environmental facets of the society. It affects households’ income and the economy at large. With a legacy of old residential building stocks in most of Europe, the task of refurbishing these buildings to improve their energy performance can be demanding. For example, it is estimated that the UK housing stock is being replaced at a low-rate of less than 1% a year, with most of them overdue for upgrade, renovation or outright demolition (Roberts, 2008). At the current rate of regeneration, it is projected that about 75% of the UK’s currently existing housing stock will still be in use by 2050 (Power, 2008). The refurbishment of its existing housing stock is thus inevitable in the provision of contemporary housing in the UK (Bell and Lowe, 2000). Refurbishment could provide an opportunity to rethink the design and energy performance of a building, which is key in the provision of contemporary housing.

Socially Responsive Housing

Thirdly, family structures, contemporary lifestyle and living arrangements in Europe are changing (Fokkema and Liefbroer, 2008). This is due to a number of socio-cultural factors that have developed over the last four decades. Decrease in the mean household size (Liefbroer, 2009), increasing number of single parents (Chambaz, 2001, González-González et al., 2011), delayed formation of ‘formal’ or ‘informal’ family union (Chiuri and Del Boca, 2010, Sobotka and Toulemon, 2008) and multigenerational cohabitation (de Jong Gierveld et al., 2012), are some of the prevailing factors that affect living arrangements in contemporary Europe. The European contemporary housing must thus be flexible and adaptive in responding to these new needs.

Housing and the physical environment are presumed to have the greatest effect in support of independent living for older people, as suggested, for instance, by Hillcoat-Nalletamby et al. (2010). However, the median age of most European countries is increasing, with overall life expectancy, which poses a design imperative on the built environment. In a recent study of the demographic structure within the EU it was found that whereas as recently as 1960 there were 3 youngsters (age 0-14 years) for every older person (age 65 and above), by 2060 there will be more than 2 older persons for every youngster. By this time, this reversed demographic trend will have resulted in an “inversed pyramid” shape of the continent’s age distribution (Lanzieri, 2011). This is the result of decades of a combination of low fertility and mortality rates.

This shift in the demographic structure within the European Society will impact on the continent’s older people’s ability to maintain independent living, as the contemporary housing of today must incorporate design features that support healthy ageing (Bevan, 2009). Europe’s contemporary housing must be durable and support the choice and ability of its occupants to age in place. Adaptability, flexibility and inclusiveness are key themes that will be of design and research interests in the study and development of contemporary housing in the coming decades in Europe.

Affordable Housing

Finally, of what use is an environmentally sustainable and socially responsive housing, if an average household cannot afford to buy or maintain it? Housing preferences will differ for people of various backgrounds, status, and circumstances. However, affordability in contemporary housing is not simply a financial capability for the individual, but a more complex question of if and how the society at large can embed these features into everyday architecture.

Most European countries have developed social housing systems that are intended to support low-income and/or working class households. Some are in the form of tax breaks and subsidies to support homeownership, while others offer rent support systems through solely public or public private partnerships. However, questions have been raised about how far-reaching these policies are (Amann, 2009). Even with government involvements, affordability is usually seen through the lens of return on investment and the balancing act of realigning social justice and market forces (Turner and Elsinga, 2005).

There are quite a number of innovative ideas that showcase sophisticated design solutions in modern architecture (Armstrong, 2010, Rossi et al., 2012). The challenge, however, is not just to design and construct prototypical innovative buildings with environmental and social benefits, but also to ensure these are within the reasonable reach of an average household and supported by the society as a whole. (Figure 3). It is interesting to note that only a few attempts have been made to replicate best practices and outstanding innovations and incorporate them into mainstream architectural designs and standards (www.dwelle.co.uk, 2013). Such initiatives and schemes, if appropriately designed and incentivised will, undoubtedly, encourage a wider community of stakeholders’ participation.

Design tendencies

An insurmountable amount of natural resources are used up during the construction of a building, as well as throughout its lifespan. Hence, it is important for the contemporary housing to give at least as much back to the environment as it has taken out of it. This notion goes beyond the design for zero carbon emission. The contemporary housing must be able to reconcile, sometimes competing, social, economic and environmental factors.

In the drive to design buildings that meet long-term needs of its occupants, the construction industry has seen an evolution from traditional or “active” buildings, to the more sustainable passive building construction (Badescu and Sicre, 2003). The active building is the traditional building that uses energy and resources without much regard for longevity and the environment.

The passive house (Feist et al., 2005), on the other hand, seeks to conserve energy, reduces its waste generation and vies to be environmentally equitable. The Passivhaus (passive house) concept originated from Germany in the early 1990s. This building concept vies to “…minimise heating energy requirement, through a highly insulating, airtight building shell, removal of thermal bridges, a heat recovering ventilation system, and the heating demand largely covered by internal sources…” (Dahlstrøm et al., 2012). The passive house uses green or renewable energy and is more cost-efficient to maintain. (Figure 4).

A typical Passivhaus building is expected to fulfil the following minimum requirements (Passivhaus, 2013):

  1. Spatial Heating Energy Demand of no more than 15kWh per square metre of treated floor area per year of net living space per annum;
  2. Primary Energy Demand not to exceed 120kWh per square metre of treated floor area per year;
  3. Airtightness requirements of a maximum of 0.6 air changes per hour at 50 Pascals pressure; and
  4. Thermal Comfort levels of no more than 10% fluctuations of the hours in a given year over 250C for both summer and winter.

There are accounts of up to 90% reduction in spatial heating requirements (Schnieders and Hermelink, 2006), overall improvement in thermal comfort and evidence based positive environmental impacts in passive houses compared to conventional houses (Thiers and Peuportier, 2008).

Despite these positive features of the Passivhaus, it is noteworthy that more recent research have raised concerns about the appropriateness of the passive house in face of future climate change (McLeod et al., 2013). Due to their airtightness, houses built up to the passive house standards are said to be at risk of “…air contamination and overheating…” (Hasselaar, 2008), as average overall external temperature increases. These shortcomings, however, should not deter developing this idea further, but must be addressed through further research into design innovations. Nevertheless, the passive house concept is the first housing ‘innovation’ in contemporary architecture that has markedly improved energy efficiency, supports an acceptable level of living standard and is simple enough to build (Schnieders and Hermelink, 2006).

A new innovative mode of building is emerging similar to the Passivhaus: the “autonomous house”. The autonomous house is built on the basic principles of the Passivhaus and is a “self-sufficient” type of building (Chen et al., 2009). By mimicking nature, the autonomous house “…coexists with its ecological environment…” because it contributes as much to its natural environment as it consumes, in a symbiotic relationship (Coolen, 2006).

The autonomous house produces its own green (renewable) energy, converts its wastes into resources for re-consumption, and disposes of its unwanted wastes without any environmental detriments. It is neither ‘nomadic’ (Kallipoliti, 2012) in its purpose nor novel in its profile (Gültekin and Alparslan, 2011), but adopts some of the characteristics of the passive house, and goes a little further. (Table 1). The autonomous house would use solar or wind energy sources, apply alternative sewage treatment and possess a layout fenestration that is oriented toward effective natural lighting and ventilation. Today, the autonomous house is still conceptual and idealistic, and operating it is still very demanding for the modern urban household. But as demand for innovative design and environmentally sustainable buildings grows, with zero carbon requirements, and as building technology advances, the autonomous house will gain more grounds, just as the passive house concept have in Germany and the Scandinavians over the years.

The ideal contemporary housing can be likened to the autonomous house, at least in terms of its energy and environmental characteristics. Resting on the premises of the natural environment and design innovation (Kotsopoulos et al., 2013), the ideal contemporary housing is a contributor, as well as a beneficiary in the ecological systems. It must relate to its environment with reverence, never consuming more resources than it can replace, nor than nature can replenish within a reasonable span of time and without irreversible damages.

During the construction phase, energy, water, materials and other resources are sourced as close to site as possible. The use of prefabricated modular structures will enhance the adaptability of the ideal contemporary housing. Over its entire lifetime, the building operates with minimal environmental impacts, by consuming minimal energy, generating low waste and is in harmony with its occupants. It is like going back to the basics of dwelling and shelter, but applying state of the art technological innovation. The materials that make up the ideal contemporary housing is very crucial for it to attain and maintain its status, so is the building construction process, and the eventual usage and maintenance stage. The ideal contemporary housing must also be responsive to new and emerging living arrangements, with the possibility to expand or downsize, as may be required by its current or future occupants.


Today, residential building users, developers, housing associations, financers, planning authorities and other stakeholders face various, sometimes mutually exclusive, challenges in their efforts to provide and maintain contemporary housing standards. These challenges have emerged predominantly in the last two decades, as current issues continue to shape their prevalence. It is evident that delivering the ideal contemporary housing model must be conceptualized at the design stage (ICE, 2008) – even in case of existing buildings that would require refurbishment in order to meet new requirements. On this premise, it can be safely presumed that energy efficiency, adaptability and flexibility to accommodate occupants of various needs will dominate contemporary housing discourses in the immediate and longer-term. Further research is required in order to develop this conceptual contemporary housing into feasible habitable houses.


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Chapter 2: Interspace thinking, capacity-building and codesign

Jenny Stenberg & Lasse Fryk

Chalmers & University of Gothenburg, Sweden


This text is directed to participants in Oikonet, to briefly describe research themes we believe have the potential to be developed by relating to you all in one way or the other. The research themes have a close relationship to these permanent structures:

Three concepts are presented to shed light on some of the knowledge being developed and in connection with each concept there is presented ongoing and recently completed research projects.[1] Finally, potential issues or questions we may be interested in developing in collaboration with Oikonet participants are listed.


In the right‐to-the-city movements (Harvey 2006) the lack of citizens’ rights has been highlighted, claiming inhabitants are generally not being taken advantage of in governance processes (Stewart and Taylor 1995). In research it has been stressed that inhabitants are key actors in governance processes aimed at developing the city (see e.g. Swyngedouw 2005) and “empowerment” is therefore considered to be of great value in planning (Andrews et al. 2006). The concept of empowerment, however, may be used to describe very different kind of processes. In one type, the focus is on the change of individuals and the possible benefit if a person be empowered to develop his or her knowledge, attitude and skills to fit what is requested in society. In another type, the focus is at process, culture, collective and team building. How may empowerment processes be facilitated that develop the cultures (the way we do things together) in different kinds of organisations and institutions, to better adapt their activities to the local and global challenges we face? This was the focus in a transdisciplinary research project in a stigmatized suburb in Gothenburg:

“We have regarded empowerment as a process where the inhabitants of the city become co-actors in urban governance and development, i.e. that they become producers rather than only consumers of the urban fabric. Empowerment thus releases and redirects energy, and to a certain extent it can also be considered as a source of new energy. Our main challenge has been how to release, redirect and create such energy in reality and further how to learn from these processes we have been initiated and involved in”. (Stenberg et al. 2012: 3)

The capacity-building processes we developed implied empowerment actions that helped involved actors (all actors but our focus was to include inhabitants) to increase their common ability to contribute to change – both social and physical. What we learned from these actions was that empowerment is actually to develop capacity-building cultures, as the concept of culture (as used here) imply that empowerment is about raising awareness about, reflect upon, transform and possibly consolidate a common behaviour – i.e.  empowerment (as we have made use of it) imply system change.

Research projects

  • Urban Empowerment: Cultures of Participation and Learning, 2010-2011, http://www.urbanempower.se
  • Reflections on culture-building, leadership and outreach in pedagogic in an urban school-context, 2013-2014


When discussing urban development, there are plenty of concepts being developed to describe the problem of bridging over between different worlds, e.g. bridging between “abstract and concrete”, or “space and place”, or “system and lifeworld” (Habermas 1984), or “the world of control and the world of susceptibility” (Læssøe 1995). Planning researcher Ole Michael Jensen from Denmark used several expressions to capture this interspace: the “locality” (Jensen 1994: 355), the “face” (Jensen 2001: 3) or the “site” (Jensen 1995), while architecture researcher Claus Bech-Danielsen referred to it as the “locus” (Bech-Danielsen 1998: 19). Most likely, many of these concepts have been inspired by Aristotelian terminology of learning, arguing that “phronesis” (wisdom) presupposes amalgamation of systematic knowledge (make you ready to act) and technical expertise (prepare you to produce) (Aristotle 2002 [350 B.C.E]).

Also the concept of “interplace” (Stenberg 2004) (www.interplace.se) has Aristotelian roots. The concept of “interplace” was developed as a result of a collaboration between the Department of Architecture at Chalmers University of Technology and the department of Social Work at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. At the University, two teachers with premises in a stigmatized suburb had developed a locally based “interspace thinking” education concerning first social work and then teaching (Forsén and Fryk 1999). The aim with the locally based education was to prepare the students for the global challenges and growing migration into the Swedish society. The idea was to facilitate for social workers and teachers to develop knowledge of how to open their professions for the position of “not knowing”, which is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries and doubts without any irritable reaching after fact and reason. The English poet John Keats called that ability “negative capability” in a letter to his brother in 1817 (Dewey 1934). The idea with the locally based education was inspired by Keats and wanted to leave the safe “rooms” of the profession to meet inhabitants and other locally based professionals in rooms inbetween – in interspaces. In such rooms inbetween the traditional professional “rooms” their power hierarchy is not predetermined – nobody owns the room – which means that there is potential to set the agenda together and start developing something new. This opens for new possibilities regarding mutual knowledge production.

In 2008, design students from Chalmers Architecture came to this suburb to learn new design skills, through a pedagogics based on the same “interspace thinking”. The design students were to learn not only renovation of large scale buildings from the 1960s and 70s in stigmatized environments, which was in focus in the master course, but also how to base the design proposals on wishes and needs of the inhabitants in the area – knowledge developed in dialogue – hence they sought tools for developing the dream of the inhabitants and not the designer. In this way, they were to become skilled “interspace workers” but with focus on changing the physical environment – the place. The concept of “interplace” was thus the result of an amalgamation of social and physical aspects.

One of the social aspects that has been highlighted strongly when design students learned these new skills, was power aspects. Even if architects had already discussed quite a lot how to handle problems related to “who owns the city” in the commercialized society being developed, they were not really skilled in handling the problems and moreover not aware of how the actual appearance of a room for dialogue affected communication. Actually, a quite severe lack of knowledge for “making discipline” designers such as architects, engineers, planners, etc., aimed at shaping and reshaping the physical environment. When designers become skilled “interplace” planners and designers, they learn how to analyse the physical environment also in the design process due to power aspects, asking themselves questions like “gives the room power advantage to anyone?”, “who sits where?”, “can the furnishing be changed?”, etc. Hence becoming an “interplace” designer is not just to develop collaboration between actors – to prioritize gutters for downpipes – but to develop the competence you need to really act in interspaces, but without losing the ability to also operate within your traditional professional “room”. Developing these skill is not possible without personal development. You need an inner security to be able to stay open and susceptible to other ideas and concepts, letting them challenge the very base of your preconceptions. This is what “interplace” planning and design is about.

Research projects

  • The interplay between citizen initiatives and invited participation in urban planning: An interaction research project, 2011-2013, http://www.mellanplats.se
  • Compact Cities? Exploring qualities, drivers and strategies for promoting mixed-use urban development, 2014-2016


The concept of “codesign” has been inspired by architect Christopher Alexander and his colleagues who in the 1970s developed a “pattern language” to facilitate for communication between designers and users (Alexander et al. 1977). Codesign is also closely related to other concepts applied in the 1960s and 70s, e.g. the concepts of “cohousing” (the homeowners movement) and “collective building” (the sharing of household movement) (Vestbro 2000). The relationship to “baugemeinschaften” which is common in Germany nowadays is also obvious. Baugemeinschaften is when a group of inhabitants together act as commissioner of a building project where they then will settle down (Ache and Fedrowitz 2012). What maybe distinguish the contemporary concept of codesign from these other concepts is the strong focus on aesthetics (Faga 2006) and “place-making” (Hamdi 2011) which is linked to culture (Sandercock 2003), not-for-profit-issues (Brenner et al. 2011) and a focus at public space and citizen power (Madanipour 2010).

When further developing the concept of codesign in a Swedish context in a stigmatized suburb in Gothenburg, we reinforced one central theme from the 1960s – “advocacy planning” (Davidoff 1965) – and by intertwining research, education and community outreach at a university centre in the suburb, we investigated the possibilities of using codesign of local public space as an engine for developing professional roles (Stenberg 2012; Stenberg and Fryk 2012) and potential of system change (Stenberg 2013). The approach was based on the idea that all actors – also citizens/inhabitants/tenants – are knowledge producers in academic research (Stenberg et al. 2012).

