International
Federation for
Housing and
Planning

Considerations on The Hague Housing Conference

Is the crisis an opportunity to shape innovatively and creatively a brighter future for housing delivery?

Less is more: rediscovering housing possibilities in time of crisis

Less is more was a slogan created by the German architect Mies van der Rohe to indicate a formal minimalism that comes through subtraction in a creative process of continuous search for simplicity. This means minimizing the unnecessary to find, using creativity and modern technology, the essential.

Less is more describes the apparent paradox in social housing today effectively. On the one hand the public budget dedicated to housing policies has been significantly reduced in most of European countries, and on the other hand, there is an increasing demand for social housing that cannot be satisfied by the market. This presents a challenge for all professionals active in the housing sector working in public institutions, private sector, academia and development.

Can we provide affordable and more good quality houses with less public cash? Is the crisis an opportunity to shape innovatively and creatively a brighter future for housing delivery? To do so, do we have to think the unthinkable?

An international perspective on innovative housing policies

The above questions led to the initiation of the Hague Housing conference. The economic crisis and current societal developments call for a new urban development approach in many western countries: operating at smaller scale with less risk and with more room for private initiative. It is essential to develop and update our thinking, to trust in people and experiment with different solutions capable of shielding the housing sector from the effects of the crisis.

The conference presented some of examples from a truly global perspective both good and bad practices in housing development worldwide. Regions like East and South-eastern Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa are no longer secondary to ‘the West”, they are equal partners in discussion and their global importance is rapidly increasing.

Pitigliano, Italy Photo credits: Giulia Maci

A tomorrow for housing

In 2013 IFHP celebrates 100 years of operations. In determining its 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, involving a multitude of issues. There is a need for new thinking on present and future housing policies and their implementation. The Hague Housing Conference has been the first edition of what is to become a series of annual conferences in The Hague. The Hague Housing Conference aims to bring together policy makers, practitioners and researchers, in the field of housing in order to make sharing and comparing of practical experiences, knowledge and ideas possible.

During this first conference the focus was predominantly on various forms of, and motivations for (collective) private initiatives in housing in urban areas, often made possible through deregulation. Of course housing is only one of various aspects in ‘area development’, but it was discussed in a broader sense. Not only related to building dwellings, but rather the entire process of designing, financing, building, maintaining houses and their amenities as part of a community and neighbourhood. The debate considered different issues pertaining to the two subthemes building communities and housing finance.

Diyarbakir, Turkey Photo credits: Giulia Maci

What next?

A second edition of The Hague Housing Conference will be organized around the same time next year, in pursuance of our aim to create an annual IFHP event for the international exchange of knowledge, experiences and analyses in the broad field of housing within the IFHP structure. We aim to bring back the housing theme in the center of the planning debate, defining a set of principles relevant for different cities in the world. These principles could provide a common vocabulary for a discussion on the key housing issues affecting the quality of life in cities. As the architect Alvar Alto said "we should concentrate our work not only to a separated housing problem but housing involved in our daily work and all the other functions of the city".

 The Hague Conference Photo credits: Renata Jardim