House as a commons: from collaborative housing to community housing

House as a commons: from collaborative housing to community housing

Housing is one of the most serious urban issues: the Housing Europe 2015 Report described a dramatic situation marked by the lack of adequate housing, the increasing of social and housing polarization, phenomena of housing deprivation and  the reduction of affordability. In Italy, the last Federcasa-Nomisma report too has let emerge a difficult situation: the housing discomfort in 2014 involved 1.7 million households, touching both the Public Residential Building (ERP), and the non-ERP rentals. The social housing, even if able to offer leases lower than the market, cannot keep up with the growing demand; the Real Estate Funds System did not create enough accommodation to meet the housing demand. In addition, the last ISTAT report (2018) revealed the highest peak of absolute poverty since 2005, foreshadowing a possible increase of the housing emergency.

An important gathering to reflect about the Italian housing situation has been held in Matera (Basilicata) during the General Assembly of Federcasa[1], last June 27th -28th. A two-day conference introduced by a seminar event “House as a common. Public housing as a social infrastructure for urban regeneration and development”, organized by Federcasa in collaboration with LabGov – LUISS Guido Carli University and the ATER of Potenza and Matera. The event, with an international approach, was opened by the Federcasa President, Luca Talluri and moderated by the General Director, Antonio Cavaleri. It saw the presence of institutional actors and academic experts discuss the potentiality and critical issues of the new management and financing models for the public real estate. Among them also Professor Christian Iaione, which coordinated a recent research developed in collaboration with Federcasa to understand how to make the use of the existing housing stock more efficient and to investigate new models able to increase the availability of housing units and guarantee new ways of access.

The research “House as a Common: from collaborative to community housing”, presented during the conference and to be published in the next months, focuses on the analysis of new forms of living, currently under testing both in Italy and abroad, able to promote or facilitate initiatives of urban regeneration through processes of social, cognitive and technological innovation and to generate new forms of urban governance. In particular the national and European contexts, both in terms of legal systems and practices, analyzed in the report, have highlighted the relevance of new housing models in which the cooperation, sharing and collaboration are predominant. The report started from the Elinor Ostrom’s design principles, glimpsing in the cooperative and collaborative management model of living and in self-organized communities of residents an alternative way potentially able to give a new and effective answer to the housing problem. The Ostrom’s approach has been developed by Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione to adapt it to the urban context and the research used the five design principles identified by the two scholars through the field work of the “City as a Commons” approach to analyze the housing sector. Applying the Co-City approach to the housing sector means reading the current problematics through a different lens paving the way for the hypothesis that new housing models based on cooperation and collective forms of management can represent a concrete answer to the current housing shortage.

The research in particular analyzed and codified 73 Italian case studies, using the five design principles (urban co-governance, enabling state, economic and social pooling, experimentalism and tech justice) as empirical dimensions operationalized with qualitative indicators, taking inspiration from the Ostrom’s institutional analysis and from the Co-City database analysis, together with a hypothesis-generating and refining case studies methodology (Yin, 2014; Swanborn, 2010; Stake, 1995). In addition, an in-depth analysis through semi-structures interviews was made on 9 cases considered significant, extracted among those better able to show the main features and the dynamics to monitor under the Co-City protocol, and the main patterns emerged from the case selection.

In particular, in terms of co-governance, translating this Co-City reasoning at the housing level, allowed to retrace a three stages model: the simple building sharing (first degree of the co-governance gradient, sharing), collaboration or co-production of services operated by the actors involved in the housing project (second degree: collaboration) and co-management and co-ownership of the buildings by the actors involved (third degree: plycentrism). From the analysis emerged a tendency towards the polycentrism even if there are not completed forms of it. In Italy, in view of interesting experiences, they still situated at the first and second degree but allow to understand some crucial aspects: first of all how the implementation of complex levels of co-governance in the housing sector required to develop new multi-actors social partnerships forms (i.e. public-civic, public-private-civic, etc.) and an ecosystemic approach to realize the transition towards new forms of affordable housing. The role of the public actors (enabling state) appears as a key element that favors the success of the housing projects and the presence of economic and social pooling processes through collaboration enables positive externalities of public utility for the local community. In addition, the civic element seems to be a better guarantee in the creation of truly collaborative projects and the presence of the private actor can influence the development of the project especially in economic terms.