One concrete result of the process was a stage with locally designed mosaics. The construction company was tendered with the condition of employing local youth and interact with local artists. Photos: José Romero and Jenny Stenberg.

The research on this process showed that there is a great potential in such an approach. If implementation research in collaboration between academia, local government and civil society continue being developed, there are great opportunities for an interesting knowledge production to take place with potential to in the long run having an impact on local and municipal planning and administration systems. Perhaps a totally new role for planners and other community workers will evolve, really integrating social and physical aspects and being place-based?

The concept of “codesign” in this context thus implied not only when architects and users collaborate in designing certain physical objects or urban space, but it also meant to facilitate for inhabitants and local professionals to become community builders. Hence, they were given power not just to change the city appearance at place, but also to modify the social structure and procedure of how to plan and change the city in the future.

Research projects

  • The interplay between citizen initiatives and invited participation in urban planning: An interaction research project, 2011-2013, http://www.mellanplats.se
  • Codesign in urban planning in Cuba, 2014-2015
  • Bridging the Gap: Children and Planners Co-Creating the Urban Space, 2014
  • National Transdisciplinary Centre of Excellence for Integrated Sustainable Renovation, 2014-2018

Potential issues or questions

What these research projects have in common is:

  • Focusing the local area level (the local community) in these cities, and furthermore taking an interest in social inclusion and integration issues in the city as a whole.
  • Having an “outreach ambition”, thus to encourage and learn from adding outreach to professional roles, e.g. the role of the teacher, the social worker, the designer, the planner.
  • Considering research being a knowledge building process where all actors produce knowledge, not only academics.
  • As collective knowledge building imply shared power, follows an interest in managing power aspects in planning and management of cities.
  • An interest in “community building” as it may imply systemic changes, e.g. changing planning procedures, ways of teaching and ways of thinking about the role of higher education, which is a prerequisite for changes to be lasting independent of enthusiasts.
  • Relating the community focus and the “outreach ambition” also to citizenship, puts the balance of power between citizens and systemic representatives high up on the agenda and opens an arena for community building to reflect and learn from.
  • Recognizing the need for focusing on community building might change the way of thinking about and approaching social problems that exist in metropolitan urban areas.
  • The outreach approach might also be a way to rebuild institutional as well as neighbourhood trust in areas where this sometimes is scarce.

Potential issues or questions interesting to developing in collaboration with Oikonet participants:

  • Have Oikonet participants’ experiences from outreach activities, related to research and/or education, that can be discussed?
  • Is there experiences in Oikonet concerning power sharing through collective knowledge building processes (inhabitants, researchers, lecturers, local employees) that can be discussed and learnt from?
  • Is community building a concept in use for Oikonet participants, and may these experiences be discussed?
  • Have Oikonet participants any experiences of systemic changes coming as a result of community building processes or other kinds of local development work, and may these be compared and discussed?
  • Can our studies in Barcelona and Rotterdam be compared with Oikonet participants’ studies in these cities? Are there common interests also in Cuba?


Ache, P. and M. Fedrowitz (2012). “The Development of Co-Housing Initiatives in Germany.” Built Environment 37(3): 395-412.

Alexander, C., S. Ishikawa, M. Silverstein, M. Jacobson, I. Fiksdahl-King and S. Angel (1977). A Pattern Language: Towns Buildings Construction. New York, Oxford University Press.

Andrews, R., R. Cowell, J. Downe and S. Martin (2006). Promoting Effective Citizenship and Community Empowerment: A Guide for Local Authorities on Enhancing Capacity for Public Participation. London, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Aristotle (2002 [350 B.C.E]). Nicomachean Ethics. New York, Oxford University Press. Translation and Historical Introduction: Christopher Rowe. Philosophical Introduction and Commentary: Sarah Broadie.

Bech-Danielsen, C. (1998). Økologien tager form: Byøkologi, æstetik og arkitektur (Ecology Takes Form: Urban Ecology, Aesthetics and Architecture). Kobenhavn, Christian Eilers & SBI.

Brenner, N., P. Marcuse and M. Mayer (2011). Cities for People, Not for Profit: Critical Urban Theory and the Right to the City. London, Routledge.

Davidoff, P. (1965). “Advocacy and Pluralism in Planning.” Journal of the American Institute of Planners(31): 331-338.

Dewey, J. (1934). Art as Experience. New York, Perigee Books.

Faga, B. (2006). Designing Public Consensus: The Civic Theater of Community Participation for Architects, Landscape Architects, Planners, and Urban Designers. New Jersey, Wiley.

Forsén, B. and L. Fryk (1999). Från rum till mellanrum: Att utveckla sin kompetens i socialt arbete (From Room to Interspace: The Development of Competences in Social Work). Stockholm.

Habermas, J. (1984). The Theory of Communicative Action. Volume I. Reason and the Rationalization of Society. Boston, Beacon Press.

Hamdi, N. (2011). The Placemaker’s Guide to Building Community. London, Eartscan.

Harvey, D. (2006). Spaces of Global Capitalism: Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development. London, Elsevier.

Jensen, O.M. (1994). “Økologisk byggeri – eller blot miljøriktig projektering/Ecological Building – or just environmentally sound planning.” Dansk Arkitektur(7): 353-367.

Jensen, O.M. (2001). Mappa Mundi Universalis: Pyramid of Knowledge. The Association of American Geographers 97th Annual Meeting, New York.

Læssøe, J. (1995). “Borgerinddragelse: Mellem Åbenhed og styrning (Participation of the Inhabitants: Between the World of Susceptibility and the World of Control)”. In: Miljøet, markedet og velferdsstaten. Lübeke. København, Fremad.

Madanipour, A., Ed. (2010). Whose Public Space? International Case Studies in Urban Design and Development. London, Routledge.

Sandercock, L. (2003). Cosmopolis II: Mongrel Cites of the 21st Century. London, New York, Continuum.

Stenberg, J. (2004). Planning in Interplace? On Time, Power and Learning in Local Activities Aiming at Social Inclusion and Sustainable Development. Thesis, Gothenburg, Chalmers Architecture.

Stenberg, J. (2012). “The Strength of Codesign: Citizens as Community Builders”. In: Design, Participation, Sustainability, ICT: Sustainable Public Open Spaces and Participation through Interaction and ICT. Ooms and Verbeke. Ghent, Belgium: 78-93 (can be downloaded at http://publications.lib.chalmers.se/records/fulltext/local_166381.pdf).

Stenberg, J. (2013). “Citizens as Knowledge Producers in Urban Change: Participation Changing Procedures and Systems.” Footprint – Participatory Turn in Urbanism 7(2): 131-142.

Stenberg, J. And L. Fryk (2012). “Urban Empowerment through Community Outreach in Teaching and Design.” Elsevier Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 46: 3284-3289.

Stenberg, J., L. Fryk, E. Bolin, P. Borg, P. Castell, U. Evenås and V. Larberg (2012). “Urban Empowerment: Cultures of Participation and Learning”. In: Open access paper available at urbanempower.se and https://publications.lib.chalmers.se/publication/175736. Gothenburg, Mistra Urban Futures.

Stewart, M. and M. Taylor (1995). Empowerment and Estate Regeneration: A Critical Review. Bristol, Policy Press.

Swyngedouw, E. (2005). “Governance Innovation and the Citizen: The Janus Face of Governance-beyond-the-State.” Urban Studies 42(11): 1991–2006.

Vestbro, D. U. (2000). “From Collective Housing to Cohousing – A Summary of Research.” Journal of Architectural and Planning Research 17(2): 164-178.

Chapter 3: Advanced concepts of energy efficient buildings’ planning

Suzana Domjan & Sašo Medved

Laboratory for sustainable technologies in buildings

Faculty of Mechanical Engineering

University of Ljubljana (UL), Ljubljana, Slovenia


The new Directive on Energy Performance of Buildings Directive foresees after 2012 (after 2018 in the case of public buildings) the construction and renovation of buildings in the “nearly zero energy” standard. The most important goal for every building still remains a healthy, pleasant and high-productive indoor environment. The building is a dynamic system that reacts to the state of the outdoor environment regarding to the properties of the boundary between the indoor and outdoor environment, the building envelope. In contemporary buildings an envelope not only has a damping function of the dynamic properties of the outdoor environment, but it has become sustainable generator of different forms of energy. The provision of living comfort and low energy consumption of a building is therefore influenced by adjusting the outdoor environment, multi-functional and flexible properties of the building envelope, application and optimal management of low-ex technologies of active natural heating and cooling and directing users to the efficient energy consumption. The planning process should be based on continuous cooperation of all planners and is highly multidisciplinary. This process is based on the ten concepts as shown in figure. Some of them are presented below.


The concept of reducing energy use in buildings by adjusting the external environment

Properties of the urban environment building blocks and the shape and spatial arrangement of objects affect the microclimate in urban areas and, consequently, energy use in buildings. Often the specific microclimate evaluates the strength of the urban heat island, which is defined as the difference in air temperature in the selected urban area and the air temperature in the suburbs. Researches on urban heat island intensity have shown that intensiveness depends on the density and the form of urban environment (Karatasou, 2006). Santamouris (2007) stated that the intensity of heat islands in Europe varies from 2.5°C (London) to 14°C (Paris). Special microclimate conditions result in street canyons. Due to the small gaps between buildings (W) and high altitude of buildings (H), the long-wave heat radiation is not transferred to the open environment, but is absorbed into the building blocks of the street canyon. The heat intensity of the street canyon is further increased through reduced street ventilation, while it is reducing the effect of buoyancy ventilation (Karatasou, 2006). The most common measures to mitigate those effects are urban neighbourhoods planning and placement of greened building blocks and greened areas, such as parks. Urban and street heat islands most impact on energy consumption and thermal comfort in hot periods in summer.

The concept of planning a healthy, pleasant and productive indoor environment for all residents

The main task of the buildings is to create a healthy, pleasant and productive indoor environment. This is important, because in modern societies 80% of the time is spent in the indoor environment. In response to local weather conditions, which are formed in cities, and due to expected global climate changes, we can expect that the heat oppressive periods will be more frequent and more distinctive. Parsons (2003) states that in the event of increased temperature of the ambient air, the body responds with high heart rate and low blood pressure, which increases the flow of blood to the surface of the body and so the cooling of the body. Studies of the cellular structures determined that temperature has a direct effect on tissue damage. Severity of injury is defined by the highest critical temperature of the body. For a man the critical maximum body temperature is 42°C for the time of up to 8 hours. Extreme temperature (50°C) results in necrosis of the cells in less than 5 min (Parsons, 2003). In addition, the heat load on the physiological variables also affects individual pollutants that pass through the respiratory system into the bloodstream. Heat load and air quality will also affect the occurrence of diseases, as amended physiological variables often lead to the emergence of diseases related to thermal load or worsen the condition of chronic diseases. Gaffin and Hubard (2001) found a significant frequency of heat stroke occurrence at physical exertion whit simultaneously heat load. Some authors even reported on the occurrence of heat edema due to intense vasodilatation, which is most common on the hands and ankles (Lugo-Amador, 2004 and Inaba, 2007).

Based on a review of standards in the field of indoor quality and living comfort, it can be concluded that current design concepts of the indoor environment is incomplete, because a) they are designed for healthy people and b) are not designed for synergistic effects of various loads, such as heat load, poor air quality and noise pollution.

It is therefore necessary to develop the concept of the indoor environment design that takes into account the specific characteristics of different user groups and the cumulative effect of stressors processes in buildings. For example the Humideks defines the simultaneous effect of air temperature and relative humidity (Masterdon, 2009) and the CO2 content can be use simultanously as a reference indicator of air quality. As reference indicators of physiological parameters heartbeat (SU), blood pressure (SKT, DKT), mean arterial pressure (SAT = f (SKT, DKT)) and differences in physiological signs (ΔSU, ΔSKT, ΔDKT, vSAT) were taken (Fink, 2012). The final step in the modelling concept represents a risk for increased mortality in terms of physical indicators of the state of the indoor environment. The model that was proposed is based on the Cooney model (Cooney, 2010), which takes into account that for every 15 beats per minute or 25% relative changes in heart rate (ΔSU), the hazard ratio for cardiac vascular mortality (HR) increased by 1.28. This indicator is called the index of health risk (IZT).

The concept of design of building service systems based on weather forecasts

Nearly zero energy buildings (nZEB) concept involves the use of heating, cooling and ventilation systems that utilize natural resources, especially solar energy and heat/cold of the environment. In most of the cases these are so-called low exergy systems (low-ex).  A common feature of low-ex systems is that they use natural energy sources that are time variable and that they utilize low exergy heat and cold for heating and cooling of the building. Meteorological conditions affect both the potential energy source (solar radiation, heat and cold environment), as well as the thermal response of systems and buildings. For this reason, the effect and the available power of energy source depend not only on the current potential of natural energy sources, but also from operation strategy of low-ex systems and the expected thermal response of the building in the near future.

The concept of multi-functional and flexible building blocks envelope

The building envelope is the boundary between the internal and external environment, which directly affects the energy consumption of a building. Façade cladding today are made up of a static elements with the function of thermal insulation, natural lighting, heating and ventilation of the building. These building blocks are generally not responsive to changes in the outdoor environment and cannot adapt to the needs of the buildings’ users. Due to the large available surface area of a building envelope, multifunctional and flexible building blocks are important for energy self-sufficiency, control of thermal response and reduction of energy use in the building. Researches into transparent building blocks of the building envelope response are mainly directed towards the development of technologies to adapt their optical properties. For this purpose a variety of glazing layers that change the properties of the glazing according to outdoor temperature and solar radiation or luminous flux are used. Such glasses may be thermo-tropic (activated depending on the temperature), gaso-tropic (gas in the glazing reacts depending on the temperature) and electro-tropic (activated depending on the electric current). Baetens (2010) in his study also gives an overview of commercially available glazing. Among multi-transparent building blocks glazing with integrated PV cells (natural light – electricity production) and double-glazed facade (natural lighting – purge), which are in practice the most commonly used solutions (Arte Charpentier Architects, 2009 and Mira, 2011). Multi-purpose non-transparent building blocks most often have one or two ventilated gaps to enable energy-efficient ventilation. Their flexible properties are based on selectivity (short/long wave radiation), the periodic process of water vapour transfer in tight building blocks (Leskovšek, 2012) and adding greened building blocks (Šuklje, 2013).

The concept of directing users towards efficient energy consumption

There are a number of researches presenting the differences between planned and actual energy use in buildings. From those researches it can be concluded that differences are caused by: a) the differences due to the variations in thermal technical properties of embedded materials, structural components or systems and b) tuning living conditions by the users. Polinder (2011) noted that the behaviour of the residents depends on the physical characteristics of the environment and the biological, psychological and social characteristics of residents. Andersen (2009) on the basis of the survey found a significant difference in the indoor temperature regarding the occupants’ gender, T. de Meester (2013) notes the impact of family size and employment on temperature and internal heat sources in buildings. The Wall (2006) identifies influential parameters on energy consumption for heating and their values with simulations of twenty passive houses in Sweden. Liao and Chang (2001) present an analysis of energy use for domestic hot water. They found significant differences in the showers frequency and length depending on the occupants’ age. Schuler (2000) noted that the annual household income has the biggest impact on energy use for heating. Choi (2010) noted that gender and age of the users are the key influences for the assessment of thermal comfort.

Operation of the system in modern buildings is controlled by SCADA processes, among which the building control systems (BMS) are placed. Important systems that connect the BMS and users are users’ interfaces (HMI Human Machine Interface). Those should be based on the theory of cognitive science that combines neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, linguistics, artificial intelligence, and social sciences (Karjalainen, 2007) and must be adapted to user experience and interest. Such HMI systems are common in passenger cars but they are slowly being introduced into buildings.


Successful implementation of the advanced concepts of energy efficient buildings’ planning requires involving and participation of building designers, professional associations and engagement of community representatives, social organisations and citizens. New knowledge database must be established and pedagogic programmes must be adopted to provide advanced interdisciplinary skills among the professionals. This can be established with adopted pedagogic tools, methods and teaching materials.


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Arte Charpentier architects; Net zero energy building;http://naturalinteriordesign1.blogspot.com/

Baetens R., Jele B. P., Gustavsen A. (2010). Properties, requirements and possibilities of smart windows for dynamic daylight and solar energy control in buildings: A state of the art review, Solar Energy Materials, Solar Cells 94, 87-105.

