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.

Citizen engagement in Science and Policy-Making: the EU Joint Research Center Perspective

Citizen engagement in Science and Policy-Making: the EU Joint Research Center Perspective

The idea of proactive citizen engagement in Science and Policy-Making has recently attracted the institutional interest at the European Union level. In particular, the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission has often dealt with the topic in recent years. Worth to be quoted is the JRC Science for Policy Report “Citizen Engagement in Science and Policy-Making” released in 2016 [1]. The report shows an open and welcoming approach from the Commission towards citizen-driven contributions to science and policy. The JRC explicitly affirms (JRC, 2016, 3) that citizen engagement in heavily ‘expert-based’ sectors can “boost in democratic legitimacy, accountability and transparent governance”. Furthermore, the JRC acknowledges the potential of citizen involvement for enhancing “trust building among citizens and institutions as well as ownership of policy outcome. The Centre recognizes a shift from the mere “info-giving” to increasingly participatory deliberation practices “at each stage of the policy-making process” (JRC, 2016, 3) and, even more relevant, a push from “asking the citizens” to “co-creating with citizens” (JRC, 2016, 32).

Apart from increasing legitimacy and trust, the JRC stresses the benefits for the EC’s strategic planning itself, by underlining that people’s inputs “can offer a unique understanding of societal concerns, desires and needs” and thus a better targeting of EC’s actions. Moreover, the value of this contribution is identified in the provision by citizens of “evidence for policy-making and evaluation of policy decisions” as well as “ideas for new policies or services.”

The JRC in its report (JRC, 2016, 4) identifies also the main challenges to a proper inclusion of inputs from laymen’s knowledge in science and policy. First, the Centre stresses how the “predominant paradigm for policy-making is based on expert inputs (evidence based) in detriment of non-expert or lay knowledge coming from other parts of society.” The advice from the JRC to the Commission seems encouraging for more participatory practice and for a reconsideration of the “usefulness and validity of non-traditional inputs coming from citizens, communities or other groups”.

However, data quality and reliability of the knowledge fed by the lay people when it comes to inclusive science and policy seems crucial, together with transparency and disclosure of possible conflicts of interests. The modalities for gathering laymen’s input should be clearly defined and integration strategies properly agreed. Lastly, the need to go “beyond usual suspects” (the tech-connected wealthy citizens) in this inclusive science and policy is underlined by the report. At p.9 of the document (JRC, 2016, 9) a series of practical examples of citizen engagement in EU’s policy and science are illustrated, such as the initiatives ‘MakingSense’, ‘MyGEOSS’ and ‘DigitalEarthLab’.

The call of the JRC for a “dialogue across co-existing worldviews and knowledge production spaces in science, society and policy” (JRC, 2016, 7) seems particularly timely in present times in which the need of a dialogue between top and bottom stakeholders seems increasingly urgent. Facing Science and Policy-Making challenges through an inclusive and open-minded approach would contribute to the establishment of this dialogue. In the end, both top and bottom players share common interests or, at least, can constructively face each other’s needs to reach together a compromise, towards the establishment of a shared interest. In cases of post-normal science problems, the achievement of this shared or common interest will be even harder. However, those problems are highly of public interest and demand for the inclusion of all the concerned stakeholders in their governance.

[1] Figueiredo Nascimento, S., Cuccillato, E., Schade, S., Guimarães Pereira, A. 2016. Citizen Engagement in Science and Policy-Making. EUR 28328 EN, doi: 10.2788/40563.

Il presente articolo illustra la crescente necessità di coinvolgere il cittadino nei processi politici e scientifici, come percepita dalle istituzioni a livello europeo. In particolare, l’articolo focalizza l’attenzione sulla prospettiva del Joint Research Center (JRC) dell’Unione Europea sul tema. Viene illustrata la posizione del JRC, il quale incoraggia la creazione di un dialogo condiviso nell’interazione tra scienza, società e politica. Tale appello sembra di particolare attualità oggigiorno, in considerazione della complessità dei problemi che la nostra società deve affrontare. In effetti, le sfide odierne spesso riguardano interessi comuni a più attori sociali, ed il compromesso tra loro, come anche il reciproco ascolto, sembrano gli unici mezzi per raggiungere una definizione di “interesse comune”.