Nevertheless, there are some critical aspects underlined by the research: 1. A geographical imbalance in the distribution of the innovative experiences (the main innovative projects are located in the North and Central Italy, while the South still strive to find solutions in terms of housing affordability, the involvement of the public actor is still very marginal and the offer proposed by the active actors on the housing sector remains mainly private in nature); 2. Beneficiaries are mainly part of the so-called grey segment of population (people that cannot access to the traditional real estate market and not even to the public housing) and not the weakest; 3. Urban regeneration does not necessarily go through the re-circulation of disused public or private buildings; 4. With the Integrate Fund System often the public actors provide the land or the real estate but at the end the public resource benefits mainly the private actors and the fund becomes in this process a kind of privatization of the ERP system, hence the system should be rethought in order to avoid the risk to reproduce the same market fails of the public-private partnerships.

What emerges from the research is that the public support becomes more effective when combined with the private sector and the civic component in order to favor the shared use of the commons, maintain a high level of experimentalism, encourage the use of technological innovations and the spirit of collaboration. What is still missing is a widespread administrative favorable context, that is the enabler infrastructure required to spread these emerging models (Aernouts and Ryckewaert, 2017). Therefore implementing models that enhance the universalistic role of the public housing agencies considering the activation of multi-stakeholders partnership inside new co-governance models, could help to face the more dramatic situations and cover more segments of population looking for a housing solution (Aernouts and Ryckewaert, 2018).

From the analysis, the research identified the Community Land Trust[2] as the tool better able to reach the level of polycentrism, since it is a model of property cooperativism able to realize stable partnerships among the public institutions and the so-called “public as community” – inhabitants, civil society organizations, cognitive institutions). The CLT is a community-centered model that tends to connect the diverse autonomous centers of a city, foreseeing a property scheme; while the sharing and collaborative experiences observed in Italy are mainly based on the use and management of the housing property without opening to the wide community. The research suggests that in Italy this solution could be introduced experimenting the potentialities of legal forms such as the community cooperatives, the participatory foundations, and other forms of social partnership and administrative tools already existing in the Italian legal background. What is required is a contextual-based method applied through a preliminary experimental process inspired by the principle of the administrative self-organization of the local authorities and by the civic autonomy considering the specific variables of the urban social context and the institutional capacity. In this sense adopt an Advisory Board could be helpful to support the local governments and the agencies of public housings.

Besides the research “House as a commons: from collaborative to community housing” the conference saw the speeches also of other experts: Laura Fregolent from the IUAV University presented a research on Venice estimating the crisis impact on the housing sector and suggesting to rethink the city starting from a wide-ranging knowledge of the local contexts. Alice Pittini, research coordinator of Housing Europe, explained how the principles of self-management, empowerment and co-creation can be integrated in the housing theme. Joaquin the Santos from the CLT Brussels presented the Community Land Trust operating in Brussels.  Nestor Davidson, professor of law at the Fordham University, via skype call, explained how the American public housing works, going throw historical and political steps, stressing the concept of neighborhood effect, highlighting how the crisis is generating new housing models, talking about the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program, presenting some best practices such as the Common Property Funds or the New Yorker’s legislation to provide low-income citizens with access to counsel for wrongful evictions. In particular Nestor Davidson emphasized how the uncertainty of federal funding, as well as the political polarization, have led to social innovations and new models demonstrating that public and private can work together simply finding new tools to do it at best. Edoardo Reviglio from Cassa Depositi e Prestiti remembered the success of the old GESCAL founds and the importance to rethink the Piano Casa in order to consider the weakest segment of population.

Professor Iaione proposed some closing food for thought for the future:

  1. Knowledge: it’s important to note that a new social pact is already being re-established between those who manage the housing projects and those who live there and today there are already new solutions in the housing sector, hence we should start from the critical issues to understand how overcome them;
  2. Pluralism: the public actor is not alone, it can count on the communities and on a plurality of emerging solutions, actors and tools, from which the public houses should be reconceived as social infrastructures;
  3. Neighborhood effect: the housing agencies can be urban, but also social end economic, regeneration agents acting as engine of local development;
  4. Institutional capability: testing before and evaluating after, should be the guiding concepts before any concrete action or change in the normative frames.

The conference was closed by the President of Federcasa which also stressed the importance to start from what already exist in the Italian context to experiment new solutions, looking to processes of regeneration that are urban as well as social and economic.

[1] Federcasa is an association bringing together 114 public housing companies and housing bodies at the provincial, communal and regional level. Members of Federcasa provide over 850.000 social dwellings to low and middle income households, partly financed by public funding.

[2] TCP’s articles about CLTs available here.