Beevor M. (2011). Smart building envelopes; http://www.smartglassinternational.com/wpcontent/uploads/

Choi J., Aziz A., Loftness V. (2010). Investigation on the impacts of different genders and ages on satisfaction with thermal environments in office buildings, Building and Environment, No. 45.

Choi J., Aziz A., Loftness V. (2010). Investigation on the impacts of different genders and ages on satisfaction with thermal environments in office buildings, Building and Environment, No. 45.

Cooney M.T., Vartiainen E., Laakitainen T., Juolevi A., Dudina A., Graham I.A. (2010). Elevated resting heart rate is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease in healthy men and woman. Coronary Artery Disease, 159(4): 612-619.

De Meester T., Marique A.-F., De Herde A., Reiter S. (2013). Impacts of occupant behaviours on residential heating consumption for detached houses in a temperate climate in the northern part of Europe, Energy and Buildings, No. 57.

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Fink R., Eržen I., Medved S. (2012). Environmentally induced health impacts among elderly with cardio-vascular disease. HealthMed, vol. 6, no. 11, str. 3841-3849.

Fink R., Eržen I., Medved S. (2012). Heat-related health impacts among elderly with diagnosed cardio-vascul. V: 12th World Congress on Environmental Health, Vilnius, Lithuania, 22 – 27 May. New technologies, healthy human being and environment : abstract book. Vilnius: IFEH, 2012, str. 69.

Gaffin S.L., Hubbard R.W. (2001). Pathophysiology of heatstroke. V: Pandolf K.B., Burr R.E. (ur). Medical aspects of harsh environments. Vol.1. USA, Government Printing Office. 161-208.

Huei-Chu Liao, Tsai-Feng Chang (2002). Space-heating energy demands of aged in the US, Energy and Economics, No. 24.

Inaba R., Mirbod S.R. (2007). Comaprison of subjective symptoms and hot prevention measures in summer between traffic control workers and construction workers in Japan. Industrial Health Journal, 45: 91-99.

Karatasou S., Santamouris M., Geros V. (2006). Urban Building Climatology. V: Santamouris M. (ur). Environmental Design of Urban Buildings. An Integrated Approach. Earthscan. London. 95-119.

Karjalainen S., Koistinen O. (2007). User problems with individual temperature control in offices, Building and Environment, No. 42.

Leskovšek U., Medved S. (2011). Heat and moisture transfer in fibrous thermal insulation with tight boundaries and a dynamical boundary temperature. Int. j. heat mass transfer, Sep., vol. 54, iss. 19/20, str. 4333-4340.

Lugo-Amador N., Rotenhaus T., Moyer P. (2004). Heat-related illness. Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America, 22:315-327.

Masterdon J.M., Richardson F.A. (2009). Humidex: A Method of Quantifying Human Discomfort due to Excessive Heat and Humidity, Environment Canada, Atmospheric Environment Service, Ontario, Canada.

Medved S., Babnik M., Vidrih B., Arkar C. (2014). Parametric study on the advantages of weather-predicted control algorithm of free cooling ventilation system. Energy, ISSN 0360-5442. [Print ed.].

Medved S., Vidrih B. (2010). Numerical modelling and parametric analyze of outdoor thermal comfort in urban settlements with natural heat sinks. V: Urban environmental pollution : overcoming obstacles to sustainability and quality of life : [conference] June 20-23, Boston, USA. [S. l.]: Elsevier, 2010], str. [P1.74].

Mira, A.N. (2011). Operable “double-skin” Facade Concept; http://nanawall.wordpress.com/2011/09/02/nanawall-sponsors-european-facade-tour/.

Parsons K.C. (2003). Human thermal environment. The effects of hot, moderate, and cold environments on human health, comfort and performance. CRC Press, London.

Polinder H. (2011) Driving forces of energy-related behaviour in residential buildings, IEA ECBCS Annex 53.

Santamouris M., Pavlou C., Doukas P., Mihalakakou G., Synnefa A., Hatzibiros A, Patargias P. (2007). Investigating and analysing the energy and environmental performance of an experimental green roof system installed in a nursery school building in Athens, Greece. Energy, 32:1781-1788.

Schuler A., Weber C., Fahl U. (2000). Energy consumption for space heating of West-German households: empirical evidence, scenario projections and policy implications, Energy and Policy, No. 28.

Šuklje T., Medved S., Arkar C. (2013). An experimental study on a microclimatic layer of a bionic façade inspired by vertical greenery. J. Bionics Eng., vol. 10, iss. 2, str. 177-185.

Vidrih B., Medved S. (2010). Empirical models for air temperatures prediction in street canyons and settlements. V: Urban environmental pollution : overcoming obstacles to sustainability and quality of life : [conference] June 20-23, Boston, USA. [S. l.]: Elsevier, 2010, str. [P1.75].

Vidrih B., Medved S. (2013). Multiparametric model of urban park cooling island. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, vol. 12, iss. 2, str. 220-229.

Wall M. (2006). Energy-efficient terrace houses in Sweden, Energy and Buildings, No. 38.

Chapter 4: The Process of Gentrification

Adrienne Csizmady, Gábor Csanádi, Gergely Olt, Eötvös Loránd

University Budapest, Hungary


Inner city areas that went through disinvestment in the past are often treated by renewal efforts of the state or the local authorities. Market-led new investment often occurred in these areas as well to realise the potential profit. These new investments also change the social status of inner cities causing social conflicts. This reinvestment in the inner city is often labelled as gentrification. The colleagues of the Institute of Urban and Regional Studies at ELTE University, Budapest examined during the last couple of years the dynamics of changes2. The main question is: who pays the price of these changes and are the outcomes of this social process sustainable?

In this paper we introduce the problem and the further directions of research.

What Gentrification Means?

The increasing importance and status of European inner city neighbourhoods after decades of disinvestment and impairment of the physical environment was a much debated process in the last decades of the 20th century. The “movement of capital” (Smith, 1979) towards these areas can have different results. The most debated and spectacular change was the increasing status of the inner city population and the reurbanisation of the core metropolitan areas. This process is often termed as “gentrification”. Many local authorities would like to encourage or induce the economic growth and reinvestment that occurred during spontaneous renewal processes of some inner city neighbourhoods in the world cities, although state led reinvestment processes in less central and developed regions can have similar disadvantages as market led gentrification. Besides the displacement and exclusion of the poor, other negative externalities can occur because of these development and regeneration processes like the conflicts of different functions within a city area. Managing the conflicts of these changing inner city neighbourhoods is a complex challenge.

Ruth Glass describing the process of middle class occupation of working class inner city districts first used the term gentrification in 1964, but the explanation of gentrification is still being debated. Some researchers think the roots of this process lie in the accumulation of capital and the revaluation of real estate in the city centre (Smith, 1979, 1987), or in the role of demand (e.g. in global cities like New York) (Smith, 1996). Other researchers suggest that cultural changes are the most important factors in gentrification. They assume that more highly educated middle-class consumers have demands that they can satisfy only in the city centre and not in the characterless malls and hypermarkets of the suburbs (Ley, 1980, 1986). Some explanations attribute a central role to the changes in proportions among employment sectors. The ever-increasing importance of the tertiary sector has resulted in a growing number of professional occupations in the inner city followed by changing allocation of the workforce (Hamnett, 1991). In this sense changing occupational class structure is the reason for changing urban population and the process is explained by the increasing demand for housing in the inner city generated by middleclass professionals (Hamnett, 2003a, b).

Gentrification is a global process, and in many cases it resembles colonial-era enclaves that were segregated from other areas of the city. Because of the expansion of multinational companies, their employees have become residents in various cities all around the globe with the same demands for consumption and amenities that are typical in western city centres. A new service class has emerged in these cities to satisfy their needs (Sassen, 2000). These processes are forming neighbourhoods in city centres worldwide, making them like the colonial enclaves of global capitalism (Atkinson-Bridge, 2005).

The reinvestment process in the inner city not always takes the form of residential development. The empty retail or industrial places of the inner cities can be sites of new production and consumption places. These new enterprises are often connected with artistic and creative ways of production. The knowledge based “new economy” (Hutton, 2004, 2009) The connection and conflict of creative scenes with real estate development and gentrification and commercialisation was described by Zukin (1987) earlier and by Indergaard (2009) and Pratt (2009) more recently.

According to the examples shown by Hutton (2004) new economy enterprises can flourish in inner city areas and change the production and consumption patterns of the cities in general. This branch of production mostly creates creative intellectual products (from computer programmes to alternative marketing campaigns) and non-standardised material products (like fashion, other design products, and art pieces). These industries can operate in the inner city environment, while also changing it, and amenities and clustering of different types of production create a new urban landscape. These changes can also generate social conflicts, as high demand results in growing rents and the new use of space that can force out former residents.

Scott (2006) stresses, that creative production needs an already existing cultural heritage and strong enough urban economic agglomeration to produce workplaces in the creative field. He notes that suggestions by Florida (2002) actually reverse the logic of creative production, and simplifies this complex process too much. Florida states that amenities and advanced consumption possibilities can attract members of the creative class, and their simple presence could generate economic growth. Many authors think this argumentation confuses production and consumption, but gives very concrete advice to urban politicians: build attractive spectacles, and improve the tourism and hospitality industry. Creative energies using the derelict and cheap inner city retail places can undermine their own business with the “cultural milieu” they create, since real estate investors can exploit the recent popularity of these areas. Ever increasing rents and the interests of the real estate developers in New York caused the displacement of creative production from many neighbourhoods (Zukin, 1987, Indergaard, 2009), and a similar process can be described in the London city fringe in Hoxton (Pratt, 2009). In many cases, the “cultural quarter” becomes rather an entertainment district with extreme concentration of pubs and other night time venues (Roberts et al., 2006; Roberts, 2009). The “night time economy” became an important player of the production in the inner city and increase in tourism and the emergence of low cost airlines can make this process even more prevalent.

Budapest – The Context of Gentrification

In this frame Budapest is an interesting example of the post socialist cities. After the collapse of communism, higher-status residents of the city centre moved to the suburbs of Budapest. (Csanádi-Csizmady, 2002) No significant efforts were made regarding urban renewal in order to prevent suburbanization, nor were any plans made to counterbalance the rapid decrease of the population. By the early years of the new millennium it had become clear to city and district councillors that the only way to keep higher status residents within the inner city was to provide them with dwellings matching their social status. Several proposed solutions can be found: large scale reconstruction in the ninth district, reconstruction in scattered spots (as in the seventh district), gated community developments on the outskirts of the city, and the purchase and renovation of old nineteenth century housing stock by young, middle class residents on a flat by flat basis. This offers the potential to improve the physical environment of the area and change the social composition of the population. The demolitions and new projects typically did not affect the most run-down and lowest social-status areas of the four districts of central Pest. (Csanádi at al, 2010, 2011)

In the physically dilapidated environment of one part of the old city centre (where the Old Jewish Quarter is situated) a new kind of cultural production arose at the end of the 90s similar to the Post-it City movements elsewhere. Since the institutions (above all the local authority) that can influence the development of the area seem to be unable to control the situation here the milieu of the neighbourhood was shaped by bottom up initiatives. This is similar to the situation described in Wild City Theory (Louekari, 2006). When the whole so called „ruin bar” scene started to emerge about 10-15 years ago it was a really different neighbourhood, mostly a residential area for lower status and middle class residents. For a more detailed description of the history of the „ruin bars” see Lugosi et al. (2008; 2010). The emergence of a new hospitality and entertainment quarter in this area is still going on in 2012, with new, bigger venues started for this summer (Csanádi et al, 2012).


In Budapest and some Central-Eastern-European cities we can see some similar scenarios as in the western cities. Development often goes against the interests of local residents. Increasing status of these areas can lead to displacement or exclusion of the least affluent residents. Public support for the changing status and growing popularity of these neighbourhoods can lead to serious conflicts.

In these frames our aim is to analyse the role of investors, policy makers and the “creative industry” in the process of inner city revitalisation and its effect on the whole city. Our main questions are:

How to describe the typical conflicts: the dimensions would be the social character of the groups playing roles in the conflicts, and the other would be the urban character of the conflict.

What types of activities of “creative industry” and which pattern of spatial distribution results social problems and conflicts.

How authorities and planning bodies handle (control) the growing problems?


Atkinson, R., Bridge, G. (2005): Introduction. In: Atkinson, R. & Bridge G. (eds.) Gentrification in a global context: The new urban colonialism, London, Routledge, pp. 1–17.

Csanádi, G., Csizmady, A. (2002): Térbeni-társadalmi mobilitás és szuburbanizáció (Spatial-social mobility and suburbanisation) in Tér és társadalom (Society and Space) (3), pp. 27-56.

Csanádi, G., Csizmady, A., Olt, G. (2010b): Recent trends of the urban renewal in Budapest.Urbani Izziv .21 (1), pp. 42-50.

Csanádi, G., Csizmady, A., Olt, G. (2011):Urban Renewal and Gentrification in Budapest City Center In: Szirmai V (ed.) Urban Sprawl in Europe: Similarities or Differences? Budapest: Aula Kiadó, 2011. pp. 209-252.

Csanádi, G. – Csizmady, A., Olt, G. (2012): Átváltozóban. [In Urban Transformation] Budapest: Eötvös Kiadó, p.268

Florida, R. (2002): The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life, Basic Books

Hamnett, C. (1991): The blind man and the elephant: The explanation of gentrification. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 16(2), pp. 173–189.

Hamnett, C. (2003a): Unequal city: London in the global arena. London, Routledge.

Hamnett, C. (2003b): Gentrification and the Middle-class Remaking of Inner London, 1961-2001. Urban Studies, 40 2401-2426

Hutton, T. A. (2004):  The New Economy of the inner city Cities, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp. 89–108

Hutton, T. A. (2009):  The Inner City as Site of Cultural Production sui generis: A Review Essay. Geography Compass. Vol. 3. No. 2, pp 600-629.

Indergaard, M (2009): What to Make of New York’s New Economy? The Politics of the Creative Field Urban Studies 46, pp. 1063-1093

Ley, D. (1980): Liberal ideology and the post-industrial city. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 70, pp. 238–258.

Ley, D. (1986): Alternative explanations for inner city gentrification: A Canadian assessment. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 76, pp. 521–535.

Louekari, M. (2006): The Creative Potential of Berlin: Creating Alternative Models of Social, Economic and Cultural Organization in the Form of Network Forming and Open-Source Communities, Planning, Practice & Research, 21, 4: 463-481

Lugosi, P., Bell, D., Lugosi, K. (2010): Hospitality, culture and regeneration: Urban decay, entrepreneurship and the “ruin” bars of Budapest, Urban Studies, 47, December 2010.

Pratt, A. C. (2009): Urban regeneration: From the Arts ’Feel Good’ Factor to the Cultural Economy: A Case Study of Hoxton, London, Urban Studies, 46; 1041

Roberts, M., Turner, Ch., Greenfield, S., and Osborn, G. (2006) A Continental Ambience? Lessons in Managing Alcohol-related Evening and Night-time Entertainment from Four European Capitals. Urban Studies, Vol. 43,7, 1105–1125

Roberts, M., (2009) Planning, urban design and the night-time city: Still at the margins? Criminology and Criminal Justice 9, 487-507

Sassen, S. (2000). Cities in a world economy. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.

Scott, A. J. (2006) Creative cities conceptual issues and policy questions Journal of Urban Affairs, 28 (1), pp 1–17

Smith, N. (1979): A theory of gentrification: A back to the city movement by capital not people. Journal of the American Planning Association, 45(4), pp. 538–548.

Smith, N. (1987): Gentrification and the rent gap. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 77, pp. 462–478.

Smith, N. (1986): The frontier and the restructuring of urban space, In: Smith N.-Williams P. (eds.) Gentrification of the City Australia Allan and Unwin

Smith, N. (1996): The new urban frontier – Gentrification and the revanchist city Routledge.

Zukin, S. (1987): Gentrification culture and capital in the urban core. Annual Review of Sociology, 13, pp. 129–147.

Chapter 5: Housing allowances – Housing policy and social policy

Viggo Nordvik

NOVA, College of Applied Sciences, Oslo and Akershus University, Norway


Most of us regard decent housing as crucial for the quality of life. Even more, we regard decent and dignified housing as a prerequisite for our ability to cope with other aspects of our life, such as family, work and education. We will claim that this is true not only at the individual level, but also at a societal level. Most of us also regard it as important that our fellow citizens should also have access to decent housing, because not only do we care for the well-being of our fellow citizens but also because many believe that participation and contribution to a well-functioning society is hampered by bad housing situations. Hence, the capacity of a society to provide decent housing, also to those worse off, could reasonably be seen as a litmus test of the welfare society. Housing should be regarded as a pillar, of a well-functioning welfare state, Torgersen (1987) and Malpass (2004).

