Workshop in Florence on Urban Social Infrastructures’ investments

Executive Summary

A workshop bringing together high level experts on social infrastructure and urban investments will be held in Florence on the 5th of April 2019. The hosting city, Florence, intends to devise and launch a powerful Social Infrastructure Investment Plan, based on aAdequate Housing principle and following the Public-Private-People Partnerships method which is meant to turn Florence in one of the leading city in terms of social infrastructures investments.

Adequate Housing

Housing is one of the most critical issues in EU urban policy. As argued by the Final Action Plan of the EU Urban Agenda Partnership on Housing, the housing continuum presents a range of housing options from emergency housing to various types of affordable housing (i.e. subsidized or otherwise state-supported housing) and market housing. Regarding housing provisions for vulnerable individuals and families, the management models encompass affordable housing with a strong focus on the role of the private sector, public housing or social housing foreseeing a partnership with private or social investors and other models based on vouchers.

The starting point of a debate on adequate housing is a shared understanding of the overall goal, which is to avoid the transformation of cities in spaces of exclusion. Such process might start by providing city inhabitants with affordable housing options, tailored on their specific needs and capacities. But most of all, adequate housing is aimed at providing city inhabitants not only housing services but also social opportunities, chances for developing professional skills, exercising fundamental Human Rights.

Five initiatives will be considered in designing an adequate housing program for European cities (in particular in Italian cities):

  • The 2018 “Boosting Investment in Social Infrastructure” report redacted by the High-Level Task Force (HLTF), in collaboration with DG ECFIN (Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs) and the European Long-Term Investors Association (ELTI) which estimated the lack in housing investments to account for 57 billion euros a year in Europe. The report also stresses that social infrastructure investments decreased by almost 20% from 2009 and underlines that Housing must represent a cornerstone of new social infrastructure investment policies. Indeed, if in 2009, 48 billion euros were invested in the social housing sector, it only totalised 27 billion euros in 2016 [1].
  • The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target 11.1 aiming “by 2030, ensure access for all to adequate safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums” and art.13 of the UN New Urban Agenda which advocates for “the full realization of the right to adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, without discrimination” and also “universal access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation, as well as equal access for all to public goods and quality services, in areas such as food security and nutrition, health, education, infrastructure, mobility and transportation, energy, air quality and livelihoods”. The art. 31, 33 and 105 of the UN New Urban Agenda could also be considered.
  • The Cities’ Declaration for Adequate Housing [2]
  • The conclusions of the European Urban Agenda on Housing Urban Partnership [3]
  • The report of Leilani Farha (UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing), on Adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context [4]

Public-private-people partnerships

The workshop intends to raise awareness on financial and legal innovative models. It seems clear that the traditional public model and the very few stammerings of the public-private remain weak. The public sector needs a new role, not merely as a supplier or lender but rather as a director, enabler, facilitator. It should however envision to work with the private sector; yet on can wonder what private? Public administrations (PA) need non-risk averse partners with entrepreneurial mentality, and contributing financial/management skills to manage and co-monitor projects along with the public sector. Eventually, PA need to increase their number of partners. Indeed civic, social and cultural actors have demonstrated their ability in generating impact, whilst participating to PA projects. The implication of the Third sector, as well as the engagement of inhabitants, reduce realisation and management costs, optimise financial risk, reinforce the public sector’s position which benefits from private sector management skills, create job opportunities for fragile segments of the population therefore reaching outcomes as: greater security, improved health conditions, better education, innovative ability and skills development -aspects which generate higher impacts compared to mere public or private real-estate development economic operations-. Eventually, the role of University, schools and research centers can be crucial in reskilling inhabitants and therefore helping them in overcoming critical situations.

Why in Florence?

Florence’s mayor and Vice president of Eurocities, Dario Nardella, aims to launch one of the most ambitious Plans for Homes in Italy and probably also at a European level. The Plan consist of an investment of 400 million euros over 5 years and should provide 8000 families with accomodation (almost 2000 for each social housing building) and should thus solve in a permanent way the housing issue in Florence.

To meet this objective, The Municipality of Florence intends to create a blending fund which will be used to provide for diverse types of services:

  • Rent subsidies for who is already renting an accomodation and is in a temporary critical situation
  • Creation of ERP (Edilizia Residenziale Popolare) accomodations
  • Social housing (for example, for young couples, elder people, poor families)

The Bending fund will be composed of:

  • State funds through the Plan for Homes
  • Municipal funds and loans as the city Florence has privileged relationships with European Investment Bank (EIB) in that it is the Italian city which received the highest number of EIB loans in absolute (up till now 500 million euros), thus overpassing Milan or Rome.
  • Ethical banks’ funds and bank foundations
  • European funds (e.g funds from Bruxelles, Urban Agenda 2021-2027, Horizon Europe, etc)
  • CdP (Cassa Depositi e Prestiti) investments

The fund will be deployed on innovative projects such as the Caserma Lupi di Toscana which is in line to be the prototyped-operation, consisting in the regeneration of a huge abandoned real-estate complex through the construction of more than 500 flats.

Participants, format and date

The objective to connect the work on social infrastructure to the theme of Urban infrastructure is possible thanks to the presence of long-term investment representants such as CdP and EIB, as well as patient investors that could act as developers in this kind of projects and representants of European programs for urban areas investment.

The event is built to synchronize two worlds that hardly meet; the social infrastructure and the urban infrastructure ones. The event will gather the Chief Economist of CdP, as well as Edoardo Reviglio, one of the editor of the Prodi-Fransen report on social infrastructure, the  CEO of Arpinge and key figure in long-term investment, Federico Merola, Gregorio Gitti, Civil Law Professor and Public-Private Partnership Expert, Fabrizio Barbiero, manager of the Co-City project within the Urban Innovative Actions initiative on public-private-people partnerships, Christian Iaione, member of the Urban Partnership on Innovative and Responsible Procurement. Have also been invited: high-level social politics experts as Lieve Fransen, Senior Adviser to European Policy Centre on Health, Social and Migration Policies and Ex-Manager of the Social Politics department of the European Commission and the Prof. Anton Hemerijck of the European University Institute as well as experts on types of long-term investment like the Dr. Scannapieco of the EIB.

The workshop will last 3 hours with an average of 20 minute talk for each participant, so as to allow time for the conclusions of the Prof. Romano Prodi who supervised the redaction of the “Boosting Investment in Social Infrastructure” report.

[1] L. Fransen, G. del Bufalo, E. Reviglio, Boosting Investment in Social Infrastructure in Europe, HLTF Force report on Investing in Social Infrastructure in Europe preceded by Romano Prodi and Christian Sautter Discussion Paper, 074, January 2018.

[2] The cities declaration for Adequate housing is available here: https://citiesforhousing.org/#section–0

[3] The final action plan of Urban Partnership on Housing is available here: https://ec.europa.eu/futurium/en/system/files/ged/final_action_plan_euua_housing_partnership_december_2018_1.pdf

[4] cf The Report of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context, available here: http://www.unhousingrapp.org/user/pages/04.resources/Thematic-Report-1-Human-Rights-Based-National-Housing-Strategies.pdf