Why ‘Collaborative Housing’?
Since the early 2000’s, many European countries have seen the development of a wide range of alternative or ‘user-led’ forms of housing provision, including the re-emergence of resident- or community led housing initiatives. These take a wide variety of shapes, including Community Land Trusts (CLTs), co-housing, different forms of self-organised housing, residents’ cooperatives, experimental work-life communities, ecological housing communities, new settlements based on (local) community asset ownership, self-building etc. Overall, features that run across these different types of initiatives include high levels of user/resident participation spanning the conception, development and management of the housing project, and the establishment of reciprocal relationships, mutual help and solidarity. Drivers that can be found frequently in these projects include high levels of environmental sustainability, mutual provision of care for the elderly, children and other people with special needs and/or, in some cases a redefinition of gender roles in the household. In addition, new drivers characterising large numbers of these initiatives in the post context of the global financial crisis are affordability and social inclusion. Furthermore, the recent proliferation of these projects can be seen to a large extent as a response to a perceived failure of institutional systems of housing provision to fulfil the above housing needs and aspirations of a growing number of households across Europe. All in all, the multi-dimensional nature of these projects requires the establishment of long-term collaborative relationships not only amongst residents but also between the latter and a wide range of external stakeholders. The umbrella term ‘collaborative housing’ encompasses the large variety of shapes that these projects can take. In view of the increasing level of activity in this field, both in practice and in academia, this new Working Group aims to bring together researchers from all over Europe (and beyond) to exchange on their work in order to create stronger synergies, seek collaboration opportunities and develop specific (and adequate) conceptual and methodological frameworks in this field.
The Working Group focuses on five central themes:
Wider social, economic and technological trends underpinning contemporary collaborative housing initiatives
This theme will address the overarching societal trends that may be driving current collaborative housing initiatives, as well as their mutually shaping relationships. These trends include socio-demographic developments such as ageing, the redefinition of gender roles, the environment and sustainability agenda, new lifestyles, increasing ethnic diversity, etc. Socio-economic developments to take into account include economic and financial downturns and their impact on housing markets and income levels of the population. Technological change such the increasing role of social media in self-organisation, the rise of the smart city paradigm and advances in sustainable construction and domestic/urban recycling systems, for example, can also be regarded as relevant drivers and shaping forces of these initiatives. Examples of research questions in these domains include:
What are the collective agendas and values underpinning different groups?
What is the sociological profile of these groups and, on that basis, their arrangements for collaboration and mutual aid?
(How) are these initiatives shaping wider social, economic and/or technological developments?
How are collaborative housing initiatives in different geographical contexts influenced by social, economic and technological trends?
The organisational dynamics of collaborative housing: management, stakeholders and networks
This theme addresses the variety of ways in which these initiatives and their participants are organised and structured, and how they re-structure as the specific projects progresses. It also looks at wider stakeholder relationships, networks and collaboration arrangements in which these initiatives take place. Possible research questions in this theme include:
What are the different types of legal and organisational forms that collaborative housing initiatives take in different countries?
How, under what conditions and to what extent do residents’ groups and institutions and / or professionals engage with each other in these initiatives?
To what extent do these experiences challenge the institutional practices of urban and housing professionals?
The links between collaborative housing initiatives and wider policy and institutional frameworks
This theme will deal with the degrees and types of embeddedness of collaborative housing initiatives in wider policy, legal and institutional frameworks in their respective countries. Possible research questions include:
(How) do these experiences link up with policy and legal frameworks in different European countries?
What does the (re-)emergence of these experiences tell us about changes in welfare systems and in housing policies in their respective countries?
What are the prospects for integrating or up-scaling this type of housing provision within mainstream provision systems?
Collaborative housing, urban planning and neighbourhood dynamics
This theme will look into the connections, synergies and tensions between the proliferation of collaborative housing initiatives and the wider neighbourhood and urban scales. Research questions relevant on this topic could include:
(How) are local planning regulations in different countries/cities enabling or hindering the development of collaborative housing initiatives?
What are the main synergies (actual and potential) between these housing initiatives and the urban and neighbourhood scales?
What are links between collaborative housing initiatives and socio-spatial cohesion?
Epistemological frameworks, methods and ethics in collaborative housing research
This last theme will seek to reflect on the specific epistemological and methodological frameworks that are most useful to research the different aspects of collaborative housing. In addition, it takes into account ethical considerations of potentially invasive methodologies used in this field (e.g. action research, participant observation, longitudinal ethnographic research, etc.). Such ethical questions relate to the boundaries between normative and empirical aspects of this research and the role of the researcher as militant/advocate and scientist.
Activities and output in recent years
- Special issue in Housing, Theory and Society on Collaborative Housing in Europe: Conceptualising the field.
