New models to stop the housing and climate crises - Part 1

Alice HaughNazakat Azimli
ByAlice Haugh andNazakat Azimli

Housing continues to be the key issue in transitioning the built environment, as we look to identify fairer models which address housing crises at the same time as reducing the 21% of global greenhouse gas emissions which come from homes.  

It seems an intractable set of problems: Europe’s population is growing, our building stock is ageing, and we have 700,000 people reported homeless each night – but at the same time we have a climate emergency, with the carbon budget to build just 176,000 new homes per year – so we know we need to do more with less, since the most sustainable building is always the one which already exists.  

What’s becoming clear is that a climate-aligned future for Europe means a radical repurposing of our vacant buildings, with a focus on how that space becomes accessible and affordable for the residents who make our cities. We must move towards a future in which it is simply impossible to hoard space. A future in which existing built space is considered such a precious resource its owner must put it to maximum use – with serious penalties if not.  

The International Social Housing Festival (ISHF), held in Barcelona on 6-8 June, showcased how climate change and inequality are beginning to drive solutions in interesting and transformative ways.  

ISHF is the meeting place for equitable housing models in Europe, bringing together policymakers, housing providers, developers, researchers and advocates. Unsurprisingly, the tension between a need to provide more housing and the impossibility of building significantly more new housing while remaining within planetary boundaries, was at the centre of debates.  

Recent pushback against the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive from Italian and German representatives to the European Parliament has made clear that gaining broader public support for climate policies means coupling them with mechanisms that ensure the right to housing and tenure security for tenants – and that Brussels has a leadership role to play.  

The fact that housing policy is primarily a national responsibility in Europe has stood in the way of action to date – but the scale and omnipresence of the housing affordability crisis in Europe means it is no longer something the EU can ignore, according to Cédric Van Styvendael, Mayor of the Villeurbanne in France.  

In this pressing context, housing models that address both affordability and sustainability are desperately needed.  

In our next blog, we’ll explore some of those options, and mapping out of the ecosystem of solutions we have begun with Dark Matter Labs.

About the author

By Alice Haugh

Alice is an architect, urban designer and strategist specialised in the future of cities. She is currently based in Amsterdam, where she leads the work on social equity in the built environment at Laudes Foundation.

By Nazakat Azimli

Nazakat is an urbanist, strategist and researcher working in the intersection of political economy and urban transformations. She is currently based in Amsterdam, where she leads the work on shifting rules and policies with regards to decarbonization and ensuring social equity in the built environment at Laudes Foundation.

Built Environment