A striking example of the importance of decent housing for all can be seen in studies of support different types of redistributive measures. For example, Hills (2001) argue that hardly anyone in surveys wants less spending on specific social benefits, even if these spending must be funded by increased taxes. The British Social Attitudes survey from 1998 revealed that people clearly were less supportive towards increased money transfers for unemployed than they were towards specific support to consumption of social benefits, such as housing. Some of the same type of arguments can be found in Quigley (1999). In general welfare theory, this type of arguments are often termed the merit good argument. Many are willing to support those worse off as long as the support is spent in a sensible way. Obviously, there is a strong element of paternalism at work here.

One could see support for housing to vulnerable individuals and families as an expression of pure preferences for the well-being of others, a kind of altruism. Alternatively one could regarded as an expression of a belief that society becomes better for all if those worse off through a kind of social insurance arguments. It is interesting to note that a third type of argument was prominent in Sweden in the 1930’s. The housing policy targeted towards the most vulnerable should benefit everybody, for example by reducing contagion risks (e.g. for tuberculosis), G. Myrdal and Åhrén (1933). I.e. an activist housing policy was supported by a kind of social investment argument, A. Myrdal and Myrdal (1934) and Morel, Palier, and Palme (2012).

Housing allowances are one particular instrument that is used in a socially oriented housing policy.

Housing allowances – a widespread policy instrument

Most (western) countries have some kind of housing allowances on the repertoire of the housing policy. The names of the schemes vary with Rent Assistance in the Netherlands, Housing benefits in the UK and Section 8 vouchers in the US. However, for most countries Housing Allowances is a fair translation. There are some variations in design and quantitative importance of the housing allowance schemes, but still quite obvious similarities, for an overview see Kemp (2007) and Agiro and Matusitz (2011).

As an instrument of the housing and social policy, the housing allowances are intended to serve two main policy objectives. It should induce people to choose better quality housing than they otherwise would have done. Either the argument for this could be presence of positive externalities, or it can be rooted in pure paternalism. The second objective of the allowances is that they should contribute towards a societally more desirable distribution of post-housing-expenses income. In the introduction to an edited volume, Kemp (2007) formulates it in this way: Income related housing allowances can have housing policy or social security objectives. In practise, however, schemes invariably have both functions, though one or the other is usually dominant. When evaluating or redesigning the housing allowance schemes, the system’s ability to deliver on both these two objectives should be taken into account.

Over the last 10-15 years, the popularity of the housing allowances has grown very strongly in Norway. From the start in the 1960’s the scheme was mainly initiated and cherished among bureaucrats and administrators of the housing policy, while nowadays politicians across the political landscape praise the housing allowances, Nordvik and Sørvoll (2014). It is, however, fair to say that the popularity of the housing allowances have more to do with its impact on distribution than with its impact on housing quality. One could e.g. hear that the housing allowances are a very important tool in the combat on poverty. A similar development has been noted also in other countries, Koning and Ridder (1997). In short, housing allowances are both a tool of the housing policy and of the social policy.

Housing allowances should be targeted towards households with low incomes as compared to their housing expenses. There is a variety of how this criterion is applied but most apply a kind of gap formula, Gibb (1995), Fallis (1990) and Nordvik and Åhrén (2005). The basic design does, however, build on a so-called gap formula, i.e. based on the income and type of family, a reasonable housing expense to be covered by the household itself is defined. The house allowances should then cover a given share of the difference between the calculated reasonable and the actual housing expenses. Housing expenses in excess of an upper limit (a ceiling) do not usually enter the calculation of housing allowances. In some countries, there is also a requirement that the housing units should satisfy some minimum quality criteria in order for the household to be eligible for the allowances, and only certain types of households are eligible, e.g. pensioners and families with children.

The basic idea of the gap-formulation of housing allowance system is quite simple and transparent. It is; however, right to say that most housing allowance systems contain such a multitude of complex operationalization of concepts and exceptions, that the end result is quite far away from any ideal of transparency. Transparency is a prerequisite for housing allowances to have an impact on housing choices of vulnerable household. If receivers do not understand the positive consequences, in terms of housing allowances, of their choices it hardly works as an efficient incentive. Another aspect of the lack of transparency is discussed by Lindbom (2007). In a political game, elements that are less transparent are more vulnerable to retrenchment, than instruments that are more transparent..

Two important differences in housing allowance systems across countries are worthwhile to mention. In most European countries house allowances are a kind of entitlement, if a household satisfy the criteria, they will get a certain amount of housing allowances. Firstly, countries differ in whether the housing allowance systems are pure rent supplement schemes[2] or also owner-occupiers can be granted housing allowances, see e.g. Åhrén (2007). Those who include also owner-occupiers differs quite much, in how eligible housing expenses are calculated. Secondly, in the US, the section 8 vouchers on the other hand, are not an entitlement. If you satisfy the criteria, you have to queue up for the vouchers. In this regard, the US voucher type of housing allowances are more like social housing in Europe.

Housing allowances – a research agenda

As a part of the research on housing and opportunities for vulnerable households housing allowances are a more or less permanent part of the research agenda at NOVA. Needless to say, studies of housing allowances and their impact also is the subject of a much wider international research agenda. One strand of the literature is studies done in collaboration or funded by welfare agencies who operate and develop national housing allowance systems, while another part is more academic in approach, and perhaps also in which questions receive attention.

Quite a few studies ask what probable effect housing allowances have on labour market activity. As income (e.g. from work) increases, housing allowances are withdrawn. In effect, housing allowance receivers face an additional tax that gives a disincentive to take up work. The empirical evidence on this question is mixed. However, one can note that Shroder (2002) conclude that there is no convincing evidence that housing support have strong effects on labour market participation. In Nordvik and Sørvoll (2014) we argue that there might be positive impacts on self-sufficiency of housing allowances because they may enable households to build a base in a home from which they can erect participation in other arenas. Empirical support for claim is found in e.g. Harkness and Newman (2006).

Housing allowances increase the ability to pay for housing, and consequently the demand. Increased demand can be expected to increase rents. This again, could lead to increased supply of (low-income) housing. In a US-study Susin (2002) find that aggregate rent increases outnumber the amount of housing assistance provided. Studies from France and Finland indicate that 50-70 percent of the housing allowances leak out in higher rents, Kangasharju (2010) and Fack (2006). The extent to which either of these effects dominates is an empirical question. Here again we will conclude that even more empirical research is needed.

Future work on the impact of housing allowances should probably pay very much more attention to the question of which impact housing allowances have on income distribution, both in the longer and the shorter run. For example, does receiving housing allowances work like a poverty trap by producing welfare dependency, evidence in Chen (2008) and Nordvik and Åhrén (2005) suggest not, but the evidence is not conclusive.


Agiro, A., & Matusitz, J. (2011). Housing Vouchers, Benefits and Allowances (VBAs): Comparing Rental Tools in the US, England and the Netherlands. European Journal of Housing Policy, 11(1), 71-88.

Åhrén, P. (2007). Housing allowance systems in Sweden. Housing allowances in comparative perspective. The Policy Press, Bristol.

Chen, J. (2008). The effects of housing allowance benefit levels on recipient duration: Evidence from the Swedish 1997 reform. Urban Studies, 45(2), 347-366. doi: 10.1177/0042098007085967

Fack, G. (2006). Are housing benefit an effective way to redistribute income? Evidence from a natural experiment in France. Labour Economics, 13(6), 747-771.

Fallis, G. (1990). The optimal design of housing allowances. Journal of Urban Economics, 27(3), 381-397.

GIBB, K. (1995). A housing allowance for the UK? Preconditions for an income‐related housing subsidy. Housing Studies, 10(4), 517-532.

Harkness, J. M., & Newman, S. J. (2006). Recipients of housing assistance under welfare reform: Trends in employment and welfare participation. Housing Policy Debate, 17(1), 81-108.

Hills, J. (2001). Inclusion or exclusion? The role of housing subsidies and benefits. Urban Studies, 38(11), 1887-1902.

Kangasharju, A. (2010). Housing Allowance and the Rent of Low-income Households. Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 112(3), 595-617. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9442.2010.01615.x

Kemp, P. (2007). Housing allowances in comparative perspective: Policy Press.

Koning, R. H., & Ridder, G. (1997). Rent assistance and housing demand. Journal of public Economics, 66(1), 1-31.

Lindbom, A. (2007). Obfuscating retrenchment: Swedish welfare policy in the 1990s. Journal of Public Policy, 27(02), 129-150.

Malpass, P. (2004). Fifty years of British housing policy: leaving or leading the welfare state? European Journal of Housing Policy, 4(2), 209-227.

Morel, N., Palier, B., & Palme, J. (2012). Beyond the welfare state as we knew it? Towards a social investment welfare state, 1-30.

Myrdal, A., & Myrdal, G. (1934). Kris i befolkningsfrågan. Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag.

Myrdal, G., & Åhrén, U. (1933). Undersökning rörande behovet av en utvidgning av bostadsstatistiken jämte vissa därmed förbundna bostadspolitska fr0agor.

Nordvik, V., & Sørvoll, J. (2014). Interpreting Housing Allowance: The Norwegian Case. Housing, theory and society(ahead-of-print), 1-15.

Nordvik, V., & Åhrén, P. (2005). The duration of housing allowance claims and labour market disincentives: the Norwegian case. European Journal of Housing Policy, 5(2), 131-146.

Quigley, J. M. (1999). Why Should the Government Play a Role in Housing?: A View from North America. Housing, theory and society, 16(4), 201-203.

Shroder, M. (2002). Does housing assistance perversely affect self-sufficiency? A review essay. Journal of Housing Economics, 11(4), 381-417.

Susin, S. (2002). Rent vouchers and the price of low-income housing. Journal of public Economics, 83(1), 109-152.

Torgersen, U. (1987). Housing: the wobbly pillar under the welfare state. Scandinavian Housing and Planning Research, 4 (sup1), 116-126.

Chapter 6: Public Rental Housing Programme as Innovation

Gojko Bežovan

University of Zagreb, Croatia


As in other transitional countries, despite the obvious problem and long-lasting economic crisis, housing in Croatia is relatively neglected as a policy field (Lowe, 2003). Constant challenges in the region are still related to polarized tenure structure, less investment in social housing, inefficient subsidies and growing affordability constrains (Tsenkova, 2003). In the period of transition income inequalities has increased, unemployment is high, and insecurity is a part of everyday life (Hegedüs, 2013). Massive support for homeowners in the form of mortgage subsidies and housing contract saving schemes, according to empirical evidence of J. Hegedüs, often has a regressive redistributive effect. With the problem of sustainability of social rental housing private rental become a crucial area for housing policy. Having examples from western countries Hegedüs (2013:17) see that private sector, which is still part of informal economy, as one which can be used for social purpose. The comprehensive recent study of housing policy in transitional countries (Hegedüs, Lux, Teller, 2013) show that governments are under influence of private interests interlocked with the banks, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders. In such circumstances it is a hard task to deal with housing affordability issue as a crucial fact, which dominates housing policy in transitional countries.

A recent study gives the evidence how it is clear that an emphasis on housing as capital has led to a great rise in ownership levels and rising prices and, following the crisis, to a slump in investment in 20 European cities (Costa, Bežovan,  Plavarini, Brandsen, 2014)[3]. Housing consumption of certain groups has suffered, leading to deterioration in quality and sometimes even the loss of homes. Increasing shares of low-income households and precarious workers face barriers to home ownership, higher than ever in the context of limited investments in new social rental housing and of privatisations of part of that stock.

The aforementioned study has demonstrated that the extent to which different groups are affected mirrors the welfare regime typology. Implemented housing measures in cites from the study only have limited effects when there is a major mismatch between supply and demand. The problems are especially evident in the Mediterranean and transitional regime cities. The problems therefore appear hard to solve with existing policy instruments. This is why there is a need to focus on social innovation and policy learning, utilizing the links of housing to other fields of welfare more systematically. This requires less emphasis on financial investment and more on housing as a lever for social investment. It might be expected that the increased pressures on vulnerable groups will contribute to self-organisation and a stronger push for local housing innovations. This will be more effective than tinkering with a housing supply that is likely to be structurally inadequate.

Social innovations in the field of housing are determinate and conditioned with very complex context related to the historical, cultural, political and economic development of certain cities.

Zagreb – Context of Social Innovation

Although housing is one of the important issues in a city’s development plan[4] unfortunately it is not sufficiently researched. Statistical data have limited coverage and due to a lack of information, such as trends of housing prices or housing market demand and supply, a lot remains unknown about the functioning of the housing market.

During the 1990s the privatisation of the public housing stock which lasted until the beginning of the 2000s, was the dominant topic in the field of housing. As a result of that reform, the housing tenure structure underwent major changes. In 1991, public housing accounted for 45.4[5] percent of the housing stock while in 2011, 85.6 percent of households are homeowners.  Public housing sale meant a reduction of municipal housing which catered for the needs of the low income population. Only 2.1 percent of households live in houses which can be regarded as social housing.  Tenants paying market rents, 10 percent of them, are one of the most marginalised groups in the housing market.

Data from the 2011 Census show an impressive increase in the housing stock and it is evident that wealth accumulation through investment in housing is concentrated in the capital. Overcrowded housing appears as one of the greatest problems in terms of quality of life and is, general speaking, a restricting factor in the development of Zagreb. Citizens who live in crowded units are exposed to serious mental health risks.

Homelessness is a new and growing social problem visible in the streets and is becoming increasingly relevant for a broad section of the urban population (Šikić-Mićanović, 2010). Recent investments in the city of Zagreb increased the capacities for the homeless. Media and civil society organisations increase public awareness of homelessness and social exclusion. The housing allowance programme, which is part of the social care policy, provides support to a very limited number of families in need, despite a visible increase in the number of beneficiaries over the last ten years.

As housing was one of the most profitable businesses increased investments were largely made by speculative developers. One governmental, top-down programme, for first-time buyers known as the POS Programme, offering affordable housing loans and targeted prices, but with a lower urban standard, provided approximately 4,000 housing units. The main objective of the Strategy was that the City of Zagreb should develop an active housing policy, with the priority to meet the needs of low-income families from the five years old waiting list by providing roughly 900 social housing units. The objective of the Strategy was to increase the social housing stock, i.e. to serve the concept of social integration and sustainable development of the city. Between 2006 and 2009 the city got 869 newly built social housing units, increasing the social housing stock by 16%.  There are 2,127 households on the current waiting list for social housing, while in 2003 the number was 1,900. This is not to suggest that all households from the previous list obtained social housing.

What are Social Innovations?

The term ‘social innovation’ has entered the discourse of social scientists with particular speed, but there is no consensus regarding its relevance or specific meaning in the social sciences and humanities. Some analysts consider social innovation no more than a buzz word or passing fad that is too imprecise to be usefully applied to academic scholarship. Some social scientists, however, see significant value in the concept of social innovation because it identifies a critical type of innovation (Vale, 2009). The first question is why we talk today about social innovation. Social needs are now more pressing: The global crisis has made it clear that most of the challenges we face today have taken on an increasingly social dimension. At a time when resources are limited, new solutions must be found. Government responses to the crisis have involved major fiscal stimulus packages but at the same time they are confronted with budgetary constraints (BEPA, 2010). The notion of social innovation is particularly appealing in light of the difficulties facing traditional welfare systems and, more broadly, a development model essentially based on only two actors (the market and the state) that is finding it increasingly difficult to meet the growing and diversified needs of society (Brozaga, Bodini, 2012). Traditional solutions are shown often to be inadequate. Also there are clear tendencies towards participation of the people and their involvement in developing various types of programs and initiatives they can address some social issues or problems. Bearing that in mind Vale (2009:7) states that solutions must focus on the beneficiaries, and be created with them, preferably by them, and never without them. Social innovations are held as one of the key elements to uphold sustainable, smart and inclusive growth. Social innovation is necessary to address poverty, create employment, develop capabilities and participation, and promote changes in production and consumption habits (BEPA, 2010).