Rigenerare la rigenerazione – AUDIS

Rigenerare la rigenerazione – AUDIS

On Tuesday, December 5th, Milan will host the national AUDIS convention “Rigenerare la rigenerazione” (regenerating regeneration): a moment of confrontation on the new ASTRID’s proposals to overcome the obstacles that are restraining a widespread urban regeneration process all over Italy.

From 9.30 AM to 1.30 PM, in Fondazione Caseilla, AUDIS and its hosts will try to answer three fundamental question:

  1. What exactly is the role of urban regeneration for the development of the country? What are its economic and social consequences and are they strong enough to justify an effort from the cultural, administrative and economic point of view?
  2. What are the strongest brakes that are slowing down and sometimes preventing its implementation? What are the main roadblocks involving both Public Administration and private sector?
  3. Is it possible now to draw some guidelines in order to loosen the main knots?

LabGov’s co-founder prof Christian Iaione is going to attend the event during the session dedicated to AUDIS’ proposals.

The full program of the event is available here: http://www.audis.it/index.html?pg=10&sub=14&id=538&y=2017


Martedì 5 gennaio si terrà il convegno nazionale AUDIS, dedicato alla rigenerazione urbana e alle proposte per ripartire e riavviare il processo iniziando dal superamento dei maggiori ostacoli incontrati in Italia nella pubblica amministrazione e nel settore privato

Storie di beni comuni alla Biennale Democrazia

Storie di beni comuni alla Biennale Democrazia

The City of Turin is currently hosting the fifth edition of the Biennale Democrazia, a cultural event promoted by the City of Turin and by the Fondazione per la Cultura Torino, with the aim of spreading a culture of democracy that is able to result in democratic practices. The 2017 edition is fully dedicated to the concept of emergency, to the uses and abuses of this term, and to all the things that this word hides and shows.

The theme of this fifth edition is articulated in five thematic routes:

  • State of necessity
  • Society of uncertainty
  • New beginnings
  • Focus_Questions to Europe
  • Focus_The city that changes

LabGov, with its co-founder prof. Christian Iaione, will attend the Biennale Democrazia on Saturday, April 1st, during the panel “Storie di beni comuni” (“Stories of Commons”), coordinated by Alessandra Quarta and attended by Gianluca Cantisani and Roberto Covolo as well. The panel is organized in collaboration with the “Servizio Arredo Urbano, Rigenerazione urbana e Integrazione della Città di Torino” within the framework of the CO-CITY project.

 The three speakers are going to investigate the new models of urban welfare and of community co-production. Some of the most significative experiences in Italy are going to be analyzed, in order to show how with the co-management of commons, innovative government tools and paths can be activated.

The program of the Biennale Democrazia is available here: http://biennaledemocrazia.it/programma-bd-2017/


Dal 29 marzo al 2 aprile la città di Torino ospita la Biennale Democrazia, giunta alla sua quinta edizione e quest’anno dedicata al tema dell’emergenza, agli usi e agli abusi di questo termine così usato negli ultimi anni, e a tutto ciò che la parola nasconde e manifesta.

Il prof. Iaione, co-fondatore di LabGov, parteciperà insieme a Gianluca Cantisani e Roberto Covolo, il primo aprile alle ore 11.00 al panel “Storie di beni comuni”, moderato da Alessandra Quarta  e organizzato in collaborazione con il Servizio Arredo Urbano, Rigenerazione urbana e Integrazione della Città di Torino, nell’ambito del progetto CO-CITY. Durante il panel verranno investigati nuovi modelli di welfare urnano e di co-produzione di comunità. Saranno analizzate alcune delle esperienze più significative in Italia, per dimostrare come con la co-gestione dei beni comuni possano essere attivati strumenti e percorsi di governo innovativi.

Il programma completo della Biennale Democrazia è disponibile qui: http://biennaledemocrazia.it/programma-bd-2017/

NYCommons: A Tool To Help Grassroots Groups

NYCommons: A Tool To Help Grassroots Groups

In urban development, gentrification is a very important process that can transform the city, both socially and economically. Gentrification process in urban areas has several positive aspects (buildings are renovated and beautified, there are more jobs opportunities, more retail and service business, etc.) but also some negatives ones such as the loss of affordable housing and public assets (including parks, park buildings, former schools, library buildings, community gardens, etc.) and city-owned vacant lots are in the crosshairs of developers. This is the case of the Lower East Side in NYC that it is now one of the hottest real estate markets in Manhattan.

