Housing Europe Observatory and The State of the Housing in Europe

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Housing Europe Observatory and The State of the Housing in Europe

Policies and regulations Data and monitoring Evaluation and impact

Main objectives of the project

The Housing Europe Observatory, it serves as a key resource for data, statistics, and best practices in public, cooperative, and social housing across the continent. Their biennial "State of Housing in Europe" report provides comprehensive insights into housing conditions continent-wide, with each edition focusing on a specific theme.

Date

  • 1998: Implementation

Stakeholders

  • Housing Europe

Location

Continent: Europe
Country/Region: Belgium, Brussels

Description

Housing Europe, the European Federation of Public, Cooperative, and Social Housing, has been a pivotal network since its establishment in 1988, comprising 42 national and regional federations, along with 15 partnering organizations across 31 European countries. Collectively, they oversee approximately 25 million homes, representing about 11% of the continent's existing dwellings. Their collective vision entails ensuring access to decent and affordable housing for all, fostering socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable communities that empower individuals to realize their full potential.

The Housing Europe Observatory, initiated over 25 years ago, serves as the research arm of the Federation and serves as a primary source for data, statistics, and key insights into public, cooperative, and social housing throughout Europe. The Observatory produces specialized reports covering various aspects such as social housing for young people, addressing vacant housing, financing social housing projects, and accommodating aging populations within social housing complexes. These reports are enriched with exemplary practices drawn from Housing Europe's partners.

A cornerstone of their research efforts is the biennial "State of Housing in Europe" report, which provides a comprehensive overview of housing conditions across European countries. Each edition focuses on a specific theme; for instance, the 2023 report delved into the role of public, cooperative, and social housing in facilitating a fair energy transition and mitigating the impacts of the current cost of living crisis on residents and communities.

Together, the Housing Europe Observatory and the "State of Housing in Europe" report serve as vital sources of information, offering unparalleled insights into the functioning and performance of the social housing sector across Europe.

RENOLUTION and IRISbox online one-stop-shop solutions to vacant buildings, Brussels-Capital Region

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RENOLUTION and IRISbox online one-stop-shop solutions to vacant buildings, Brussels-Capital Region

Mismatches Functional adequacy Vacant housing
Policies and regulations Local policies Governance

Main objectives of the project

In Brussels, leaving a residential property vacant for over 12 months is illegal, with hefty fines enforced by dedicated units. To encourage property utilization, measures like involving Social Rental Agencies and providing renovation grants have been introduced. However, accessing support was challenging due to numerous programs. To simplify, all schemes were consolidated under RENOLUTION, linked to IRISbox, easing identification and application processes. These efforts reduce complexity and administrative burdens, motivating owners to refurbish and occupy their vacant properties.

Date

Stakeholders

  • Brussels-Capital Region

Location

Continent: Europe
Country/Region: Belgium, Brussels

Description

In the Brussels-Capital Region of Belgium, leaving a residential property vacant for over 12 months is against the law and can lead to significant fines. Dedicated units within the Region focus on identifying and prosecuting owners of such properties. However, this process can be time-consuming and costly. To address this, alternative measures have been introduced to encourage property owners to utilize their vacant properties. One option is to entrust the management of the property to a Social Rental Agency (SRA), providing housing for low-income households. Another approach is to offer special home renovation grants, especially beneficial for properties that don't meet decent standards.

Over time, the number of available grants and public supports for renovation and maintenance has increased, resulting in difficulty for property owners, including public housing providers, in identifying and accessing assistance opportunities. To streamline this process, two significant actions were taken. Firstly, all available schemes were consolidated under one umbrella called RENOLUTION. This centralized platform offers a clear, searchable catalog of support schemes along with administrative support services. Secondly, RENOLUTION was linked to IRISbox, the Brussels Region's online platform for public assistance programs. Through IRISbox, users can easily identify available schemes and swiftly submit applications for support.

These initiatives have significantly reduced the complexity and administrative burden associated with accessing public supports for renovation and building improvement activities. For owners of vacant properties, this streamlined approach could make a substantial difference in facilitating the necessary improvements to bring their properties back into use.