Il mondo delle case popolari si è incontrato a Matera il 27/28 Giugno 2018 in occasione dell’Assemblea Generale di Federcasa. Un appuntamento arricchito dal convegno “Casa Bene Comune. Le case popolari come infrastrutture sociali per la rigenerazione e lo sviluppo urbano”, organizzato da Federcasa in collaborazione con l’Università LUISS Guido Carli e le ATER di Matera e Potenza. Diversi esperti, tra cui anche il prof. Nestor  Davidson in collegamento skype dalla Fordham University di New York, sono intervenuti per discutere delle potenzialità e delle criticità delle nuove formule di gestione e finanziamento dell’edilizia residenziale pubblica. In particolare è stata presentata la ricerca “Casa Bene Comune: dall’housing collaborativo all’housing di comunità”, coordinata dal prof. Christian Iaione che ha investigato nuovi modelli di abitare capaci di aumentare la disponibilità abitativa e garantire nuove formule di accesso.

In Poland the 4th International Conference on Urban and Regional Economics

In Poland the 4th International Conference on Urban and Regional Economics


The conference “Contemporary Urban Policy – European Perspective” will take place at the University of Economics in Katowice, 12-13 October 2017, thanks to the organization of the Department of Spatial and Environmental Economics.

The focus will be on urban policy, urban governance and collaborative planning. The meeting will bring together academics, policymakers and practitioners to better understand the ideas of participatory approach to urban development and discuss new concepts such as urban commons, cooperative cities and sharing cities. The meeting will be also an opportunity to integrate academics and discuss future research projects in the field of urban and regional studies. There are 7 conference themes to which researchers interested in exchanging ideas and results on urban studies are invited to participate:

  1. Urban policy – theory and practice
  2. Collaborative planning in cities
  3. Urban and metropolitan governance
  4. Urban Commons and city as a commons
  5. Sharing economy, circular economy, and urban development
  6. Urban regeneration strategies, tools, and projects
  7. Urban laboratories and experimental economics in urban studies

The call for paper has been until August 30 to collect abstract on these themes. All reviewed and accepted papers will be published on “STUDIA REGIONALIA”, “JOURNAL OF ECONOMICS AND MANAGEMENT” and other peer-reviewed publications.

Professor Christian Iaione, LabGov Faculty Director, will take part in the conference as a keynote speaker.

For more information and the program see the official website:


Un’altra importante occasione per discutere di #urbancommons e #sharingcities: il 12 e 13 ottobre 2017 a Katowice (Polonia), presso la University of Economics, il Dipartimento di Economia Spaziale e Ambientale organizza la 4th International Conference on Urban and Regional Economics. La conferenza, dal titolo “Contemporary Urban Policy – European Perspective”, si concentrerà sui temi delle #urbanpolitics, #urbangovernance e #collaborativeplanning. Fino al 30 agosto è possibile inviare il proprio abstract su uno dei 7 temi proposti. Maggiori informazioni al sito

Building “cities for people”: Barcelona Superilles.

Building “cities for people”: Barcelona Superilles.

In his book “Cities for People” the Danish Architect Jan Gehl tells us that if we want to build lively, sustainable, safe and healthy cities, we need to pay more attention to the human dimension, which in the last decades has been highly neglected. According to Gehl, urban planners need to observe the city at eye level, adopting the point of view of a pedestrian rather than thinking about the city only in abstract terms, as “the battle for quality is on a small scale”. Gehl’s view is deeply influenced by the seminal work of the American activist and journalist Jane Jacobs, the first strong voice who denounced the dominant urban planning ideology for having lost contact with real cities and with the needs of their communities.

Today, more and more cities are realizing the importance of going back to the human dimension as a starting point for dealing with the interconnected issues resulting from intense urbanization.

This appears particularly true when we turn to consider the question of traffic. Since the car’s advent, a great amount of time and energies have been devoted to the transformation of the urban environment required to accommodate the ever-growing traffic. This has often meant sacrificing common spaces in order to allow for car’s circulation and parking, which resulted in what could be defined as the “Tragedy of the urban roads” [1], that we discussed in this article.

The dramatic consequences of such approaches have become evident, and contemporary cities are focusing on finding ways to reduce traffic, re-appropriating public spaces and making their streets and neighborhoods more livable and sustainable. Different traffic-reducing measures have been experimented and implemented in the past years, ranging from investments in sustainable and accessible public transportation and bike sharing to measures aiming at discouraging cars’ usage, including car bans, no-cars zones, increases in parking prices combined with reduction of parking spots, and much more.