According to Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, the state chapter of the national civic engagement and government accountability organization, in urban development, communities play the role of underdog, on the contrary, the government and real estate developers run the show (especially the latter).

So, it is important to analyze what set of organizing tools community-led organizations have built to help grassroots groups compete with private real estate developers when it comes to determining the future of publicly owned assets across the city.

An interesting example is given by Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center, a group that provides legal, participatory research and policy support to strengthen the work of grassroots and community-based groups in New York City to dismantle racial, economic and social oppression and 596 Acres, an organization that builds tools to help neighbors see vacant lots as opportunities and create needed green spaces that become focal points for community organizing and civic engagement. These groups, in collaboration with Common Cause New York, are working on a huge project, named NYCommons.

According to the website, NYCommons is basically a new online map and database of all the public assets that helps New Yorkers impact decisions about public land and buildings in their neighborhoods and provides some type of potential real estate development opportunity. According to this statement, it’s hard to define precisely what it includes, but Paula Segal, founder of 596 Acres claims that, if it is true that in cities most of infrastructure and assets are shared (the subways, the roads, the sidewalks, the water, housing, etc.) so, the platform goes on and on to the point where privately owned property can start to seem like the real outlier.

This idea was born about three or four years ago, Mrs. Lerner says, when NYCommons partners started to see a pattern in the organizing around the future of public assets (i.e. a proposed soccer stadium in Queens, the Midtown Library in Manhattan and the main Brooklyn Public Library Branch). They “started thinking about the fact that all of these separate challenges had similar underlying policy issues that have to do with how does government think about commonly owned, shared assets.” In fact, although residents were spending a lot of time and energy, often they didn’t received benefits from these proposals involving public assets.

At the same time, there was some movement: 596 Acres supported some grassroots groups that organized around 36 former publicly owned vacant lots, which turned in declared permanent parks at the end of 2015. In addition to this, 596 Acres has developed a number of tools and created resources around city-owned vacant land: we are talking about Living Lots NYC and Urban Reviewer. The former is an online map and database that provides a useful platform for organizers to connect and maintain records of organizing activity around each lot, the latter is a catalogue of over 150 urban renewal plans that NYC adopted to get federal funding for making way for new public and private development.

In accordance with that, the specific purpose of NYCommons is indeed to create an expanded tool set to serve grassroots organizing around the broader universe of public assets in NYC. They decided to start by asking people in 10 neighborhoods and they finally found a great deal of interest for sharing best practices and connecting with others doing similar work. For testing their job, NYCommons chose three neighborhoods for pilot including the Sara D. Roosevelt Park in Lower East Side. This park presents a very strong story of citizen empowerment and, over time, that participation has contributed to the creation of Sara D. Roosevelt Park Community Coalition (SDRPC) with the aim to bring “together local stakeholders who seek to foster community-based stewardship by providing a voice for all who love the park and the communities it serves”.

Kathleen Webster, long-term resident on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and president of the SDRPC affirms that documentation, workshop facilitation and other resources to begin developing a tool kit provided by NYCommons were very helpful as a draft basis from which to go. The fact that all pilot sites will continue to shape the final NYCommons tool kit and the online platform and this pushes other sites to upload their data into the platform is the strenght of this project. Organizing track records provide vital talking points for future hearings and op-eds and community meetings.

In conclusion, the words of Mrs. Lerner are suitable to describe the characteristics of this projects: “Hopefully NYCommons can provide an entrée into a fairly sophisticated, experienced, citywide network of groups who are all thinking along the same lines, putting pressure on government to be responsive, with a similar vocabulary and set of expectations about public assets serving the public”.

 

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NYCommons è solo l’ultimo degli strumenti forniti ai gruppi grassroots di New York che lavorano per garantire ai cittadini la libera fruizione di spazi pubblici con un alto valore sociale. Nello specifico, si tratta di una mappa e un database online continuamente aggiornati secondo la dinamica bottom-up per mappare gli assets pubblici di NYC.