The field of social innovation is broad and varied. Social innovation is a practice-led field; it is contextual and as such has developed with ill-defined boundaries, meanings and definitions. Social innovations can be defined as new ideas (products, services and models) that simultaneously meet social needs (more effectively than alternatives) and create new social relationships or collaborations. In other words they are innovations that are not only good for society but also enhance society’s capacity to act. (BEPA, 2010). They are some sort of ideas, turned into practical approaches that are new in the context where they appear. Stanford Social Innovation Review (Phills et al., 2008) defines social innovation as “a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just, than existing solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals”. A social innovation can be a product, production process, or technology (much like innovation in general), but it can also be a principle, an idea, a piece of legislation, a social movement, an intervention, or some combination of them.

BEPA (2010:53) gives framework for the process of social innovation. First the idea emerges, the problem is diagnosed and the question is framed in such a way that not only symptoms but root causes are tackled. The second stage is to generate ideas on ways to deal with the identified problem. The third stage involves trialling the ideas through pilot projects with feedback from users and experts. The fourth stage is about moving from the pilot to a securely established social innovation by identifying a legal and fiscal form and income streams to ensure the long-term sustainability that will carry the innovation forward. The fifth stage concerns the spreading of the social innovation with documented results to a larger group or to other communities or countries. The sixth and last stage is when entirely new ways of thinking and doing things are put in place. It usually involves many elements (social movements, business models, laws and regulations, data, research and infrastructures) and actors from all sectors (public, private, profit and non-profit, informal)

Also sustainability, financing and recognition are key challenges for establishing social innovations. Social innovation should provide stable financing structure in order for initiatives to be launched and developed. In that they need to be very resourceful and rely on different stakeholders.

Framework of Housing Innovation

Public policies and reforms in public sector, on the different level of state administration, are dominantly made into top-down approach very often with political connotations  (political will) and with the lack of respect for empirical evidence or respective analyses related to the topic (Bežovan, 2009). During the last 20 years the practice is that the new governments or the new mayors are not respecting achievements of previous governments[6]. When they come to office they change professional staff, they change policy programmes without debates or analysis. In such circumstances there is “policy with thousand new starts”, and creative professionals are very often forced to leave offices of public administration and to set up civil society organisation to confirm their creativity and innovative skills. Public policies as such in fact are not a place for real innovations, because of cognitive barriers, everything should be written in regulations or in policy programmes, before someone starts with new initiative.

A recent survey[7] carried out among relevant stakeholders for local social welfare programs implementation found that officials from public administration understand less and trust less to the importance of social innovations. Civil society organisations are more aware of importance of social innovations and they produced more such projects and ideas. However, public officials often are suspicious on the range and usefulness of such innovations. It means that it is rather hard task for civil society organisations to produce visible innovation what might get status of good practice in relevant policy area. But, besides that, for the time being, concept of good practice is not recognised as a part of possible policy agenda.

Housing policy, as a space for social innovations, is decentralised, fragmented and left to local politicians’ will. Although housing crisis is evident in larger urban areas and empirically documented as results of different surveys, vulnerable social groups (young families, single households, internal migrants, elderly, divorced people) are not organised in civil society organisations[8]. Besides that, there are no advocacy organisations addressing priority of housing needs and needs for affordable rental housing[9]. Recently, some civic organisations addressing family violence influenced by-law regulation, in fact, the eligibility criteria for social housing and now victims of family violence are on the priority list for social housing. However, lack of affordable renting housing is ceterum censeo of very rear public debates. Majority of these debates are in different internet forums[10].

Publicly debated Strategy of housing policy in City of Zagreb (2006) with well documented issue of the lack of affordable rental housing for the people from young generation, with the needed level of political will, supported by professionals outside the city administration and capacity of administration in the city were driving forces of this innovation. This social innovation originates from pressing social needs and its potential is in idea that are implemented and driven by housing needs recognised by different stakeholders.

Recent housing needs assessment for the city of Zagreb (Bežovan, 2012) again made evidence on the vulnerability of young families and population of singles. These populations are not eligible to get housing loans and they are exposed to uncontrolled housing rental market where they can’t afford decent housing.

Processes of drafting and putting the innovation on the agenda of decision process were example of transparent policy making process. Draft of public rental programme has been presented to the public through press conference and additional explanation in radio programme with the contact of possible users. Public debate lasted for 15 days and interested citizens were in position to give comments, to ask questions or to give proposal for improvement of the draft of the programme.  All inputs have been analysed and publicly commented by the policy makers and it gave additional legitimacy to this innovative housing programme. The parts of comments made by citizens have been built in the final version of the programme which was framed in proposal to City Assembly.

Process of decision making of the programme in City Assembly was followed by lively debate. Representatives of different parties agreed about importance of the programme to finally address housing issue and to meet the needs of young households. Remarks of oppositional party were more formal and directed to some legal issues related to the ownership of flats which will be distributed in this programme.

Conceptions of and ways of addressing users

This innovation is entitled to young households, age up to 35, with more kids who are sub-tenant on the private rental market (that market is mostly not regulated at all) or living together with larger family but in unfavourable housing conditions. In different ways users suffered because of housing conditions. In case of sub-tenant status they are in position to rent small and often flats of bad quality for very high price. For a flat of 30-40m2 they pay rent of about 240 euro, and for 80m2 flat of this innovation also 240 euro[11]. As they do not have the contract they can’t register their permanent residence. Permanent residence on certain address is prerequisite to get places for kids in kindergarten. Households with such unstable tenure are in risk to move and, so, if they can’t find other affordable flats in the neighbourhoods, they are forced to change the school for kinds. These households are in trouble of not being in a position to plan their lives. In different aspects mentioned experiences in meeting housing needs made these families in position to be proto type of socially excluded peoples.

Young families living with the parents or with other members of families, often three generation of family living together sharing space of small flats, are in risks of conflicts in such large households. All family members suffer from the lack of space and needed privacy.

Within this innovation users, selected through public call for application, getting contract for five years, with possibilities to extend it. They pay less for the rent then on the private rental market and they have very decent, big enough flat in newly built neighbourhood. In these cases quality of life of the users are visibly improved and they are in position to plan their lives. In meeting the needs of such users it is visible how housing, as the fundamental determinant of people’s welfare, plays a crucial role in the strengthening of social integration and social cohesion. Here decent houses can ensure participation of people in community life.

This type of services is a new one and it bridge the gap between the residual social rental housing and unregulated housing market with the solution to pay unaffordable flats. This service empowers young families and gives them more opportunities to take active citizenship and to create life carrier.

This innovation produces different type of tangible services, visibly serving earlier politically unrecognised needs, where, instead of social rights there are contractual relationships with the potential to develop new culture of responsible tenants.

Internal organisation and mode of working

Internal organisation of the innovation is a part of responsibilities in office of local government and local city company responsible to manage housing stock. Process of getting status of tenants in public rental housing programme is a very transparent one and all families who do see that they are eligible according to mentioned criteria can apply. Tenants make a contract and they make down payment as guaranty to pay rents regularly and to keep the flat in proper way.  Such down payment, as pedagogical measure, is a kind of innovation in local social welfare system[12].

One important criteria for applicants to be eligible for this rental programme is that households in application must give evidence that they have reasonable amount of income per households members. Level of income per households must be at least 30% of average income in Zagreb. This criterion gives advantage to families where mother and father are employed and, in fact, guaranty regular payment of rent[13].

Here social innovation involve vulnerable social groups, boundary between “social” and “economic” blurs and learning from this innovation should be crucial for reapplication of the programme to other cities. Empirical evidence on social return: contribution of this innovation to social integration and social cohesion should be the topic of future research. Also, empirical evidence says that this innovation is sustainable and economically efficient.

There are several reasons to make evaluation of this innovation and to see ways of its improvements.

Lack of coordination between activities of local government office responsible for making call of applications for this programme and local city company responsible to manage that housing stock makes this program less visible to interested public. In such circumstances, marked with political conflicts in governance of the city, publicity strategy or social marketing of this innovation, unfortunately, are not parts of agenda.

Interaction with the local welfare system

Public rental programme brought new spirit into local welfare system where officials used to deal with only poor people as vulnerable population. Here, in this social innovation, there is a sense of social investment programme with very viable return in near future. For the time being tenants, sharing the newly build settlement with social renters and with homeowners, do not have any form of influence on the programme or participation in its development.

Public rental housing programme is case of path-breaking in fragmented housing sector and the new role of local government addressing visible social needs of vulnerable population. This programme, as a visible innovation, gave the new face to local welfare system and has made them more modern and responsive. Definitely, this project might be a milestone in process of reforming local welfare system and give more space to social innovation and experimentation.

Also, this innovation puts the issues of planning and cooperation of different local stakeholders on the agenda of local social policy.

Besides that, this innovation shows its capacity to become the model for other cities. Mayors and officials of other cities perceive public rental housing as an investment in competent labour force, and with such a programme they see possibilities to attract young professionals who should be employed in public services (schools, health and social services, police, local administration). Economic crisis influenced very much fiscal capacities of Croatian cities and, for the time being, stopped re-implementation of this innovation in other cities.


The critical issue with development and scaling up of this innovation is a level of social capital inside of city administration and level of openness to respective stakeholder. Here a relevant question is the ownership of this innovation. Does it belong to mayor, to city or to different group of stakeholders? Anyhow critical issues for making such innovations inside public administration are institutional capacity and level of accountability.

Example of this innovation was a solution for the part of unsold housing stock from the state run POS programme.

Real and broader justification of this innovation will come after result of on-going survey among population of tenants in public rental housing programme.


Bežovan, G. (2005) “Procjena standarda stanovanja u Zagrebu kao razvojnog resursa”, Revija za socijalnu politiku, 12: 23-44.

Bežovan, G. (2009) Civilno društvo i javna uprava kao dionici razvoja kombinirane socijalne politike u Hrvatskoj, Hrvatska javna uprava, 9: 355-391.

Bežovan, G. (2010) Postignuća i izazovi kombinirane socijalne politike u Hrvatskoj, Zagreb: CERANEO

Bežovan, G. (2012) “Procjena stambenih potreba u Hrvatskoj” (Housing Needs Assessment in Croatia) Zagreb: CERANEO.

BEPA (2010) Empowering people, driving change: Social innovation in the European Union, European Commission.

Borzaga C., Bodini R. (2012), What to make of social innovation? Towards a framework for policy development, Euricse Working Paper, N.036 | 12.

Costa. G., Bežovan G.,  Plavarini. P, Brandsen, T. (2014) Urban Housinig systems in times of crisis. in: Ranci, C., Brandsen, T. Sabatinelli, S. (eds) Socail vulnerability in Euroean cities: The role of welfare in times of crisis, Palgrave, Macmillan, pp.160-186.

Hegedüs, J., Lux, M., Teller, N, (eds), (2012) Social Housing in Transitional Countries, New York: Routledge.

Hegedüs, J. (2012) A Transformation of the Social Housing Sector in Eeasern Europe: A Conceptual Framework, in: J. Hegedüs, M. Lux, N. Teller, (eds), Social Housing in Transitional Countries, New York: Routledge.

Lowe, S. (2003) Introduction- Housing in Post-communist Europe-Issues and Agenda, in: S. Lowe, S. Tsenkova, eds. Housing Change in East and Central Europe-Integration or Fragmentation. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp xiii-xix.

Tsenkova, S. (2003) Housing Policy Matters: The Reform Path in Central and Eastern Europe, in: S. Lowe, S. Tsenkova, eds.  Housing Change in East and Central Europe-Integration or Fragmentation. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp 193-204.

Šikić-Mićanović, L. (2010) “Homelessness and Social Exclusion in Croatia”, European Journal of Homelessness, 4:45-64.

Vale, A. (2009) A new paradigm for Social Intervention, Social Innovation, Sociedade e Trabajo Booklets, 12, 2009, pp.3-13.

Chapter 7: Research in the Design Studio: types of knowledge in housing studies

Nadia Charalambous

Department of Architecture, School of Engineering, University of Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus


Since the connection between research and design gradually becomes established, the question on how to construct knowledge and understanding out of a design or a design process increases in significance. Architectural research is often described as a complex and diverse subject area which on one hand draws on a number of disciplinary procedures while on the other it has the potential to maintain a specificity of its own through the practice of architectural design. Owing to its potential to gather a heterogeneous set of discourses and types of knowledge, design through a cyclical, explorative method of learning-by-doing, has a high potential to offer an alternative research methodology that combines scientific rigor with innovation and intuition. During the design practice, cross disciplinary knowledge may be transferred through the decision making process, while each intermediate design result may lead to new forms of knowledge inquiry and production. Furthermore, the design studio within the structure of OIKONET provides possibilities for inter-, multi- or trans-disciplinary collaborations in housing studies which aim at crossing traditional disciplinary and research boundaries and effectively address the increasingly divided, complex and differentiated experiences of contemporary domestic  life.

Housing Research and pedagogy at UCY

Central to UCY’s architecture department’s philosophy and reflected both in the program of studies and in the work of the housing research group is the concept of integrated design which stresses the necessity of a balanced focus on the various aspects of architecture which make it the complex and fascinating field that it is. The challenges for both the discipline and the profession are many and diverse but they could perhaps be summed up thus: to preserve the past, accommodate the present and plan for the future; to allow for the cultural while respecting the natural, to identify the local within the global, to allow for differences and bring out the similarities, to be innovative, to create. The Department of Architecture consequently has an important role to play in producing architectural skills and knowledge through research, in providing high quality education and in helping the much needed dialogue among the parties, directly or indirectly involved in its production; academia, the architectural community, other professionals and the community. This is in line with the structure proposed by OIKONET, which will aim at the exchange of knowledge among research and educational institutions and at embedding this into the socio cultural context.

The acknowledgement that architecture encompasses a number of disciplines, bringing together a number of distinct modes of research and types of knowledge that are often kept apart, is a major challenge that we, amongst others, face as educators. The teaching methodology underpinning the courses that our group is directly responsible for stems from our attempt to address such a challenge. A strong theoretical approach, active research and research findings (mainly about domestic architecture and ethnic/social patterns of urban configuration) and professional design practice (mainly houses) translate naturally into the educational setting and above all to the design studio as the main forum for creative exploration, assimilation and application of multi-dimensional knowledge transfer into the design process.

In this paper we propose that the design of a house and thus the design process in the studio is undoubtedly one of the most important vehicles of exploring the social and experiential dimensions of architecture and thus facilitate the merging of different types of knowledge produced through research, the profession and the community. Owing to its potential to gather a heterogeneous set of discourses and types of knowledge, we believe that the design process through a cyclical, explorative method of learning-by-doing, provides the possibilities to offer an alternative research methodology in architectural education that combines scientific rigor with innovation and intuition. An explorative design methodology is proposed (as opposed to either linear or reflexive design methodologies) which employs experimentation through the design process and adopts an open process or open loop structure into research throughout the design process.  Different types of knowledge may be transferred through the decisions making design process (research based knowledge) while each intermediate design result may as well lead to new knowledge inquiry and acquisition (research by design or design driven knowledge).

Research in Architecture

Research-based and research-by design

The design studio has undoubtedly been at the core of architectural design education since its inception in the 19th century.  In most situations, although studio teaching is still based on the traditional models of design process, the mid-century “search for form” has been replaced by the development of new forms of research aiming at a redefinition of the landscape of architectural education and practice within the design studio. Rationale for this change is based on widely recognized transitions from industrial societies and their linear, hierarchical thinking to the emerging postindustrial era of deeply interrelated types of knowledge and complex system thinking. Advances of disciplines, specialization, material- and systems-science and digital data driven computation have brought a radical change in the contextual frameworks within which architectural design and production are normally placed. Such advances have been paving the way to achieve what is usually termed as integrated, inter-, multi- or even trans-disciplinary design, in all cases a type of practice that covers a mindset of collaboration and cross-disciplinary communication, experimentation, visualization, knowledge transfer and research, at all or possibly at different stages of the design process.

Over the last decades, cross-disciplinary research-based processes and knowledge production and transfer in the so-called ‘‘research-based studios’’ have become common in schools of architecture. The notion that architectural experimentation requires a rigorous feedback between design and research can be traced in design pedagogy since the 1960s, including the research-based studio by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour or Rem Koolhaas’s Harvard project on the city.

A perennial concern for architecture educators has since been the relationship of research as well as different types of given knowledge to the design process. The concern may be because as Cunningham notes “architecture is not a discipline in the traditional sense since it is not served by a definable body of knowledge” (Cunningham, 2005).  Design is an activity not a subject and its practice many times necessitates borrowing given knowledge, theories, techniques and research methodologies from other disciplines.