The city of Barcellona, picture under CC license (available here:

One innovative solution which is worth observing comes from the city of Barcelona, where the newly elected administration is not limiting itself to the introduction of traffic-reducing measures, but is instead completely rethinking the entire city structure, bringing it back to the human scale. Such transformation will take place through the creation of Superilles, macro-neighborhoods designed by adopting the point of view of the pedestrian, with the aim of making the city more livable and sustainable for its citizens. The program Superilles “Let’s fill streets with life” envisages the creation of nine macro-areas, within which car-circulation will be reduced at its minimum, favoring the development of sustainable mobility, green areas and new spaces for collective living. Car circulation will be limited to the perimeter roads of the neighborhoods and parking spots on the street-side will be greatly reduced, resulting in the re-appropriation of collective space. The project is ambitious in its objectives: the city aims at reducing its car use by 21% over the next 2 years, while at the same time increasing the amount of mobility by foot, bicycle and public transport. To facilitate this transformation in people’s habits, the creation of superilles will be complemented by the introduction of a stronger orthogonal bus network, limited to the main streets, and by the creation of 300 kilometers of cycling lines.

This innovative approach to traffic and urban development is only one of the novelties introduced by the new administration, which since its election in 2015 has been attempting to “win back the city”. The administration, guided by the ex-housing activist Ada Colau, who was elected on behalf of the citizens’ movement Barcelona en Comù, is strongly committed to the defense of the common good and to the improvement of people’s quality of life. Furthermore, it believes in the importance of bringing about a transformation by challenging the economic and political dominant paradigms from below, by involving as many people as possible in transparent and participatory decision-making processes. In this way, as explained in the How to win back the city en Comù guide, the city can go back to being the place of encounter, of innovation and of exchange of ideas that it should be, and can become the place where a true democracy is reconstructed.

As stated by Ada Colau, “We’re living in extraordinary times that demand brave and creative solutions. If we’re able to imagine a different city, we’ll have the power to transform it”. This is exactly what is being done in the Barcelona where, through the creation of the superilles, the human dimension is brought back to the center and we are reminded of the importance of creating “cities for people”.

[1] Christian Iaione, The Tragedy of Urban Roads: Saving Cities from Choking, Calling on Citizens to Combat Climate Change, 37 Fordham Urb. L.J. 889 (2009).


Una soluzione innovativa al problema del traffico (recentemente discusso in questo articolo), arriva dalla città di Barcellona, in cui la nuova amministrazione si propone di ripensare l’intera struttura a partire dal punto di vista dei pedoni, riconoscendo l’importanza di quella che l’architetto danese Jan Ghel descrive come la “dimensione umana”. Questo avverrà attraverso la creazione di Superilles, macro-aree al cui interno la circolazione dei veicoli sarà impedita, favorendo invece lo sviluppo di aree verdi e spazi comuni. Complementare alla riduzione del traffico sarà un forte investimento nello sviluppo di trasporti pubblici e piste ciclabili, volto a stimolare lo sviluppo di forme di mobilità sostenibili.

The Fil Rouge of Culture

The Fil Rouge of Culture

“…che la cultura, più che mai oggi, sia uno strumento irrinunciabile per scrivere il nostro futuro”[1].

It is becoming increasingly apparent that culture is an ever-present dimension in different debates, beyond the traditional artistic-cultural one: culture as a right, culture as wellbeing and welfare, culture as a commons, culture as a factor of social and economic development, culture as education, culture as a driving force for urban regeneration, culture as a resource for sustainable development, culture as citizenship.

Besides the emergence of a participatory and collaborative approach in conceiving and managing cultural projects, events and institutions, there is an ever-raising awareness of the intersectoral implications of culture as a process, also in terms of spillover effects. This is particularly enhanced and demonstrated by European and international policies, documents and initiatives as well as by the celebration of 2018 as the European Year of Cultural Heritage: documents such as “Council Conclusions on cultural heritage as a strategic resource for a sustainable Europe” (May 2014, available here), emphasizing the role and relevance of cultural heritage for a “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”, “Commission Communication towards an integrated approach to cultural heritage for Europe” (July 2014, available here) and its related documents, or the final results of “Cultural Heritage counts for Europe” project (2013-2015), which deeply recommends the adoption of an holistic approach to cultural heritage.

As for the participatory issue, it is promoted by the EU with the “Council conclusions on the participatory governance of cultural heritage” (2014, available here) and the interesting “Mapping of practices in the EU Member States on Participatory governance of cultural heritage” (2015, to be found here), realized by the EENC-European Expert Network on Culture within the OMC Working group on cultural heritage.

Also UNESCO approved a specific project  “Approaches to participatory governance of cultural institutions”, carried out by Kultura Nova Foundation in Croatia and supported by UNESCO’s Cultural Diversity Fund (June 2016-June 2018). Moreover, in its paper “Engaging local communities in Stewardship of World Heritage” (World Heritage, paper nr 40, November 2014, available here) it calls for community engagement at all stages of the World Heritage process, by learning experience from the Community Management of Protected Areas Conservation (COMPACT) methodology.