Right of Public Administration for vacant dwellings, Brussels-Capital Region

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Right of Public Administration for vacant dwellings, Brussels-Capital Region

Mismatches Vulnerable groups Vacant housing
Policies and regulations Local policies Regulation Global frameworks
Ownership and tenure

Main objectives of the project

Since 2003, Brussels have the "Right of Public Administration". This allows municipal authorities to manage and renovate vacant private properties, renting them out at reduced rates. Reforms in 2022 aimed to enhance this system, requiring owners to reimburse costs and ensure affordable rent for low-income households.

Date

  • 2003: Implementation
  • 2022: Implementation

Stakeholders

  • Brussels-Capital Region

Location

Continent: Europe
Country/Region: Belgium, Brussels

Description

Brussels is taking the problem of vacant housing seriously. In Brussels, leaving a residential property vacant for over 12 months is illegal, with hefty fines enforced by dedicated units. They also do have incentives for refurbishment by the private, such as RENOLUTION. Yet, since 2003, legislation in the Brussels-Capital Region of Belgium has granted the "Right of Public Administration" (Le droit de gestion publique) for vacant dwellings. This grants municipal authorities the authority to temporarily assume management of unoccupied or dilapidated housing, facilitating renovation if necessary, and subsequently renting it out at a reduced below-market rate for a nine-year period. All associated costs are covered through the rent collected. This right can be exercised voluntarily with the property owner's agreement or forcibly if the owner fails to take steps to restore the property.

In 2022, the Regional Parliament undertook reforms to the Right of Public Administration system. The aim was to rejuvenate the program, clarify certain aspects, and bolster others. Changes include stipulations that the property owner can reclaim the property from the municipality or the current managing entity only after fully reimbursing all incurred costs associated with bringing the property back into use and its subsequent management. Moreover, owners must commit to charging rent in line with the sub-market rates set by the municipality and make the property available exclusively to eligible low-income households. Regardless of the managing entity, the below-market rent is fixed for nine years following the initiation of the Right of Public Administration.

Nevertheless, the utilization of the Right has been infrequent by public authorities in the Region, at least until recently. This is partly due to the lengthy requisition process, as owners typically rehabilitate the property before reaching the stage where municipal control would be enacted. Thus, it could be inferred that the perceived credible threat of action is adequate in achieving the desired outcome of reducing the quantity of vacant homes.

Collectief Goed, Antwerp

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Collectief Goed, Antwerp

Mismatches Price Functional adequacy Vulnerable groups
Policies and regulations Public-private initiatives Participatory processes
Promotion and production Cooperatives
Ownership and tenure Shared ownership Protection of social housing

Main objectives of the project

With a scarcity of affordable housing in Flanders, Collectief Goed stands out as a beacon of hope for families in need. By acquiring and renovating vacant homes through a cooperative approach, they've provided secure, affordable housing for 35 large families since 2015. Their emphasis on tenant participation and empowerment underscores their commitment to addressing housing inequality and fostering community ownership

Date

  • 2007: Implementation

Stakeholders

  • Collectief Goed
  • De Ideale Woning

Location

Continent: Europe
Country/Region: Antwerp, Belgium

Description

In Flanders, approximately 180,000 children are trapped in poverty, facing the harsh reality of inadequate housing options. While purchasing a home is out of reach for these families, finding decent and affordable rentals in the private market is equally challenging. With only 6% of the housing market consisting of social housing, the demand far exceeds the limited supply, resulting in a staggering waiting list of 130,000 families. As a consequence, many families are forced into substandard living conditions—crowded, deteriorating homes that pose health risks, inflate utility bills, and exacerbate stress levels, leaving little capacity to tackle additional challenges.

Recognizing this dire situation, De Ideale Woning, a social housing company in Antwerp, spearheaded the creation of Collectief Goed, a cooperative aimed at enhancing the living standards of low-income individuals. In collaboration with three other organizations, Collectief Goed embarked on a mission to provide affordable housing with a strong emphasis on tenant participation and empowerment. Their strategy revolves around acquiring, renovating, and renting vacant houses tailored to accommodate large families on modest budgets.