Contemporary approaches to the design studio acknowledge the fact that architecture encompasses a number of disciplines, bringing together a number of distinct modes of research and types of knowledge such as historical analysis, environmental analysis and material science.  Research into architecture is becoming conscious of these interactions and of the particular need for architectural knowledge and practice to be integrative across disciplinary boundaries (Rendell, 2004).  The design studio provides such possibilities for cross disciplinary research, through an integrative approach to education which aims at crossing traditional research areas.

In a recent paper which takes as a starting point the essential tenet that architecture is a form of knowledge that can and should be developed through research, Till suggested that beyond borrowing given knowledge from other disciplines, architecture also “has its own particular knowledge base and procedures, which demand a definition of research appropriate to architecture” (Till, 2005) and so provides possibilities “for multi-and interdisciplinary research”. Research into architecture thus has to be conscious of these interactions across traditionally separate intellectual fields, which according to Lawson can be divided into three stages: architectural processes, architectural products and architectural performance (Lawson, 2003). The advantage of this proposal, according to Till, is that it avoids the science/art and quantitative/qualitative splits, allowing thematic approaches to emerge as well as interdisciplinary research into any of the three stages.

Rendell supported this argument and suggested that architectural research is best understood as a complex subject area that involves a number of disciplinary procedures, including though the specific practice of architectural design (Rendell, 2004). The disciplinary specificity of the particular mode of practice-led research in architectural design cannot be found in other types of practice or design.

We are thus today in the process of defining and refining the idea of architectural research as a mode of scholarship and inquiry that is special to architecture and may not be adequately described in terms of the “scientific” method; instead of trying to conform to a scientific paradigm, architecture could provide a new model for research practice that carries academic and social mandates, that is intellectually coherent, capacious and integrative (Wortham, 2007).  In other words, there is also knowledge to be discovered and creatively employed during the design process, not always as a finite package to be learned (Cunningham, 2005). Through research-by design, as it is often referred to, the architectural design process in the studio may form a pathway through which new insights, knowledge, or practices come into being (EAAE, 2011).

As already mentioned during the design process knowledge produced from various disciplines and research modes may be transferred through the decision making phases (research based knowledge), while each intermediate design result may as well lead to new knowledge inquiry and acquisition (design driven knowledge).

Design Process: research based and design driven knowledge

Architectural design involves the generation and gradual transformation of ideas into concrete spatial formations. Such ideas, although described in a variety of terms – as image by Alexander, primary generator by Darke or concept by Lawson – all refer to the individual unique idea that distinguishes each architectural design and view design as a sophisticated cognitive activity. Through the design process, students search for satisfactory ways through which their ideas may be formulated into spatial layouts to be inhabited and experienced. This process in its broader sense involves complexity and synthesis. Designers put things together and bring new things into being, dealing in the process with many variables and constraints, some initially known and some discovered and evaluated through designing.

The “design project”, as the vehicle for project based learning, has been adopted on the assumption that the expertise needed by architects could only partially be learned through the traditional methods of knowledge and experience transmissions. The perceived benefits of the design project was that it simulated, albeit in a simplified and directed way, the actual processes of professional action by requiring students to apply their accumulated knowledge and skills in an integrated way to a design problem. Designers put things together and bring new things into being, dealing in the process with many variables and constraints, some initially known and some discovered and evaluated through designing.

The design process is thus no-longer viewed as a linear problem-solving activity, where sequential activities are carried out. An alternative to linear design methodologies, upon which universities have historically based their expectations, is what Schon has termed a “reflective conversation”, where variables of solutions are generated, tested, abandoned or optimized, in pursuit of design versions and adaptation (Schon, 2007). An open structure in the synthetic process, which forms the core of the design process, is proposed, in which phases are grouped in a circular arrangement, yet the process itself does not develop in a linear manner (Moggrridge, 2007).  Each phase of this process “employs any information, knowledge, theory or technique from other disciplines, which the designer may select as being relevant to the task on hand” (Cunningham, 2007).  The acquisition of given knowledge then, is not viewed as an educational end in itself, but rather as the learning process itself.

Design process is also about experimentation and probing: experimentation allows discovery, which in turn allows evaluation and redefinition of initial ideas and concept (Reinhardt 2008). In explorative design methodologies which adopt an open process structure into research throughout the design process, knowledge may on one hand be transferred through decision making stages (research based knowledge); in other words, designers employ knowledge at various stages of the design process from research that seeks to understand the future through a better understanding of the past. At the same time, each intermediate design result in each phase may as well lead to new knowledge production (design driven knowledge or research by design). Such an approach addresses the challenge we face as educators in the studio, to take the students from their existing intuitive understanding of built form towards an understanding of scientific research, so that they can become reflective practitioners and active researchers able to apply but also discover knowledge through the process.

Additionally, a challenge we also face is to understand people’s tendency to assimilate knowledge in different ways, a factor Kolb calls their ‘learning style’. We need to be able to develop ways of transmitting knowledge and different learning strategies, in order to accommodate these different learning styles and individual knowledge.

Individual Knowledge

The proposed explorative open structure design process also enables us as educators to accommodate individual needs and learning modes; to acknowledge that architecture students will also rely on individual knowledge highly influenced by their personal experiences, cultural background and acquired social knowledge. This type of knowledge is probably one of the most important issues in relation to the design process and raises a fundamental question in relation to the pedagogical approach to the studio.  The exclusive use of a method or a medium through a linear methodology renders the design process only partially effective. A controlled phasing seems to dismiss intuitive passages and individual interpretations. Though architectural education seeks to induct young architects into a set of shared values and practices, these may still bear the imprint of ‘social knowledge’ and it may be quite hard to break free of “prestructures”, to create a totally original design solution (Vaughan et al, 2007).

The student/designer’s individual knowledge, or “prestructures”, may not only be the basis for creative action, but also the basis for understanding and interpretation. Design informed and enriched at every stage by the knowledge previously acquired through a research based process, might well be the transmission and transformation of individual knowledge, a process of elaboration and discovery, which facilitates and enhances design creativity and may potentially lead to new knowledge production. The design studio thus provides possibilities for an integrated approach from the early stages of the design process, facilitating merging of individual knowledge and research based knowledge, while enabling new knowledge production at various design stages.

Furthermore, such an open process structure can involve stakeholders beyond any disciplinary, research and/or academic boundaries bringing together both producers and users of knowledge, traditionally kept apart. The next section acknowledges the need to take into consideration a transformation which is occurring in the relationship between academia and society and a new mode of knowledge production which is at the heart of this transformation through a transdisciplinary open process approach.

Transdisciplinary design studios

The transdisciplinary aspect in case such an explorative, open process methodology is adopted, constitutes in broader sense an academic and professional field of growing complexity[14] as it involves a new mode of knowledge production. Much of the thrust of innovation is coming from new links between traditionally segmented producers and users of knowledge. Contextualization of research around the interests of stakeholders fosters a more “socially robust” knowledge that transgresses disciplinary and institutional boundaries. Often referred to as a trans-disciplinary approach, it focuses on ‘…that which is at once between the disciplines, across the disciplines, and beyond all disciplines. Its goal is the understanding of the present world, of which one of the imperatives is the unity of knowledge’ (Nicolescu, 1997, p. 2).

As noted by Nicolescu (1997), ‘interdisciplinarity’ ‘concerns the transfer of methods from one discipline to another’ (p. 1), or as described by Geisler (2002), the ‘borrowing [of] … techniques, values, or mandates of a nearby discipline in order to address pressing problems’ (p. 9).  As an alternative, a ‘multidisciplinary’ approach is characterised by a co-contribution to a project by various disciplines. Sometimes, this is nothing more than a sequential process where ‘one discipline accepts the product of the first as a given and works with it from there’ (Geisler, 2002, p. 12).  By its very definition, there is an acceptance that project members cannot have mutual understanding of the specialized knowledge, skills and cultural values of all disciplines. Collaboration in this sense means trying to make this interrelationship work, ‘…of always assuming a fundamental respect for each other and each other’s disciplinary bases; of taking up the burden of making or explaining and persuading others of one’s disciplinary conclusions; of forgoing the opportunity for disciplinary silence and retreat when asked to explain ourselves’ (Geisler, 2002, p. 12). While different in the sense described, interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity are similar in that their goals always remain within the framework of the discipline (Nicolescu, 1997), that is, the autonomy of each discipline usually remains intact.

As Klein points out, some disciplines already have strong cross-disciplinary character. Given the particular characteristics of architecture as an explorative and transformative knowledge field that inherently relates to the humanities, empirical, interdisciplinary, applied and formal sciences, it may be argued that architecture is intrinsically trans-disciplinary and in extend multireferential and multidimensional.   Despite designers recognizing the holistic nature of the issues they deal with, cross-disciplinarity where it occurs, remains at the interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary levels. In this context the requirement for reintegration of various types of knowledge, as stated in articles 3 and 5 of the ‘Charter of  Transdisciplinarity’, is of particular significance.

Transdisciplinary open process approach at UCY

Diploma projects led by the author and colleagues during the final fifth year of architectural studies at the Department of Architecture of the University of Cyprus, adopt such an explorative and integrative design process. Our first aim is to understand students’ tendency to assimilate knowledge in different ways and accommodate different learning styles and individual knowledge. The frame conditions of the general development route of the projects are defined by the students themselves through formulation of a general topic of interest and selection at a first stage of a team of supervisors from the Department of Architecture. As the projects unfold, a diverse team of supervisors is gradually formed, including “specialists” from other Departments of the University, the industry, other research institutions or relevant social stakeholders including potential users and community members. In this way, different groups of students, supervisors and additional advisors with varied specializations, from various backgrounds many times crossing the boundaries between academia and society, are formed.

The intention here is to provide a communal and ‘co-operative’ (Wright & Lander, 2003) as opposed to ‘collaborative’ environment; the latter commonly being associated with team work. While we recognize the need for students to learn how to work in a team, we were more concerned in this case with challenging them to move conceptually beyond their discipline boundary to a situation reflecting the ‘holistic reality of the world’ (Klein, date unknown) and the limitations of discipline compartmentalized knowledge.  As previous discussions highlighted, a trans-disciplinary approach demands that the issue of focus be related to the world rather than to a specific discipline or even collaborative effort by several disciplines.

A recent example is an exploration of the boundaries between the physical and the virtual at a number of levels. This design proposal evolved from the student’s personal experiences in key places she inhabited throughout her life and aimed to explore the concept of “place” both physically and virtually through the cognitive aspects of human experience. The subjective and multiple interpretations of “place” by each individual, the “socio-spatial narratives” created as a result of these interpretations and the role of both the architect and potential users in the design process, lied at the heart of this project.  The student’s concerns were initially explored through the broad umbrella of architecture and cinema- a medium, which deals with similar concepts- and raised further issues in relation to the nature of the role of both the architect and the user as “narrators”. The project set out to explore the possibilities of redefining these roles through the use of both analogue and digital technologies.

A diverse group of advisors was formed from the outset of the project drawing expertise from the fields of architecture, cinema, cognitive psychology and information technology. Research based knowledge and methodologies from a number of parallel themes across the disciplines mentioned, were analyzed and reflected on from the initial phases of the projects and at distinct phases of the project development[15].

This framework enhances trans-disciplinarity in two ways: in the development of the designs from the students’ perspective, in terms of forming sub-groups with similar general topics reflecting common concerns related to the real world but leading to different design aims, and in the process of guidance, cooperation and evaluation of the designs by the supervising teams which include both academics, professionals and community representatives. The integrative formation of diverse teams of both supervisors and students facilitates an explorative research based process, which accommodates at the same time individual knowledge. Students can employ at each phase of their design process any information, research based knowledge, or technique from other disciplines drawing on the expertise of their interdisciplinary supervising teams. Teams may be continually formed in a cyclical process of different design stages, whereas new technologies can be employed to assemble the expertise and perspectives arising from the members and disciplines. Thus, students can rely on their individual knowledge, brought together with research-based knowledge, through a cyclical process of experimentation, evaluation, self-reflection and redefinition.


Different types of knowledge need to be an inherent part of the design process, which we believe include individual (intuition, personal experiences, values, believes), rational (research based theoretical and scientific knowledge related to human beings, the environment, history, society) and design driven (new knowledge inquiry and acquisition at each intermediate design stage) ways of thinking and knowledge production within a trans-disciplinary context of collaboration. This mode of inquiry offers the possibility to overcome the limitations of discipline compartmentalized knowledge.

The design process through a cyclical, explorative method of learning-by-doing has a great possibility to offer an alternative research methodology. A trans-disciplinary, integrated research by design studio could undertake an experimental paradigm in which students and professors alike collaborate to push the boundaries of the discipline, allowing the pedagogical context to become a central stage in the development of new analyses, new techniques, and new theories. Architecture is thus positioned to lead in the redefinition of research as action, following a methodology that bridges across epistemological, disciplinary and academic boundaries and combines scientific rigor with innovation and intuition.


Alexander, C. (1964). Notes on the synthesis of form. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Assimakopoulou, I. (2010). Architecture and Cinema: exploring the boundaries between the real and the virtual, unpublished Diploma thesis, Department of Architecture, University of Cyprus.

Charter Of Transdisciplinarity, Ciret: Centre International de Recherches et Etudes Transdisciplinaires “Charter of Transdisciplinarity,” (1994): http://basarab.nicolescu.perso.sfr.fr/ciret/english/charten.htm.

CUNNINGHAM, A. (2005). Notes on education and research around architecture. The Journal of Architecture, 10(4), pp415-441.

Darke, J. (1984). The primary generator and the design process. In N. Cross (Ed.), Developments in design methodology (pp. 175-188). Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Eaae Research Committee: 2011, “Charter for Architectural Research. A Declaration and a Framework on Architectural Research,”: http://www.eaae.be/web-data/documents/research/proposalChania2011.pdf.

Furjan, H. (2007). Design research, Notes on a Manifesto, Journal of Architectural Education, pp.62-68.

Geisler, C. (2002). Multi-disciplinarity the renewal of the university and its curriculum. URL:http://www.arch.rpi.edu/research/idd/interdesign/Multidisciplinary_Renewal.html

Hensel, M. U. (2012).  “Performance-Oriented Design as a Framework for Renovating Architectural Practice and Innovating Research by Design,” in Design Innovation for the Built Environment. Research by Design and the Renovation of Practice, ed. M.U. Hensel (London: Routledge), 121-143.

Hillier, B. and Leaman, A. (1974).  “How is Design Possible?” Journal of Architectural Research, 3:1, 4-11.

Jantsch, E. (1970) “Towards Inter-disciplinarity and Trans-disciplinarity in Education and Information,” in Inter-disciplinarity: Problems of Teaching and Research in Universities, ed. G. Michaud (Nice: Centre for Educational Research and Innovation OECD), 97–121.

Klein, J. (ND). Unity of knowledge and trans-disciplinarity: Contexts of definition, theory and the new discourse of problem solving. URL:http://www.mines.edu/newdirections/essay2.htm

Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as a source of learning and development. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Lawson, B. (2003). How designers think. UK: Architectural Press.

Moggrridge, B. (2007). People and prototypes: Elements of the design process in Moggridge (Ed.), Designing interactions (pp. 729-735). Cambridge: MIT Press.

Nicolescu, B. (1997). The transdisciplinary evolution of the university condition for sustainable development. URL: http://www.perso.clubinternet.fr/nicol/ciret/bulletin/b12/b12c8.htm

Reinhardt, D. (2008). Representation as research: Design model and media rotation. The Journal of Architecture, 13(2), 185-201.

Rendell, J. (2004). Architectural research and disciplinarity. Architectural Research Quarterly, 8(2), pp141-147.

Schön, D.A. (1985). The Design Studio: An Exploration of Its Traditions and Potentials, London: RIBA Publication,.

Schon, D. (1987). Educating the Reflective Practitioner: Toward a New Design for Teaching and Learning in the Professions, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Till, J. (2005). What is architectural research? Architectural research: three myths and one model. Discussion Paper, London: RIBA.

Varnelis, K. (2007) “Is There Research in the Studio?”, Journal of Architectural Education, pp11-14.

Wortham, B.D. (2007). “The Way we Think about the Way we Think”, Journal of Architectural Education, pp.44–53.

Chapter 8: Housing Research: Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS)

Ellen Geurts
Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (HIS), Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

IHS activities

IHS is the international Institute of Urban Management associated with the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Operating on a global scale, IHS offers specialized post graduate education, training, advisory services and applied research in the fields of urban management, housing and urban environment, with the mission to develop human and institutional capacities, to reduce poverty and improve the quality of life in cities. In 2007, IHS won the UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour Award for leading the way as a global centre of excellence and knowledge.