- A consortium led by Leandro Madrazo Agudin (School of Architecture La Salle, Ramon Llull University, Barcelona), supported by several members of our Working Group, re-submitted the COST-Action proposal entitled “RE-AFFORD” in November 2019 (Results expected in March 2020).
- International Social Housing Festival, ‘Collaborative Housing Day’, Lyon, 5 June 2019 (France)
- The Working Group coordinators held a workshop entitled “Collaborative Housing Research in Europe: Themes, Questions and Trends” in cooperation with Urbamonde, the European Federation of Living (EFL) and Co-Lab Research.
- Workshop sessions: ENHR annual conference, Athens 2019
- Internationale Bauausstellung – IBA ResearchLab Symposium. Richard Lang participated at the panel discussion “The Social Dimension of Social Housing” which was organized during the “Internationale Bauausstellung – IBA ResearchLab Symposium” in Vienna, Austria, 16.09.2019.
- Conference “Tackling the Global Housing Challenges” (6.-7.12.2019). Darinka Czischke, Richard Lang and Jardar Sorvoll presented at the conference “Tackling the Global Housing Challenges” which was organised by ETH Wohnforum in Zurich.
- Working Group Collaborative Housing session at the ‘Urban contradictions’ conference, Paris, 28-30 March 2017.
- On March 28th 2017, the ‘Laboratoire Ville Urbanisme Environment’ LAVUE organised a one-day International Conference on Urban contradictions (www.lavue.cnrs. fr/actionsscientifiques/article/contradictions-urbaines-1). The event gathered researchers from different fields of study to explore some of the contradictions running through modern cities and metropolitan areas. 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 (www.enhr.net/collaborative.php) and the ‘Centre de recherche sur l’habitat’ CRH. More than 30 researchers on this subject came from all over Europe to attend this session and the one organized the day after and take part to the fieldtrips organised in Paris and in the suburb to visit collaborative housing experiments.
- Special issue in Housing, Theory and Society
- The discussions in Belfast (2016) raised the necessity to work on the conceptualisation of collaborative housing as a first step of future research on the topic. The Working Group co-ordinators launched a call for papers on ‘Collaborative housing in Europe: Conceptualising the field’ (call for papers here), which was subsequently accepted by the journal Housing, Theory and Society. A dedicated seminar of the Working Group was held at the TU Delft on 17 and 18 November 2016 to discuss the abstracts submitted for the special issue. The workshop was attended by over 30 participants and provided feedback to the authors whose abstracts were presented. The year 2017 was then dedicated to writing the papers. The Working Group coordinators (i.e. special issue guest editors) received 9 papers and conducted two rounds of peer reviews to provide feedback to authors for the improvement of their papers. The online submission for the blind peer review process is taking place from 30 October – 30 November. Publication of the special issue is planned for Fall 2018.
- Workshop sessions: ENHR annual conference, Tirana (Albania) 2017, Uppsala (Sweden) 2018 and Athens (Greece) 2019.
- The Working Group organised a new round of workshop sessions at the annual ENHR conference in Belfast (2016). A call for papers for this conference was published, with the view of laying the foundations for a joint research agenda on Collaborative Housing in Europe. Over 30 abstracts were received, out of which 21 papers were presented at the workshop sessions.
Future plans and activities
2019 ENHR conference, Nicosia (Greece)
The Working Group plans to organise a series of workshop sessions for the 2019 ENHR conference to be held in Nicosia, Cyprus. We invite abstracts related but not limited to the year’s ENHR conference topic, with a particular focus on the links between collaborative housing forms and housing in unstable contexts. In addition, the workshop coordinators would like to convene a special workshop session on the history of housing cooperatives. This special session (or sessions) will be co-ordinated by Jardar Sørvoll (Oslo Metropolitan University) and Richard Lang (Johannes Kepler University Linz).
- The Working Group facilitates comparative perspectives and exchanges of different views on collaborative housing. Outcomes of workshops should influence discussions in relevant scholarly, professional and policy communities as well as to identify directions for concrete action. First cooperation links have already been made with social housing federations especially in France and in the Netherlands. These federations are very interested in collaborations with researchers on this topic to help them to engage in European knowledge transfer for innovative practices of development and management of collaborative housing schemes.
The group will continue to discuss the following activities and ideas: Further joint publication opportunities:
- Further joint publication opportunities
- Joint research funding proposals (e.g. Horizon 2020, COST Action proposals, national funding bodies, other European funding opportunities, etc.)
- Building links with other existing networks/projects in the field e.g. the European network of co-housing researchers, Urbamonde etc. Professional networks such as social housing federations are also concerned
- Fostering links to practice and policy through the organisation of joint events e.g. seminar series, workshops, etc.