Collectief Goed is born out of the initiative of individuals who have personally experienced the hardships of poverty. They confronted various issues, foremost among them the lack of affordable and suitable housing, and united to address these challenges collectively. Through their efforts, Collectief Goed has substantially improved housing conditions for its members, offering completely renovated homes with secure, long-term, and affordable rental contracts. This newfound stability serves as a cornerstone for addressing broader societal issues. Moreover, Collectief Goed collaborates closely with tenants, fostering their self-development and empowerment.

In the face of a severe shortage of affordable housing, many properties lie vacant. Collectief Goed seeks to remedy this by acquiring, renovating, and making these properties available to vulnerable families at affordable rates through an innovative cooperative housing model. To keep renovation costs low without compromising quality, Collectief Goed employs creative renovation techniques and engages technical schools and social economy workers in the process. Additionally, materials are procured collectively, and the project leverages various subsidies and premiums. Importantly, tenants are actively involved in every stage of the process as shareholders in the cooperative.

Financing for Collectief Goed's initiatives comes from a mix of sources. The founders initially invested startup capital, supplemented by private investors who purchase shares. Properties are acquired in exchange for shares and subordinated loans, while bank loans finance renovations. Tenant rent serves as another revenue stream. With a target of owning and renting out 75 homes to break even, Collectief Goed has made significant strides since its inception in 2015, providing quality, affordable housing to 35 large families with limited incomes. The relevant part, as we mentioned, is that these families are not just tenants; they are integral members of the cooperative, with opportunities to become shareholders and co-owners, demonstrating the efficacy of the model in preserving social housing stock and catering to underserved demographics. Importantly, residents feel deeply connected to their homes and the cooperative, reinforcing the sense of community and ownership.

Social Rental Agencies in Belgium

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Social Rental Agencies in Belgium

Mismatches Vulnerable groups Vacant housing
Policies and regulations National policies Local policies
Financing
Ownership and tenure Rental and temporary tenure

Main objectives of the project

Social rental intermediation, although initially seeming paradoxical, offers a solution to the pressing need for affordable housing by incentivizing private landlords to make their properties accessible to vulnerable populations. This approach, with deep roots in Belgium and gaining traction across Europe, establishes a link between private landlords and marginalized individuals, facilitated by public or nonprofit intermediaries. These intermediaries provide incentives to landlords, such as rent guarantees and maintenance support, while assuming financial risks. Despite being primarily funded by public resources, social rental agencies have become attractive investments due to tax benefits and steady income streams. In Belgium, successful implementation has led to significant growth in housing units managed by Social Rental Agencies, particularly in Brussels where government incentives drive investment.

Date

  • 1997: Implementation

Stakeholders

  • Social Rental Agencies

Location

Continent: Europe
Country/Region: Belgium, Brussels

Description

Initially, the notion of utilizing private rental housing for social purposes may appear paradoxical. After all, private housing is owned by individuals or entities expecting a return on their investment, rather than serving as a substitute for social landlords. However, in Belgium, a significant portion (70%) of private landlords are small-scale operators. Moreover, the private rental sector increasingly accommodates modest households, with over a quarter of European households dedicating more than 40% of their income to housing. This underscores the relevance and necessity of addressing social concerns within the private rental market as a matter of public policy. Even with political will to invest in and construct more social housing, several years would be necessary to realize such endeavors.

A solution to this challenge is social rental intermediation, a relatively novel approach in Europe but one with deep roots in Belgium. The concept involves incentivizing private property owners to make portions of their rental stock more affordable and accessible to vulnerable populations. Social rental intermediation establishes a connection between private landlords and individuals typically excluded from the housing market. This intermediary, often a public entity or nonprofit organization funded by public resources, offers incentives to landlords who agree to rent their properties at reasonable rates. In return, landlords benefit from guarantees related to rent payment and property maintenance. Conditions typically include granting the social rental agency discretion in selecting tenants and setting rents below market rates. The Social Rental Agency (SRA) assumes financial risks associated with unpaid rents and property upkeep. This may entail assistance with renovation management and other incentives, such as tax advantages. Beneficiary households can access social support services as needed, typically coordinated by the organization operating the SRA.

