Renovation policies are a factor of social welfare, energy efficiency and economic progress. This is the main conclusion of the ‘Renovation Policies in Southern Europe’ session that brought together both experts and institutional representatives of several countries in order to exchange opinions and experiences on this matter, the past 25th of April at El Born Remembrance and Culture Centre.
Aware of the importance of these measures, Barcelona City Council has made a firm intent to promote renovation and is working on exploring new initiatives and raising public awareness.
For these very reasons the Council decided to organize this meeting in collaboration with other entities. Representatives of several institutions and international organizations assessed the measures enforced in different parts of Europe and their applicability in other territories in a round table and debate moderated by the Director of Operations of the Catalan Floor Institute, Elisabet Cirici.
Barcelona’s Innovative Policies
The presentation by Barcelona City Council’s Housing General Manager, Javier Burón, highlighted different innovative initiatives enforced by the municipal government to improve conditions of the City’s housing stock.
He explained that the Council has decided to “implement improvement policies beyond just promoting façade renovations” as was done in the past. Including a series of grants to aid people with economic difficulties to renovate the interior of their homes.
Burón also spoke of the renovation grants made available to owners looking to add their buildings to the Rental Stock. This measure is taken to dignify houses and also to raise availability of affordable rental housing in the City.
Lastly, he referenced the high complexity buildings renovation program, an initiative that provides special attention to buildings that are difficult to renovate and in a situation of social vulnerability. In addition to economic aid to improve accessibility and energy efficiency, the programme offers assistance to communities.
Urban Regeneration in Lisbon
The Housing and Local Development Counselor of Lisbon’s City Council, Rui Neves Bochmann Franco, presented some urban regeneration initiatives and efficiency measures promoted from the Council.
He spoke of the Boavista renovation project, an entire district of the Portuguese capital which is comprised solely of social housing in bad condition. Lisbon City Council began a renovation process that includes replacement of outer walls and improving thermal insulation of façades with cork.
Bochmann mentioned another project which has rebuilt several houses in the Alvenària neighbourhood following accessibility and sustainability criteria: sunlight is maximized, rainwater is collected and they are powered by solar panels, among other measures.
Lastly, the counselor explained an initiative that seeks for participating homes to reduce their energy consumption by 30%: the council sent a team of advisors that helped families to save energy and after six months training, consumption was significantly reduced.
Greece’s first renovation policies
On her part, the architect and advisor of the Greek Ministry of Social Security Dimitra Siatitsa presented an image of the housing situation in her country. According to her, the economic crisis translates to ten years stagnation of the construction sector. This has worsened the state of the housing stock, 55% of which was built before 1990.
This fact together with the non-existent public housing policies has left an ageing housing stock and the abandonment of an important part of housing in urban centres.
“Renovation is a challenge we need to rise to”, summed up the architect, and she went on to explain the first steps being taken by the institutions: they are developing regulations that will allow the Administration to renovate abandoned buildings and put them on the market with regulated prices and they are also trying to promote not-for-profit social housing initiatives.
Fighting against fuel poverty in oriental Europe
The representative of the non governmental organization Habitat for Humanity, Besim Nebiu, explained the renovation processes that his organization is promoting in Eastern Europe. According to his explanation, these territories have a large housing stock built by the State between 1950 and 1980, that are now in private ownership and that habitually cause fuel poverty situations.
These buildings aren’t energy-efficient and haven’t been maintained. These issues, together with the harsh climate in the area, causes huge energy consumption: “energy bills skyrocket in the colder months”, he assures.
With the goal of combating these cases of fuel poverty, Habitat for Humanity has created several projects to promote insulation and efficiency works, offering assistance to owners to apply for public and private funding and also advising them on optimising their energy consumption.
Renovation with social aims in Italy
The projects of Italian project Fondazione Housing Sociale, dedicated to the promotion and management of social housing, were the theme of another presentation during the session.
Its new director, Giordana Ferri, highlighted that the organization is fostering the construction of 20.000 homes throughout Italy intended for people that are unable to afford housing at the market price.
In addition to this, it presented two projects promoted by the cities of Milan and Ascoli Piceno to renovate abandoned historical buildings and create affordable rental housing and shelter flats for cases of social emergency.
The importance of the energy efficiency certificate
The representative of the Spanish School of Property Registrars, Paloma Lombardo, stated the importance of requesting the energy efficiency certificate of homes when building work or any other transaction is undergone.
This document includes the home’s energy efficiency rating and consumption, in addition to recommendations for improvement, which allows us to know if renovation measures should be adopted, for instance.
Lombardo also upheld the relevance of the property registry as a tool for controlling public housing by the Administration. “An effective measure would be to control public housing via the property registry.”, she stated.
The debate: the next challenge for renovation
After the presentations a debate was held in which both experts and members of the public took part.
During this segment, Barcelona City Council’s Housing General Manager, Javier Burón, stated that “most european cities are running out of space for new buildings” and therefore the next big challenge to meet from the housing sector will renovation on a large scale.
Burón also stated that we need to establish mechanisms to “keep prices under control”. In this sense, Lisbon’s Housing and Local Development Councilor, Rui Neves Bochmann Franco, highlighted the importance of strengthening the affordable public housing stock: “that’s the only way to maintain sustainable cities”, he assured.
Segment for experts
In addition to the round table that took place in the afternoon, during the morning several activities took place: a visit to one of the Municipal Institute of Housing and Renovation promotions and a round table to discuss financing renovation.
Representatives of the following City Councils and organizations took part: Barcelona and Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Social Housing Policies Managers Association of Catalonia , Spanish Association of Public Administrators of Housing and Floor, Housing Europe, the European Investment Bank, l’3R City Observatory and Federcasa.