Urban management, housing and urban environment

IHS believes that cities are the engines of economic growth. Cities are, however, in great need of innovative urban professionals to ensure that growth is sustainable and inclusive. In order to remain updated about trends, challenges and practices in the field, IHS academic staff actively develops knowledge in the fields of social, economic, environmental and spatial dimensions of urban development and link this to governance and management approaches as well as various finance, policy and planning tools. The topics of study offered at IHS include: urban dynamics; urban governance; urban policy and planning; urban finance and economics; urban land development; housing strategies; urban social development and livelihood strategy; informal settlements (slums); attracting and mapping foreign direct investment in cities; urban environment and climate change and city development strategies.

Linking theory to practice

IHS’s approach to the problems faced in reducing poverty and improving the quality of life in cities is based on cross fertilization of three activities: education, advisory services and research. IHS delivers post-graduate educational programmes, an MSc programme in Urban Management and Development, various short courses and a PhD programme. In addition to that, IHS delivers tailor made training for clients in various countries around the world. Apart from education, IHS carries out advisory projects such as feasibility studies, policy advice and evaluations for clients like governments and multi-lateral or bilateral organizations. Finally IHS conducts applied research in the areas described above, which is increasingly carried out jointly with partners

International perspective

With its roots in development cooperation, today IHS has grown to become a truly international institute. IHS teaches and trains mid-career professionals and has established a broad alumni network of more than 7.500 alumni around the world. From 2007 to 2011,  40% of the IHS alumni came from Asia, 32% from Africa, 13% from Europe, 13% from Latin America and 1% from North America and similarly 1% from Oceania.

IHS activities in the field of housing in the MSc course

The curriculum of the specialisation Housing and Livelihoods consists of three modules:

  1. Housing is more than houses. Housing Theories and Livelihood theory
  2. From the Welfare State to a Participatory Society. Implications for Housing Policies and Social Policies
  3. Creating Liveable Neighbourhoods. Research and Policy Approaches to Housing Policies and Social Policies

The livelihood theory (Moser) is introduced in the core period of the MSc course. This theory is the main conceptual foundation of the specialisation Urban Housing and Livelihoods and the research workshop Dynamic Urban Neighbourhoods.

During the first module we will focus on housing theory and the functioning of the housing sector. Later on we will look into the livelihood theory in more detail (already discussed in the core period). We will gain more in-depth understanding on each of the assets available to poor households and on their relation with the vulnerability context and the policy-institutional context. Special attention will be paid to the complexity of housing as physical, financial and social capital; to human capital and informal income-generating activities; to social capital as a means of access to finance, and to the lack of safety and security as an obstacle to asset accumulation.

The second module of the course deals with the overall trends and paradigm changes in housing and social policies. We will discuss the change from the welfare state model to the neoliberal model as dominant paradigm for policies. We will discuss how the neoliberal model evolved over time and how concepts like participation, enablement and empowerment have been incorporated. Finally, we will discuss approaches critical to the neoliberal model, like the ‘right to the city’ approach.

In the last module we will first study current policy approaches in different areas of housing and social policies, including:

  • Housing policies: human settlement planning, public housing, informal settlement upgrading and resettlement policies;
  • Financial services: housing finance and micro finance for housing and income generating activities;
  • Social policies: empowerment, civil society participation and the role of social capital in development.

After these 3 modules the participants work around a case study in Rotterdam in order to research and experience some of the policy approaches in housing and social policies studied in the previous sections. We will look at some useful methodologies and techniques for conducting housing and social research at the neighbourhood level. Participants will have first-hand experience on how theory translates into practice, by looking and expanding their knowledge on relevant issues such as social housing plans, neighbourhood regeneration (physical and socio-economic components), gentrification and resettlement.

Housing research

Within the Housing specialisation we are involved in different type of research. We conduct field and desk research for organisations like UN-Habitat, the EU, World Bank, OSCE and Nuffic. Also in the housing and livelihood specialisation of the MSc course we organise a research workshop to guide the participants in developing their research proposal

Research workshop ‘Dynamic Urban Neighbourhoods’

Within the IHS specialisation Housing and Livelihoods the research workshop ‘Dynamic Urban Neighbourhoods’ is part of the curriculum.

Research Area

Since the 1960s, most of the cities in developing (and to some extent transitional) countries have experienced unprecedented rates of urbanization compounded with increasing poverty and slum growth. This phenomenon, also known as the urbanization of poverty, dictates to a large extent the housing problem. The housing problem has been understood as a simple equation in which a significant number of shelter units were needed to be produced in order to close ‘the gap’, and therefore all efforts were conceived within a centralized government structure aimed at providing finished shelter structures, an end product, a commodity with a value similar to a car or any other material asset.

Throughout the years the understanding of concepts such as housing poverty and the relationship between housing and livelihoods outcomes, especially among the urban poor, has increasingly manifested itself through policy approaches to deal with urban poverty. This translates into the importance of looking at the housing problem from a holistic standpoint. Physical, political, social, economic and environmental issues interrelate with each other to produce urban environments which should ultimately accrue to poverty reduction, quality of life and acceptance of housing outcomes by people and their quest for livelihoods. Both housing and social policies, strategies and instruments need to be designed with a clear understanding of these aspects if they are ever to efficiently address the problem of urbanization of poverty.

The combination of the theoretical underpinnings of housing and livelihoods theories and what do they mean for the creation of urban neighbourhoods are central to this research workshop. Our research focus is mostly concerned with local level processes where people’s housing and livelihoods play a central role.

In this research workshop “Dynamic Urban Neighbourhoods” refer to the creation of urban environments where individuals, families and communities can thrive.  The combination of the theoretical underpinnings of housing and livelihoods theories and what they mean for the creation of urban neighbourhoods are central to this research workshop. The relationship between housing, understood as more than houses, and the quest of the urban poor for livelihoods constitutes the main research topic of the research workshop. This theoretical standpoint opens up the possibility of exploring a wide variety of urban management and development issues related to urban housing and livelihoods.

Our main areas of research are neighbourhood regeneration (which include brown field development, gentrification, eviction, clearance and relocation), green field development (which includes social housing and mixed-used neighbourhood development) and informal settlement dynamics (which include integrated urban upgrading, land tenure regularization, infrastructure provision and resettlement).

The general approach to housing and social policies implies that the affected population is involved in the planning and implementation of programmes and projects through participatory processes. This with the objective to achieve a highly effective and inclusive result. However, practice shows that the reality of implementation is more complex than the theory. For example, conflicts may arise over the expropriation and relocation of (part of) the settlement for safety and upgrading requirements. Participatory processes are seldom as inclusive as designed and elite capture may deviate the benefits of the project towards the more powerful stakeholders. Livelihoods of the poor might be disrupted exacerbating their poverty conditions. Finally, new developments and upgrading programmes and projects, however participatory, may overlook initiatives taken by the affected population themselves, thereby duplicating efforts or even posing obstacles to local livelihood strategies.


Research workshop objective:

  • To understand processes of neighbourhood development (green and brown field development, slum upgrading), including policy design, implementation and impact on local initiatives and livelihoods.


Research workshop questions:

  1. What type of initiatives do the urban poor (low income families, slum dwellers) take, individually or collectively, to improve the liveability of their settlement?
  2. How are the urban poor  involved, in theory and in practice, in the design and implementation of neighbourhood development policies, programmes and projects?
  3. What is the impact of neighbourhood development programmes and projects on the local initiatives and livelihoods of the urban poor?

Focus topics of the housing academics

The core team of housing specialists at IHS consists of 4 academic staff members. In the curriculum, as well as in research we work in broader cooperation with colleagues from other specialisations within IHS, the Erasmus University but also beyond that. The following 4 topics are the key expertise areas of our 4 core staff members.

Zooming into the concept of resettlement

Resettlement is a concept that is heavily studied. There is a lot of empirical evidence that shows that resettlement often increases risks, leads to more insecurity, an erosion of assets and more impoverishment. For the concept of resettlement we have selected articles that low within three main perspectives (Dwivedi, 2002). Students will deepen their understanding of the impact of resettlement on livelihoods of the poor, different perspectives on resettlement and strategies how to reduce the negative impacts.

Literature packages have been developed focusing the on: 1. the gender impact of resettlement and the extent to which it increases vulnerability and decreases assets, 2. The concept of resettlement, presenting different perspectives. Within the debate on resettlement we can find different positions: there is the more (pragmatic) planning perspective which identifies the impoverishment risks but also tries to come up with suggestions for overcoming these risks so that it becomes an opportunity to improve livelihoods.  An alternative approach to resettlement takes the rights based angle as a starting point, includes the role of full participation and consent of affected communities and tries to come up with solutions and recommendations for making resettlement an opportunity for livelihood improvement. It also emphasizes gender aspects and the rights of indigenous populations. The third approach very much questions resettlement as such and questions the right of governments and others to displace and resettle in the name of development.

Zooming into social housing

The neo-liberal model as a dominant paradigm strongly advocates an ‘enablement’ approach for government housing policies. In most European countries, there is indeed a strong tendency for government to withdraw from their large-scale public housing interventions. Privatisation of public housing schemes has evolved from the local authority stock transfer advocated by Thatcher since the 1980’s in the UK, towards further privatisation of social housing in countries like the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavian countries were public housing used to dominate. At the other side of the spectrum, large-scale public housing programme has in fact increased in parts of the developing world. In Africa, the South African government has for over 2 decades delivered more than 2,8 million houses; in Ethiopia an ambitious 125,000 units are to be delivered yearly through public housing programmes. In Asia, Singapore, China but also to a lesser extent, Indonesia and the Philippines have large public-housing programme. Whereas in Latin America, the slow-down in urbanisation has elevated the pressure to some extents, most countries still have programmes with Brazil having one of the largest.

Public housing has devolved from the national to the local government sphere in tandem with the decentralisation efforts of the last 2 decades. The interest in achieving public housing successfully has never diminished; what success means is however re-defined. Hence, most research around public housing focus on assessments of availability of public housing, but even more so on affordability of social housing. Public housing is often found to be unaffordable or increases pressure on livelihood because of costs, but also because of location and design characteristics of these schemes. Accessibility of public housing is another topic often researched. The neo-liberal paradigm has influenced the financing model of public housing strongly and models of co-funding, government-backed mortgages and cooperative housing are gaining interest.

Zooming into upgrading

The notion of eradication of slums has turned into a long-term wish rather than a short-term reality. Efforts to eradicate slums have evolved into efforts of upgrading and formalisation of informal settlements. Urban upgrading programmes have now been developed by the international agencies and national governments. There is a wide variety in the way these programmes are designed, implemented and sustained. Understanding these different processes has been researched from many dimensions: amongst which participation, planning and transformation of housing.

Other research in the field of housing

Post-doc research

Linked to the research workshop living in slums a post doc research is going to start by the end of 2014 focusing on boundary spanning for community driven co-production in dealing with poverty reduction and urban regeneration. This is an international comparative research focusing on community initiatives in the field of poverty reduction and urban regeneration in the Netherlands, United Kingdom and India, including resettlement.

UN-Habitat: scoping paper on eviction practices

The scoping study reviewed existing guidelines and practices on evictions, acquisition, expropriation and compensation. The research has a particular focus on how the existing guidelines have been applied in different contexts and to what effect. The paper took account of the social, economic and environmental aspects of forced evictions, acquisition, expropriation and compensation. In addition to existing guidelines, the scoping paper evaluated good/bad practices, lessons learnt and relevant instruments.

The scoping paper also makes a set of recommendations for the implementation of existing instruments or the need for developing a new set of guidelines or instruments. Also the usefulness was evaluated as well as the need for developing generic voluntary guidelines on evictions, acquisition, expropriation and/or compensation.

OSCE Best Practices for Roma integration

The OSCE commissioned IHS to conduct a study of ‘best practices’ for Roma integration in the Balkans. In this study the status of social housing programmes, as well as the housing conditions and opportunities for Roma populations were documented and evaluated. Although efforts are made for social housing in most of these countries, and projects are dedicated for Roma populations, there is still a lack of adequate housing for the Roma population in these countries. The issue however is not limited for housing only and success of projects seems to be related to the integrated manner in which housing and other livelihood opportunities are combined and targeted towards the Roma population.

Guatamala city – establishing a social housing agency

Through the Inter-American Development Bank, IHS started to engage with the Municipality of Guatamala. In Guatamala city an ambitious social ‘housing agency’ called Urbanistica has been established to implement the so-called Productive Housing Programme. IHS has developed several strategies and projects with Urbanistica through both consultancy work and training as well as on-the-job learning through an exchange with Dutch social housing providers.

National Association of Social Housing (NASHO) in South Africa

In cooperation with the NASHO, the IHS has supported the social housing sector in South Africa with training activities. The focus has been on improvement of social housing policy-making at the municipal level.


Dwivedi, R, 2002. Models and methods in development-induced displacement (review article). Development and Change, pp. 709-732.


This document summarizes the work carried out by the members of the subnetwork Housing Research during the first twelve months of the project. It gives an overview of the research issues that that the members of this subnetwork are dealing with. The texts presented in this document are complemented with the topics that research partners have summarized in the OIKOPEDIA wiki.   The contents of this document, together with the OIKOPEDIA entries, provide a base for the work to be carried out in the second year of the project, whose main purpose is to interlink the activities of the three subnetworks that make OIKONET: research, pedagogy and community participation.


If you would like more information about the content of this document, please email us or visit our web site.

Email: info@oikonet.org

Web: http://www.oikonet.org

[1] For more information about the research projects, see the paper Oikonet – our research focus in Gothenburg (2014-02-09).

[2] In some countries, public and private renters are treated differently, while other systems do not make this distinction.

[3] More on this FP7 EU project on http://www.wilcoproject.eu/

[4] Zagreb plan, Razvojna strategija Grada Zagreba, 2011-2013.

[5] On the level of the country share of public housing was 25 percent.

[6] The problems of limitations of state administration are recognised, for Croatia and other transitional countries, as serious obstacles for further modernisation and development.

[7] Bežovan, G. (2010) Achievements and challenges of welfare mix development, (in Croatian) Zagreb: CERANEO.

[8] In the survey of WILCO project member of civil society organisations Roda documented how their member live in terrible housing conditions, four member family of young generations live in flat of 26 m2. Affordability is a crucial problem for young families and it is serious obstacle for them to have more children.

[9] As curiosity one major recently started that civil society organisations made to the pressure to him to invest money in shelter for the abandoned dogs and cuts. But, he is wondering that there is no such pressure from civil organisations to invest money in affordable rental housing, as a real priority.

[10] An example of this debate addressing pressing housing needs says about housing deprivation “I live with my folks in 40 square meters and my younger teenage brother and I have had it! On top of it all, a cousin from Dalmatia came to stay with us for a month to attend college preparation course… we all almost ended up killing each other…” http://www.kupiprodaj.net/forum/showthread.php?t=838

[11] Recently in the crisis level of rent has been reduced.

[12] Tenants in social housing programme very often are not willing to pay rent and others costs related to housing (electricity, gas, heating, water, communal fee).  Besides that, internal maintenance the social flats is a problem for owners.

[13] Now there are 558 families as tenants in his programme and local government official see that for some of families threaten with the recent crisis might be a problem, as they are not eligible for housing allowance, to cover increasing housing costs. In case of worsening of economic situation this issue might be critical for sustainability of innovation or scaling-up it, as a part of learning process, making housing allowance programme eligible for public rental housing tenants.

[14]   The following distinctions of discipline interrelations are considered in the present argumentation:

  • Multidisciplinarity: A variety of disciplines occurring simultaneously without making explicit possible relationships or cooperation between them.
  • Pluridisciplinarity: Various disciplines grouped in such a way as to enhance the cooperative relationships between them.
  • Crossdisciplinarity: Various disciplines where the concepts or goals of one are imposed upon other disciplines, thereby creating a rigid control from one disciplinary goal.
  • Interdisciplinarity: A group of related disciplines having a set of common purposes and coordinated from a higher purposive level.
  • Transdisciplinarity: The coordination of disciplines and interdisciplines with a set of common goals towards a common system purpose.

[15] The project gradually formulated as an experimental space – a mixed reality architectural cell which would have a dual function: on one hand it would give the user the opportunity to virtually experience and transform a familiar environment through digital technologies, while at the same time it would provide the opportunity to the architect to retrieve this data and gain new knowledge about the users’ needs and perceptual skills. The project explored the role of the architect as the creator of an infrastructure, a dynamic cyclical process, which could be continuously informed by the user; the latter would then have a different role as a potential creator, providing useful information, which could then feed back into the design process.