In Belgium, SRAs were established in the late 1970s and have since become institutionalized. For example, the SRA Logement pour Tous in Brussels originated as an initiative of a nonprofit organization to assist migrant families facing discrimination in finding affordable housing with the aid of social workers. These agencies have been supported by government sponsorship since housing legislation formalized their role in 1997.

SRAs are primarily funded through public sources, presenting a challenge. However, they have become an attractive investment for property owners, rental agencies, and government entities due to the shifting of financial risks and the assurance of steady income and tax benefits. In Brussels, significant investments, encouraged by fiscal incentives, are being made in constructing rental properties for intermediation purposes. This policy has proven successful in Belgium, with SRAs adding 6,500 units in the past four years alone.

In Brussels, 23 SRAs manage 5,500 housing units, with an annual growth rate of 10%. The success can be attributed to regional government incentives, including tax exemptions and reduced VAT rates on new dwellings. Major corporations are undertaking large-scale projects, often involving the construction of hundreds of units, presenting a significant opportunity for SRAs to rapidly expand their housing inventory. However, the incentives in Brussels typically require the availability of units to rental agencies for only 15 years.

Rental intermediation serves as a valuable short-term solution for rapidly increasing affordable housing stock. It taps into an essential segment of the housing system that may not otherwise be fully utilized and can enhance value through renovation, mobilization of private stock, and combating discrimination. However, it should be viewed as a temporary measure and not a substitute for social housing, which provides a long-term safeguard for affordable housing stock.

Census of homeless people in Belgium

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Census of homeless people in Belgium

Mismatches Vulnerable groups
Policies and regulations Governance Data and monitoring Evaluation and impact

Main objectives of the project

Belgium, in alignment with the Lisbon Declaration of June 2021, is committed to tackling homelessness by 2030, emphasizing the importance of data-driven strategies. The King Baudouin Foundation, along with research teams and local authorities, has developed a standardized methodology for counting homeless individuals, spanning urban and rural areas. Initial findings surpassed expectations, totaling over 16,000 individuals. The data informs annual reports accessible to all, while qualitative interviews aim to deepen understanding and inform effective solutions.

Date

  • 2020: Implementation

Stakeholders

  • King Baudouin Foundation
  • LUCAS KULeuven

Location

Continent: Europe
Country/Region: Belgium, Leuven

Description

In June 2021, Belgium endorsed the Lisbon Declaration, pledging to address homelessness by 2030 through systemic measures. A key aspect highlighted in the Declaration is the necessity for these measures to be grounded in accurate data to effectively guide policymakers.

Since 2020, the King Baudouin Foundation has been actively involved in collaboration with research teams from UCLouvain and LUCAS KULeuven, along with over 100 local authorities, in devising a standardized methodology for counting individuals experiencing homelessness in Wallonia and Flanders. The Foundation aims to extend this methodology nationwide to ensure consistent and recurrent counts across Belgium. The Netherlands has also expressed interest in this approach, which was successfully piloted there earlier this year.

The initial census took place in Leuven and subsequently expanded to Limburg, Ghent, Arlon, and Liège. This methodology goes beyond merely tallying individuals sleeping on the streets; it encompasses the entire spectrum of homelessness classifications outlined in ETHOS Light. This broader approach considers individuals residing in institutions, unconventional dwellings, or temporary accommodations with family, friends, or acquaintances. Thus, the census delves deeper than surface-level assessments.

In 2022, efforts were made to extend the census beyond urban centers to encompass rural areas as well. In Flanders, six zones were involved: Boom-Mechelen-Lier, Bruges Arrondissement, Midwest, Middenkust, Kempen Zorgregio, and Waasland. Counts were also conducted in the German-speaking Community, Tournai, and Walloon Brabant. The combined tally from these areas exceeded 16,000 unhoused and homeless individuals, surpassing initial expectations. However, this data now provides a basis for informed action.