This collaborative and comprehensive trend is also emerging in many cooperatives, associations and organizations’ practices, both for international and local projects. For instance, the outstanding project and participatory process of Matera 2019 European Capital of Culture, or the experience of Hotel du Nord in Marseille, an inhabitants’ cooperative providing a network of accomodations and hosts and touring opportunities through heritage walks, or that of La Paranza in Naples, a cooperative of young people from the disadvantaged neighbourhood Rione Sanità managing the Paleochristian Catacombs.

The Commons Post, aware of the fundamental role played by culture, is committed to investigate this topic by proposing different cases and best practices, both international and local, throughout the year. The European and international policies and initiatives and the potential, the role, the effects of culture-driven processes led by different communities in different contexts will come under the spotlight.

Our purpose is to stress the leading role of culture in many changes under way. It’s time to overcome a short-sighted approach to culture and to acknowledge its long term sustainable contribution to the formulation of effective policies, processes and projects.

Because culture sounds future!

[1] Dal Pozzolo L., Garbarini A., Oltre la sindrome del Vilcoyote. Politiche culturali per disegnare il futuro. Luca Dal Pozzolo, Aldo Garbarini in conversazione con Francesco De Biase, FrancoAngeli, 2016, p.9


La cultura come filo rosso che attraversa numerosi dibattiti e processi di sviluppo. La sua centralità in questa fase di cambiamento e l’esigenza di un approccio sempre più trasversale e di lungo termine non viene soltanto sottolineata da numerosi documenti europei, ma emerge anche dalle pratiche messe in atto da associazioni, cooperative e organizzazioni di varia natura a vari livelli. Per questo motivo, la cultura sarà tra le tematiche su cui andremo a concentrare la nostra attenzione nel 2017.

Bologna as a Laboratory for Urban Commons? – Urban Change Talk, Berlin

Bologna as a Laboratory for Urban Commons? – Urban Change Talk, Berlin

When looking for examples of innovative experiments in urban governance and collaborative practices, many observers are turning to the city of Bologna and to its experience with the Regulation on public collaboration between citizens and the city for the care and regeneration of urban commons and with the legislation “Collaborare è Bologna”. In the last years the city has dedicated a lot of efforts to the promotion of a culture of collaboration and has tried to fill a legal gap, reducing the distance between the local administration and its citizens and bringing all urban actors to work together around the city’s common goods. These efforts are not going unnoticed, and numerous observers are looking at the city with curiosity, recognizing it as an innovative experimentation which could lead to creation of a new urban governance framework based on collaboration.

In a similar perspective, the Bologna case will be presented and discussed in Berlin on Friday the 27th of January during the Urban Change Talk: Bologna – a Laboratory for Urban Commons?, an event organized by Actors of Urban Change, a program aiming to achieve sustainable and participatory urban development through cultural activities, in cooperation with the Urban Research Group ‘Urban Commons’ at the Georg Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies of Humboldt University.

The event will consist in a conversation between Dr. Martin Schwegmann, member and founder of the Urban Research Group “Urban Commons” and program manager of “Actors of Urban Change”,  and different actors engaged in research and practice around the urban commons, coming both from Bologna and from Berlin. Professor Christian Iaione, LabGov’s coordinator, will take part in the event and, together with Giovanni Ginocchini, (Director of the URBAN CENTER BOLOGNA), will present the case of Bologna, while Marco Clausen, (Prinzessinnengarten), and Dr. Mary Dellenbaugh from the Urban Research Group “Urban Commons” will contribute to the conversation by also considering the experiences that are taking place in Berlin.  


Venerdì 27 Gennaio avrà luogo a Berlino l’evento Urban Change Talk: Bologna – a Laboratory for Urban Commons?, organizzato da Actors of Urban Change con il supporto dell’ Urban Research Group ‘Urban Commons’ del Georg Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies della Humboldt University.

L’evento consisterà in una conversazione tra diversi attori impegnati nella ricerca e nella sperimentazione sui commons urbani che analizzeranno il caso della città di Bologna, considerato un esempio di pratica innovativa attraverso cui viene promossa una cultura di collaborazione e si sviluppa un nuovo modello di co-governance urbana. Il caso bolognese verrà presentato dal Professor Christian Iaione, coordinatore di LABGov, e da Giovanni Ginocchini, Direttore dell’Urban Center di Bologna, che racconteranno il percorso di CO-Bologna, dal Regolamento sulla collaborazione tra cittadini e amministrazione per la cura e rigenerazione dei beni comuni urbani e la politica “Collaborare è Bologna” alla sperimentazione nei cantieri.