23 thoughts on “Oikonet Reader 1: Contemporary Housing

  1. Regarding the section on ‘Affordable Housing’: ‘It is interesting to note that only a few attempts have been made to replicate best practices and outstanding innovations and incorporate them into mainstream architectural designs and standards (www.dwelle.co.uk, 2013).’ It is unclear how the reference given here is an example of ‘replication’ of affordable housing practices. Also the link should be stronger between how this design makes it more affordable, otherwise this and the previous sentence do not logically connect. I would also be hesitant to call this design approach ‘mainstream’.


  2. Thank you for your observation. Please note that the intent of this article is to identify and explore existing practices or traces of contemporary housing provision in Europe today. It was therefore necessary to define contemporary housing in context, so that the scene is set for further discussion. Also, affordability here should be understood as subset to the definition of contemporary housing, which is defined in this article as: ‘…Against this background, contemporary housing can be defined as modern residential dwelling that meets the needs of the present occupants, while being environmentally sustainable, socially responsive and, at the same time, affordable.’ It is important to note that this definition suggests that contemporary housing must do much more than being environmentally friendly and socially acceptable alone. ‘Affordable’ is an inevitable component in the definition of contemporary housing because there are quite a number of innovative designs (some are even built as protoypes and then demolished), that are either not affordable by an average family or are not feasible to be built on a stand-alone basis, on a small-scale and by a mainstream builder. Dwelle is one of the few design studios (the only one I know of) that offer such homes to an average family at affordable prices in the UK.

    The following is an excerpt from the company’s website about their homes (http://www.dwelle.co.uk/):

    ‘A range of carefully designed buildings that are highly sustainable, fast to erect and extremely adaptable. The award winning “dwelle.ing” can achieve zero carbon status, potentially meet Passivhaus standards and if doubled-up (which can be done at a later date), will meet Lifetime Homes Standards.

    The building concept responds effortlessly to the occupants’ requirements, however varied. It can be personalised from the outset, but can easily change to meet individual tastes and preferences over time. The simplicity of the system will support different internal configurations and will allow it to be easily extended, either extruded along the length, or doubled-up.

    It can be a small one bedroom home, a family home, a holiday home, an office, a classroom, a gym, or even a church!’

    The reason why dwelle home designs are a replication of affordable housing practices is not just their prices, but also because they incorporate the other two elements (environmental sustainable and social responsive) of contemporary housing. For example In the UK, you could pay as much as £350,000 for a two-bedroom home, whereas the entering level for a dwelle.ing home is £120,000.

    I think a short browsing through their website will explain these better.

    I hope this clarification helps to better understand the argument.


  3. The reader shows a wide variety of research on the topic of housing as conducted by all of us OIKOnet members. This wide variety also shows the complexities of housing as well as the many dimensions and research domains that relate to this topic. In this sense the reader provides a ‘rich’ overview of current day topics in the field of housing research – yet at the same time it also illustrates that the different domains in which is housing researched view the concept of ‘contemporary housing’ in its own and diverse ways.


  4. Chapter 1 provides such a difference in interpretation as outlined in the comment above. In the section where it talks about People’s Housing Needs it in fact refers to a period (post-war period in Europe) during which in fact housing was delivered in a rather supply-driven manner. The focus was on quality and although it responded to the housing backlog at the time, in our understanding of housing needs studies, we would certainly not refer to this period as responding to housing needs. Within the IHS we look at the dimension of housing needs, as truly understanding what is needed by people to house themselves and beyond that to sustain their livelihoods. Housing supply is informed by this understanding of housing needs (which can be assessed through broad and multi-faceted housing needs assessment. This is not a matter of agreement but rather one of different insight on how housing is perceived. Within the IHS, we make a strong connection between livelihood theory and housing – hence this topic of understanding housing needs in a broad sense is important to us.


    1. I would like to highlight the context within which people’s housing needs is discussed in chapter 1. First it is important to further reiterate the historical perspective that was followed in this attempt to define contemporary housing evolution in Europe. I do appreciate that these housing needs may have been driven by supply; in fact, by the acute shortage of housing in post-war Europe, which focussed more on availability, rather than the ‘actual housing needs’ of the people. However, I would like to emphasise that this chapter is making an attempt to ‘define’ contemporary housing, which is a big ask. Contemporary housing, as was also made clear in the same chapter, lends itself to ‘currency and dynamism’. It will only be true in its own time, based on what the drivers are. What is contemporary in a particular place, for a particular society, at a particular period of time may be very different.

      Furthermore, while I do appreciate that contemporary housing needs in Europe today, no doubt, transcends the ‘needs’ of twentieth Century Europe, the same principles that governed contemporary housing provision then, still hold today. The drivers of contemporary housing today, however, are very different. The question is how topical are these drivers on the political agendas across Europe today, as they were in post-war Europe. I would say yes in case of environmental sustainability, but I am not overtly convinced when we consider issues posed by demographics, changing living patterns, including the needs of previously sparsely represented minorities, like immigrants (as has been mentioned), LGBTIs, older people living as lone-dwellers, multi-generational dwellings, older people in sheltered homes, modern forms of cohabitation, and the list goes on. These trends are further compounded by an ageing population, as these marginalised groups enter the older age group in European societies.


  5. The topic of chapter 2 is not so known to me or to us professionals within the IHS. I remember however attending a conference with a brilliant presentation around community participation and co-design among Aboriginal communities in Australia. The presentation was delivered by Jane Stanley who refers to this as Gnarly Planning. http://gnarlyplanning.com/jane-stanley/.
    I would suggest Jenny and Lasse to look into this.
    When it comes to community participation in housing processes, we can share more research on this. Our focus is however not so much on design.


  6. Chapter 3 shows us a more ‘technical’ understanding of housing, more particular energy efficient housing. A very relevant topic at this time in particular for the European context. There is increasingly an interest from the developing world too in energy efficient (cooling rather than heating ;-)) and green building. At the IHS we mainly look at greeining issues at the city level and not so much on the building level. Tools for cities to address climate change is a topic widely studied at IHS by other research groups. Suzana and Saso might want to follow our webinars around this:


  7. Chapter 4 on gentrification as well as the excursion we had in Budapest gave us an interesting insight on this topic in the local context. IHS is located in the city of Rotterdam where gentrification is also one of the key priorities for urban development. One of the key premises on the housing agenda however has been a policy of ‘mirrored supply’. Social housing organisations which have inner-city neighbourhood in which gentrification processes are stimulated have to, by performance agreement with the city council, ensure that sufficient social housing is provided in adjacent municipalities to Rotterdam, which is within the great Rijnmond area. In the case of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is a city where gentrification and reliance to the ideas of Richard Florida of attracting the creative class has indeed put pressure on low-income households. This process is however taken off so slowly in Rotterdam that gentrification has not yet really started. The municipality of Rotterdam has however expressed a concern around ‘too much’ gentrification (learning from cities like Amsterdam) and is now calling on the IHS and other research institutions to monitor the gentrification process and report back on alternative models.


  8. Viggo thanks for a very interesting chapter 5. It is a topic we are very aware of but which is less applicable to the developing world where housing allowances, as defined in your research, are not so widely applied. For obvious reasons.
    Last year we had a MSc student from China looking into the impact of the various public land leasing systems in China on housing vs land prices. The methodology applied could also lend itself for researching the impact of housing allowances on increase in rental prices vs increase in rental supply. Would be of interest to discuss this further.


    1. Ellen, your question goes into the core of what is needed to discuss at an empirical basis when it comes to both research on and design of housing allowance systems. Do the housing allowances affect prices/rents or do they affect the housing conditions at large in the society.
      Another aspect that is worth going into is whether housing allowances as they are designed in most European countries have a potential to contribute towards better housing and social justice in countries where public budgets are even more limited than they are in the European countries. The answer to this question is by no means trivial.


  9. Chapter 6 discusses public rental housing programmes as an innovation. Currently, at IHS we are working on the development of the social housing strategy for Albania. Whereas in the West and North of Europe there is a shift away from social housing for the working class, we have indeed noticed also a ‘renewed’ interest for public or social rental housing across South-eastern Europe and the Balkans. The programmes are of a much smaller clear as compared to what happened in Western Europe in the post-war period. A lot of lessons can be drawn from the post-war western Europe housing model for this innovation for the Balkans.
    The tendency across western Europe is however the residual approach, whereby social or public housing is increasingly focused on the provision of housing for marginalized or very low-income groups – more often referred to in fact altogether as ‘vulnerable’ groups.


  10. Having read the interesting text about gentrification by Adrienne Csizmady, Gábor Csanádi, Gergely Olt and Eötvös Loránd from University Budapest, Hungary we decided to make some comments by bringing in another context. The city of Gothenburg has gone through both a rapid and a dramatic transformation from an industrial to a post-industrial city within the last forty years. This gentrification process has been effective in dividing the city with a tung of middleclass, wealth and status connected to the core of the city and to some suburbian areas going a bit south. Outside the city centre there is a rim of poorer suburbian areas very effectively excluded from moving over this invisible, but very clear boarder between the two parts of the city. In areas where poverty reigns inhabitants with migrant background are the dominant group. Compared to other European countries Germany and Sweden stand out as fairly open when it comes to receiving refugees from other countries. We have expanded on this in the new Reader!


  11. Regarding the Chapter 1, section “Design Tendencies”:
    1. I found the the issue about the functioning of the passive house in face of future climate change very interesting. To my mind, this is a question, which could be developed a little bit wider, or supplemented with some data, if possible.
    2. It must be noted, that in contemporary terminology there are plenty of terms, related to buildings, which are designed with sustainable concepts in mind. Sometimes the same terms even have an opposite meaning, for example, in the first chapter of the reader the traditional (energy-unefficient?) building is titled as “active” building, while at the same time the term “active house” or “active building” sometimes (but not always) is being used to represent a contemporary, healthy and energy-efficient building. Keeping in mind, that the Reader, as well as Oikopedia articles will be used to support pedagogical activities, the idea came to mind, that I would like to devote a short article in one of the upcoming readers, to give a summary and analytical explanation of the terminology in this specific field, as well as to add some corresponding entries to Oikopedia later; of course, if someone finds it to be useful.


  12. Thanks Ellen for the comment on our text on chapter two, and for all the other comments. It gives an increased insight into your perspective and helps to broaden the views on housing needs. Your way of thinking around livelihood and housing we find close to our way of thinking. Shall be interesting to work further on this. I think the reference you gave us regarding our text in chapter two can be very inspiring for us to look further into.


  13. A comment on social housing. In Sweden we have said no to social housing, one of the reasons being the stigma following that kind of support. However a growing number of people are finding it next to impossible getting in to the housing market. Youth and people with migrant background are two concerned groups. A third group coming close to this situation is pensioners that find it difficult cooping with increased rent as gentrification is pushing housing prices up. In Gothenburg local government is trying supplementary rent or special low rent for some flats in a new development in the city centre. That is not social housing, but a deal made with the housing company. To be able to get the contract they had to arrange for some flats with reduced rent, paid by higher rents in the rest of the complex. Lack of dwellings in the big cities pushes prices up to very high levels which makes it impossible for people with low income to find a flat.


  14. Thank you all for your helpful comments which are important in sustaining our discussion on contemporary housing and the global dwelling more generally. We need also to start thinking about how these contributions would inform our next reader and more specifically which aspects of housing need further research and how Reader 2 can be used to address this. Many thanks.


  15. Regarding “Affordable housing” (3.5. in chapter 3 Contemporary housing issues) I’d like to promote an integral approach to delivering affordable housing. Most countries have a wide range of housing policy instruments in place that either work through the demand side by lowering the price of housing or increasing the ability to pay for housing, or through the supply side by increasing the amount of housing available through construction subsidies. However, while most are in favour of affordable housing, it often loses in the competition over public funds to other types of public goods such as health care, elder care, education and infrastructure.
    However, good housing may be a premise for better outcomes in other life areas, which is the founding principle of the “housing first”- approach. In Norway, where much of the executing of housing policy is delegated to the municipality, the implied closeness between client and case worker and the potential for individual tailoring and “packaging” of housing as well as other services has proven beneficial. Although not properly researched, many municipalities report that the demand for other services decline when people are properly housed and achieve a certain stability and predictability in terms of their housing situation. This is certainly an appealing thought that deserves to be put on the research agenda. Investing in good housing policies should therefore not be viewed as a drain on public resources, but rather a good investment that will pay off for generations to come.


  16. The introductory chapter on Contemporary Housing Issues draws up many important topics, which is important for policy makers, planners and other stakeholders. I would like to stress the importance of the historical approach on demographic factors that is part of the discussion of housing needs. Across Europe, mass housing construction was a response to demographic change in the form of growing population and concentration of the population to urban regions. The latter trend was very strong in both Sweden, Finland and Norway.
    Nowadays we are facing different demographic transitions; for example, we have a strong pattern of ageing across Europe. We do also have a growth of the population originating from outside Europe in most European countries. Finally, as the paper says, there is also changes in family patterns. Fertility is low and family size has decreased among the native population. On the other hand we have a growing immigrant population who has a tradition for larger families and higher fertility.
    These changes and the consequences of them deserve more attention within the housing research community over the coming years. We need to know more about the consequences for total housing demand and for design for those groups that are increasing in size.


  17. Interesting holistic view on Contemporary Housing Issues prepared by Karim and Isaiah in subchapters 1.4. to 1.9. For those involved in engineering processes of housing, social aspects are very relevant. Engineering aspects could be more ambitious. Could we (just) “borrow” research trends from car industry? It is well developed and quite visionary. Could we define “double triangle” research goal?

    First triangle is social: affordable, multi generation, social responsive. The second triangle is technological: nearly Zero Emission Building, connected building, self-living house.


  18. Chapter 8 explores important questions and challenges within most modern welfare state; the combination of large demand for welfare services and tightened public budgets pushes forward a need for new and sustainable services to meet these challenges. The section ‘what are social innovations?’ present a good overview of what this might be. In relation to the process of social innovation, however, I would stress the importance of identifying the agents behind the innovations. These agents can be both public and private. For example, ‘social entrepreneurship’ is often used as a term for the civic society’s solutions to improvements of the modern welfare state. In Norway, there is a growing interest in how social entrepreneurship may contribute to new knowledge and new methods in public services. The expectations is that social innovations can grow from partnerships between the public sector, the market, the civic society and the user.


  19. The section on environmentally sustainable housing is a good start. It could be expanded to include some of the latest research on life-cycle cost analysis (LCCA) and how it is starting to influence several benchmarking schemes such as Passivhaus who are including it into their latest PHPP9.

    Also “Gupta (2014) Intent and outcomes from the RfF programme-key lessons” provides some sobering evidence for how difficult deep retrofitting the existing housing stock will be (despite generous public funding only 3 out 45 developments achieved the targeted CO2 reductions), as well as the motivations of stakeholders for doing it.

    Since the theme “Global Dwelling” suggests a global focus, one may also point out that 75% of the building stock in developing countries by 2050 is still going to be built, making considerations of embodied vs operational energy vital. “Stephan and Crawford (2012) A holistic building life cycle energy analysis model”, for instance, suggest that embodied energy (including the EE of supporting infrastructure) plus transport energy of, in this case even Australian houses, make up a significant percentage of the buildings total life-cycle energy.


  20. Thank you Ellen for the comment on Chapter 6. Firstly, a preliminary note: due to serious differences between countries in the South-East Europe, it would not be a particularly happy choice to use geographical labels such as Balkans, and instead use (political) economic/social/housing policy label such as Post-socialist countries. Greece is also geographically situated on the Balkans, but its housing system is different than, for example, Romania’s or Bulgaria’s. Although it is true that post-socialist countries (especially the policy makers) have a lot to learn from post-WW2 West European experiences – especially in Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina since the Yugoslav wars (1991-1996) are responsible for massive destruction of the housing stock – the political-economic context is much different (i.e. permanent crisis). Clientelism based on exchanging (housing) “favours for votes”, housing market speculation and widespread political corruption are serious barriers for housing programme development. There is no housing strategy on the national scale hence no social housing strategy etc. All being said, usage of social innovations is the only way – residual as it is nonetheless – to satisfy housing needs of target groups. Eventually, housing policy innovations and examples of good practices may serve as role-models for serious work in the future – recognition and making of the official national housing policy based on good governance principles which are compatible with the idea of welfare mix, that is, participatory policy making which includes all shareholders from state officials to civil society organisations.


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