The findings are published annually in a comprehensive report accessible to any interested administration or individual citizen. Moreover, the census team is now conducting interviews to gain insights into the pathways to homelessness. This qualitative approach aims to inform the development of innovative solutions.

Maison Biloba Huis - Housing for senior citizens

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Maison Biloba Huis - Housing for senior citizens

Mismatches Cultural suitability Diversity Vulnerable groups New family structures
Promotion and production Public-private partnerships Cooperatives

Main objectives of the project

The Biloba House in Brussels, Belgium, is dedicated to providing a shared, solidarity-based living environment that fosters multiculturalism and intergenerational connections within the local community. Designed primarily for independent older individuals from diverse backgrounds, the house offers approximately 15 individual living spaces equipped with private kitchens, living areas, and bathrooms, along with shared facilities for communal activities, cooking, and relaxation, complemented by a small garden. Additionally, the Biloba project extends its services beyond accommodation, encompassing a range of offerings such as care center for seniors experiencing isolation and seeking companionship, open to residents of all ages. Alongside accommodation, the project provides support services including midday meals, household assistance, and various leisure activities, enriching the overall living experience and promoting a sense of belonging and community engagement. A center open to the community and for the community.

Date

  • 2016: Construction

Stakeholders

  • SLRB
  • Constructor: E.MM.A
  • Promotor: Le Foyer Schaerbeek

Location

Continent: Europe
Country/Region: Belgium, Brussels

Description

In pursuit of diversifying the social housing landscape, the Brussels government tasked SLRB, the overseeing body of the Brussels social housing sector, with fostering innovative projects that address specific housing needs. This directive led to the creation of the Biloba House, a unique initiative situated in the heart of a vibrant Brussels neighborhood. Biloba House stands as a pioneering model of community housing tailored specifically for the elderly demographic.

The genesis of the Biloba project stemmed from a poignant observation: many senior citizens, often immigrants with decades-long ties to the neighborhood, were grappling with unmet housing needs. In response, Biloba was conceived with the objective of galvanizing active participation from seniors, their families, and the broader community to enhance overall quality of life and housing standards, enabling seniors to age in place within their familiar surroundings.

Comprising 15 senior housing units, alongside a communal space and day care center on the ground floor open to all residents, Biloba House serves as a hub where neighborhood seniors assume active roles as integral members of the community. It is a sanctuary where social connections flourish, fostering a sense of belonging and shared responsibility among inhabitants. Functioning as both a meeting point and a sanctuary, Biloba ensures that its residents, whether residing within its walls or within their own homes, age gracefully and with dignity.

Central to the ethos of Biloba House are deeply ingrained values of autonomy, freedom, respect, benevolence, self-sufficiency, and solidarity, as outlined in the residents' charter. The local social housing entity, Le Foyer Schaerbeek, oversees housing management and construction, while the E.MM.A. association manages the day care center and communal space.

Perhaps most notably, Biloba's integrated approach succeeds in retaining the aging population within their familiar environs, avoiding displacement from places where they have established enduring roots. This preservation of community ties underscores the project's significance in ensuring dignified aging for its residents.

Gent knapt op - Innovative ways to finance housing renovations

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Gent knapt op - Innovative ways to finance housing renovations

Mismatches Financing Vulnerable groups
Financing Public funding Supply subsidies Progressive financing

Main objectives of the project

“Gent knapt op” was born as the UIA project ICCARus (Improving housing Conditions for CAptive Residents) in Ghent (Belgium). The main goal of the project was to set up a new and innovative way of financing renovation projects of those residents “captive” in low-quality houses. In other words, to help low-income households that cannot foster a renovation, a recurring fund was set up.

Date

  • 2020: En proceso

Stakeholders

  • Constructor: Ghent City Hall

Location

Continent: Europe
Country/Region: Belgium, Ghent

Description

Many people in Ghent are living in low-quality housing units that urgently need renovation. Due to limited budgets, they are stuck in unsafe houses, not energy-efficient and not adapted to people’s physical needs. ‘Caught’ in bad living conditions, they are called ‘captive residents’. Currently, 10.000 households in Ghent are captive residents, which corresponds to 6.000 houses. In this context, the Ghent City Hall faced an urban emergency with little ability to intervene. Many of those captive residents did not fulfill the criteria for renovation grands. So, innovative ways of financing their renovation needed to be found.

