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EFL Autumn Conference Gent succesfully closed

by | Feb 5, 2018

Under a beautiful and sunny autumn sky, EFL’s second conference of 2017 in Gent has been closed succesfully. A line up of fantastic speakers, interactive discussions, a property visit in Gent and a guided walk through Gent’s historic city, made this editon again a very memorable event.

The conference was themed around topics which form a red line in the day to day business of housing companies: – resident engagement and innovation in the field of collective housing and cooperations. The kick off presentation was provided by Prof. Dr. David Mullins, University of Birmingham. A real expert in the field of tenant participation, presenting the outcome of  international research of engagement models. The scientific introduction was followed by a more political discussion initiated by Barbara Steenbergen, representing the International Union of Tenants. Main issue was the question how serious tenant empowerment is taken and which roles are expected from affordable housing providers. Subsequent presentations from Hannah Fischer Baum (Paris Habitat) and Sharon McIntyre (Wheatley Group- Glasgow) showed two best practices of tenant participations within the EFL community.

The traditional introduction to our hosting city Gent was given by the alderman of Housing and Development of the City of Gent Mr. Sven Taeldeman. Of particular interest were new forms of low cost housing provision in the form of ‘budget homes (20% below market rent) , new city developments as SoGent (> 20% social housing, 20% budget housing) and experiments with a cooperative real estate company.

The second part of the first conference day was dedicated to an emerging form of affordable housing provision: housing cooperatives. Dr. Erich Meyer, Institute Genossenschaftswesen Westälische Wilhelms-­‐Universität in Münster, demonstrated the value of cooperative housing as a way in between ownership and rental housing. The tradition of housing cooperatives, mainly present in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, offers it’s members a form of co- ownership within a structure of rental homes. This model now increasingly finds it’s way across other European countries as it offers excellent conditions for affordable housing provision with a ‘big say’ for it’s residents. With this in mind, also some EFL members started discussing the idea of the creation of an European Housing cooperative under the legal form of the SCE (Societé Cooperative Europae).  Chiara Rizzica of Fondazione Social Housing (Milan, Italy) informed the international audience about the fast and new developments of social housing in Italy, a new form between the original state funded “public housing” and the majority of ownership.

The final presentation of the day was from Sorcha Edwards, Secretary General of Housing Europe. She took the audience in appaeling examples of “residents in the drivers seat”, with a cross over of best practices related to migration, energy and empowerement of communities.

During the second day, November 23, EFL members and associates adopted the new EFL Strategyplan 2018-2020. The further growth of the network (currently 54 members and associates), our proirities and instruments for further improvement were discussed and established. During the open part of the second day our projects and new initiatives were presented. Both within European funding programs as Interreg, but also project initiatives deriving from EFL Topic Groups received a lot of interest.  Moderation of both days was in the hands of EFL Chairman Ben Pluijmers and EFL’s Managing Director Joost Nieuwenhuijzen.

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