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The Hague Housing Conference
The Hague Housing Conference
14 February 2013
The Housing Challenge – Quantity AND Quality. Rediscovering Housing Possibilities: Could less be more? The Housing Challenge – Quantity AND Quality. Rediscovering Housing Possibilities: Could less be more?
In 2013 IFHP celebrates 100 years of operations. In determining our content focus for the Centenary year and beyond, IFHP has identified ‘housing’ as a major theme, as it is once again, due to the financial crisis and other major developments in society, a major, long-term theme involving a multitude of issues. There is a need for a new thinking about present and future housing policy and its implementation.
The major activity in IFHP’s Centenary calendar concerning the housing theme was The Hague Housing Conference. This was the first in a series of annual conferences in The Hague which will bring together policy makers, practitioners and researchers in the field of housing to share and compare practical experience, ideas and knowledge in the search for solutions for shared issues and problems.
The venue of the conference was the Bel Air Hotel in The Hague supplying us with modern and comfortable facilities located ideally between Amsterdam Schipol Airport and Rotterdam The Hague Airport that both are within 45 minutes travel distance.
REDISCOVERING HOUSING POSSIBILITIES: COULD LESS BE MORE?
In reaction to the current economic crisis, we need to re-think our housing strategies. The housing sector is currently faced with a double challenge: on the one hand the public budget dedicated to housing policies is significantly reduced in a number of European countries and on the other hand there is an increasing demand for social housing that cannot be satisfied by the market.
Instead of just making cut-backs or reducing costs, we should be focusing on creating a high quality, holistic approach to housing, involving a wider range of actors and mobilizing smaller budgets.
The crisis could become an opportunity to consider new perspectives on the urban issues and to experiment new ways to move forward from the current challenges. It is becoming essential to develop updated thinking, to trust in people and experiment different solutions which are capable to shield the housing sector from the effects of the crisis.
The conference deals with the dichotomy between quantity and quality in relation to what extent the existing housing stock has to be adapted according to modern standards and environmental needs whilst still meeting the necessary numerical provision of new homes at affordable prices. The balance between quantity and quality has to be achieved against the background of the global financial crisis.
The Hague Housing Conference is a think tank to share ideas, network and cross-fertilize with global housing experts. Particular attention is devoted to issues pertaining to the two standard sub-themes:
Sustainable finance is an essential precondition to the provision of affordable housing in the long term. In times of crisis in the financial and housing market, it is interesting to focus on developments in financing housing in Europe and compare them with systems in other continents to draw out some lessons for progress in this field. This aspect can be explored observing, analysing and comparing different finance mechanisms for affordable housing including grants or public loans, private loans, tax privileges, discounts on land prices or ad hoc circuits of investments and savings. Moreover in the last two decades there was a strong shift towards private finance and a process of privatization of public providers. It is interesting to analyse conflicts between the market conditions and the provision of affordable housing and the possibility of public private partnerships to ensure houses are developed using the right technology thereby reducing prices.
The aim of this focus group is to learn about how tenants and residents are involved in housing projects, what is the role of people and how put them at the centre of the decision making process. One focus group will explore different approaches to residents participation, focusing on regulatory framework. Another group will compare practices which show the commitment of different actors in the housing field (as housing associations, public sectors, privates) towards an increasing participation of inhabitants with the aim of creating better services and sustainable neighbourhoods. A group will focus on exploring different models of co-operative and mutual housing which include, among others, housing cooperatives, tenants’ organizations, co-housing and self-build initiatives. Community participation could be considered also as a way to react to the process of polarization of the urban society caused by cultural differences, economic unbalance and localization of the middle class in specific areas.
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The report of the 1st Hague Housing Conference will be published in a few weeks.