Drawing on the Dampoort Knapt Op’ 2015 experience, Ghent set up “Gent knapt op”, with the help of the UIA project ICCARus. The main goal was starting a “recurring fund”. How does this fund work? The project provides for a maximum of 30,000 euros to renovate the house. This fund should be returned. However, the innovation is that it is only returned once the building or the house is sold (or alienated, donated…) to a third party. Once the house is sold, the fund earns the surplus of the selling so they can invest in a new renovation. In this way, the public investment fund can be used over and over again to tackle the low housing quality of vulnerable homeowners.

How is the value to repay calculated? If the value of the house at the moment of repayment is higher than the initial value of the house, plus the value of the contribution adjusted for inflation, then the added value is divided between the owner and the Public Center of Social Welfare. The percentage is based on the ratio between the value of the house before the renovation and the financial contribution. The Public Center of Social Welfare takes a mortgage on the house to ensure that the financial contribution will be paid back.

Apart from the fund, the project also gives guidance to the owners that are in the program. The social and technical help is imperative while renovating the house, so the owners feel secure and heard during the process.

Care and Living in Community (CALICO)

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Care and Living in Community (CALICO)

Policies and regulations Land Public-private initiatives Participatory processes
Promotion and production Self-management Self-promotion Cooperatives
Ownership and tenure Shared ownership

Main objectives of the project

The core activity of CALICO is the construction of 34 housing units and the establishment of a Community Land Trust (CLT) in Brussels, which provides an innovative model of community-managed housing. Moreover, CALICO is also an experiment in creating a ‘Community Care Model’, in which people interact at different liminal stages of life – birth, old age and the end of life. This addresses the ‘hyper-specialisation’ and ‘hyper-sectoralisation’ of care in Belgium and is directed towards organising care provided within neighbourhoods by its members, instead of institutions.

Date

  • 2021: Construction

Stakeholders

  • Promotor: Community Land Trust Bruxelles
  • Promotor: CALICO

Location

Country/Region: Belgium, Brussels

Description

The Brussels-Capital Region (BCR) is currently facing a set of challenges regarding housing. Its dwellings have a low quality standard and there is a lack of social housing availability. These issues need to be added to an increase in rent due to speculative practices. Undeniably, all these challenges have a greater impact on vulnerable groups such as aging population or women. For them, the housing crisis is an addition to how an exclusion in the decision-making process, an institutionalized care system and at-risk situations due to poverty or isolation. For these reasons, there was a need to install a non-speculative model of housing that could provide the needed care for vulnerable groups from the community of neighbors.

Thus, 34 housing units were built following a Community Land Trust (CLT) scheme. This model ensures the financial accessibility of housing by separating ownership of land from ownership of buildings and providing measures to limit the speculative resale of assets. Historically, CLTs have been used in the United States and the United Kingdom, but they are an innovative practice in continental Europe, including Belgium. Importantly, CALICO focuses not only on the organizational and legal foundations of the CLT, but also on the community dimension of its inhabitants’ lives. This is obtained by including inhabitants in estate management and providing tools for deliberation and physical spaces for interaction (common and service areas).

How does a CLT work? Basically, the CLT in Brussels is a non-profit organisation, that share three basic principles: separation of ownership of land and buildings, permanent affordability of housing for low-income households via a formula that limits the increase in value of the property, and joint governance between owner, inhabitants, and local government. The land is considered to be collective property, while households individually acquire buildings for a lower price than in a standard real estate transaction. The Brussels CLT is made up of two organisations: the Brussels CLT Public Utility Foundation, which owns the land on which the housing units will be built, and the ASBL Brussels CLT, which is in charge of the daily management of the foundation’s assets. The ASBL Board of Directors has tripartite representation: building residents, people from the surrounding community (inhabitants and associations) and appointed representatives from the Brussels-Capital Region each having one-third of the seats. Apart from CLTB, CALICO includes two cooperative schemes (Pass-ages and Angela.D) in the project that manage some of the housing units, one focusing on women and the other on elderly people. The three organisation are now part of the CALICO association, that is in charge of the communal spaces and the development of the community.

