Exploring Urban Contradictions in Collaborative Housing at the first International Conference “Contradictions Urbaines”, Paris

On March 28th 2017, the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture of Paris – ENSA Paris – hosted the first International Conference Contradictions Urbaines, a one-day event organised by the Laboratoire Ville Urbanisme Environment LAVUE.

The event gathered researchers from different fields of study to explore some of the contradictions running through modern cities and metropolitan areas. While the urbanisation process is becoming less and less controlled by the State, the interplay between financial conglomerates, local communities, and grassroots movements has proven crucial for the future of the cities. At the same time, however, different demands and aspirations have led to the emergence of “urban contradictions”, which are evident in the controversial relationship between global and local, exclusion and inclusion, homogeneity and social, economic, and cultural diversity. Along these lines, the Conference focused on the issues of citizens’ and users’ counter-power in the co-production of public spaces, on the impact “collaborative research” may have on the promotion of citizens’ initiatives, and on the specific topic of collaborative housing and social inclusion.

Focused on this latter aspect, the seminar “Collaborative Housing and Social Inclusion: Unpacking Contradictions?” has been organised, as part of the Conference, by the ENHR Working Group on Collaborative Housing. The seminar was constructed along two lines of investigation. First of all, it was observed that emerging collaborative housing groups in France are characterised by self-segregation, lack of social inclusion, and cultural and economic homogeneity among its members, which is at odds with a narrative discourse that usually associates these projects with social inclusion and diversity. From this starting point, the seminar aimed to explore whether, to what extent, and through which means these contradictions could be reconciled and collaborative housing groups effectively promote social inclusion and economic diversity. Linked to this, another proposed line of investigation concerned the role public authorities play in the promotion and funding of collaborative housing project. Although in top-down collaborative housing experiments social inclusion and economic diversity may be more easily achieved through a public-led process of residents’ selection, this might negatively affect the level of participation and engagement of residents in the collective project. In this respect, the seminar proposed to reflect on whether a top-down approach to collaborative housing has a negative impact on the sustainability of the project in the long term and what types of arrangements could be put in place to remedy these possible downsides.

While the Conference opened up the debate on these two crucial aspects of collaborative housing in Europe, an upcoming event will give the opportunity for further reflections on the topic. The seminar “Collaborative Housing: Public, Private, and Cooperative Experiences” will take place on the 14th of June in Amsterdam during the first International Social Housing Festival 2017 (13th to 21st of June). The seminar intends to be a platform for sharing collaborative housing experiences and innovative tools used in the management of communities throughout Europe; at the same time, the event will give an opportunity to explore the role of cooperatives in the field of social housing. The event is organised by Legacoop Abitanti and Fondazione Housing Sociale, as members of Housing Europe, in partnership with the TU Delft’s Department of Management in the Built Environment and the ENHR Working Group on Collaborative Housing.


Fabiana Bettini, Postdoctoral Researcher, Sciences Po Law School, Paris



Lo scorso 28 marzo si è svolta ad ENSA Parigi la prima Conferenza Internazionale Contradictions Urbaines organizzata dal LAVUE. Al suo interno, il workshop Collaborative Housing and Social Inclusion: Unpacking Contradictions? organizzato dallo ENHR Working Group on Collaborative Housing è stato l’occasione per riflettere sul rapporto tra segregazione e inclusione sociale nei progetti di “abitare collaborativo”. Un prossimo evento su collaborative housing si terrà ad Amsterdam durante il primo International Social Housing Festival (13-21 giugno 2017).