Yet, CALICO is also an experiment in creating a ‘Community Care Model’, in which people interact at different liminal stages of life – birth, old age and the end of life. It will target certain social groups in particular, single mothers, the elderly and low-income families. The development of this new housing is founded on a participatory and inclusive approach. The CALICO project will offer services from birth to the end of life, as well as mutual support by the residents. By bringing different population groups and different functions together in the same project, and by strengthening social cohesion, both within the project and within the neighbourhood, CALICO opens a new model of housing policy.

Soap factory Heymans

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Soap factory Heymans

Policies and regulations
Urban Design
Promotion and production
Ownership and tenure

Main objectives of the project

The Savonnerie Heymans complex reflects a truly sustainable approach by recreating a real new neighbourhood of 42 low-energy and passive social accommodations including apartments, lofts, duplexes and Maisonettes.

Date

  • 2010: Rehabilitación

Stakeholders

  • Architect: Marie Moignot
  • Architect: Xavier de Wil
  • Architect: Gilles Debrun

Location

City: Bruxelles
Country/Region: Belgium, Brussels

Description

Winning scheme of a European competition organised by the developer, the Savonnerie Heymans complex reflects a truly sustainable approach by recreating a real new neighbourhood of 42 low-energy and passive social accommodations including apartments, lofts, duplexes and Maisonettes. Although a 100% public housing scheme, thanks to the diversity of its program the Savonnerie Heymans provides a variety of spaces echoing the diversity of the people living in the very heart of Brussels. Glass-enclosed bioclimatic loggias characterise the entire complex, providing an effective acoustical and thermal barrier but also providing a sense of privacy.

On the 6,500m² site of a former soap factory less than half a mile from the Grand’Place, the social housing project creates a real “village” of 42 sustainable accommodations of different types including studios, 1 to 6-bedroom apartments, lofts, duplexes and Maisonettes.

Although a 100% public housing scheme, thanks to the diversity of its program the Savonnerie Heymans provides a variety of spaces echoing the diversity of the people living in the very heart of Brussels. Glass-enclosed bioclimatic loggias characterise the entire complex, providing an effective acoustical and thermal barrier but also providing a sense of privacy.

Considering Brussels’ rapid growth in population, the scheme features high density accommodations equipped with amenities such as a room for social meetings and events, a crèche and extensive public space: the “Mini-forest” garden, the 3D landscaped park and playground and the main promenade.

All the existing valuable - but not listed - historic buildings and elements such as the chimney, the main 19th century house on the street and the postal relay were retained and integrated into the complex (the 40m high chimney, for example, was used as part of the underground garage ventilation system).

The glass-enclosed bioclimatic loggias provide each housing unit with a state-of-the-art acoustical and thermal barrier requiring no expensive/complicated services to run and lowering considerably energy consumption. The Loft building has been treated one step further as thanks to super-tight insulation, the building is now considerate “Passive” and requires less than 15 Kw/m2 per year to heat.
Located on the site of a former soap factory, the decontaminated land now welcomes a high-density social housing complex that provides a series of private outdoor spaces allowing its occupants to interact easily with each other and creating a convivial, village-like atmosphere.

The scheme was intentionally developed around the concepts of sustainable development (socially, economically and environmentally) and relies on low-serviced buildings. The glass-enclosed bioclimatic loggias provide each housing unit with a buffer acting as a state-of-the-art insulation tool lowering considerably energy consumption and protecting from the city centre noises. They also allow sharing the variety of arrangements of the semi outdoor space of each individual unit.
Beside the loggias, the scheme also features a collective heating system for the entire site (cogeneration), sanitary hot water heated by 60m² of solar panels, rainwater harvesting and natural materials for insulation (hemp fibres, expanded cork etc.). Whenever possible, existing buildings and structures have been retained and reused.