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The winners of the European Responsible Housing Awards in 2022

Making the extra step in extraordinary circumstances

More than 180 social and affordable housing providers, representatives of tenant organisations, policymakers, and academics celebrated the 2022 European Responsible Housing Awards ceremony that took place on the 17th of June in Helsinki during the International Social Housing Festival (ISHF).

Marie Linder, President of the International Union of Tenants (IUT) started by saying that the Awards and the gratitude to social and affordable housing providers are needed more than ever because even if the pandemic has intensified the existing housing crisis, not-for-profit housing providers have remained loyal to their mission – to support tenants in times when many households are confronted with increasing challenges, such as increase of rents and security of tenure. She stressed that new solutions are needed to inspire the housing sector. Bent Madsen, President of Housing Europe, highlighted that every application is a winner in one way or another, as inspiration and examples to look up to are  essential for the sector. He then did a quick tour of what each awards category stands for and encouraged the audience to spread the innovative examples that were presented. Anne Behlouli, representing Delphis, highlighted how the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) holistic approach and the Code of Conduct, created specifically for the European Responsible Housing Initiative [former ERHA] have a guiding role and are helping housing providers to commit and integrate CSR into their business strategies. The Code of Conduct remains a go-to document for any public, cooperative, community-led, social housing provider to subscribe to.

Five jury members did their best to summarise the essence of each category as well as to underline the strengths of the 23 finalists. See below for a quick overview of the winners and read the 2022 Handbook that brings all 23 projects together.

Category 1 – Fair financing for housing affordability

Sander Scheurwater, Head of Public Affairs Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Africa, from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in Brussels, began by reminding that this category stands for highlighting sustainable investments, minimising housing costs, and mitigating real estate speculation, all elements needed now more than ever to tackle the housing crisis.

Winner: Yes We Rent! - Leveraging vacant private property to build up a cooperative affordable housing scheme | Mataró City Council, Spain 

“Lloguem!/ Yes We Rent” aims at generating an accessible housing stock targeting low-to-medium income households using properties that have been left empty and off the market. With the offer of guaranteed rent and financial and organisational support to renovate their properties, the project incentivises risk-averse owners to rent to the affordable housing scheme at below-market prices.

In this way, “Lloguem!/ Yes We Rent” tackles a double challenge – to bridge the gap between "people without flats, and flats without people” in a context where the housing market is highly deregulated, owner-occupied housing dominates (75%), and the rental market is both small (19%) and highly volatile.

An essential contribution to the project was the € 2,5 million EU funding through the Urban Innovative Action (UIA) programme. For the moment, 265 social housing units are available and Barcelona plans to add new flats to the scheme by October this year. An event will be organised on the 22nd of September to show the first results.

Read more here:

Link to video

Category 2 – More than a roof – supporting communities of equal opportunities

György Sumeghy, Associate Director, Policy and Advocacy Europe, Middle East and Africa, at Habitat for Humanity International, based in Bratislava, presented the  category that focuses on the social aspect of housing and the one that received the most applications.

Winner: Achtercairn, Gairloch: Regenerating A Rural Highland Community | Communities Housing Trust, Scotland 

Communities across the Highlands in Scotland have suffered depopulation, loss of services, and have been faced with challenges of increasing tourism and house prices. The small village of Gairloch sits on the coast of Wester Ross has about 750 inhabitants who benefit from a community-led development tailored to local and long-term needs coordinated by the Communities Housing Trust (CHT).

Achtercairn is a real community-driven project which is providing numerous benefits for the inhabitants, such as employment opportunities, meeting space, and a local café with a circular idea and beyond all: affordable homes. In terms of the next steps, the local community company is already looking for opportunities on how to replicate the project in other communities.

Read more here:

Link to video

Category 3 – Leaders of innovation, agents of fair energy transition

Zeno Winkels, Director of the Dutch Union of Tenants in Amsterdam, said it was difficult to only choose five innovative projects from the category that aims at reducing the environmental footprint of our housing stock through construction and retrofitting, to the highest standard possible, within the financial means of the housing provider and those of the tenants or the residents.

Winner: Bertelotte student residence: Bio-based transformation of office space into student accommodation, Paris | Paris Habitat, France

The transformation of the unused office building into the Bertelotte student residence was the opportunity for Paris Habitat to innovate in terms of construction practices and to contribute to the achievement of its climate commitments.

The project tackled different matters at the same time: technical innovation (bio-based material was used for the renovation), transformation of the building, and quality of life by investing into large common spaces for students and providing affordable rent price. The project team is already looking at how to apply this same approach to carry out the transformation of garages into affordable housing.

Read more here:

Link to video

Category 4 – Building strategic alliances, fostering community participation

Michaela Kauer, Director of the Vienna House Brussels, Co-Coordinator of the EU Urban Agenda Partnership for Housing stressed that this category focuses particularly on good governance in the housing sector.

Winner: Empowering tenants to co-create a strategic urban transformation, Aalborg | Himmerland Boligforening, Denmark

Himmerland Boligforening believes that renovations alone are not enough to change a city district. Therefore, it has been important for them to integrate the tenants in the strategic city development as well as to make them active city planners. As a housing organisation, their philosophy has been to use a bottom-up approach where everyone involved helps to better each other. In this case, they have brought together tenants, local businesses, associations, and the municipality to work together to create a city district which can accommodate everyone’s needs and wants. The renovation included an extensive refurbishment of a total of 1.100 residences that has resulted into up to a 50% reduction in energy use after the renovation.

The core of the project was the partnership between the Mayor and Himmerland Boligforening. As the Director of Himmerland Boligforening, Ole Nielsen said during the ceremony, “we could not have had the project without the mayor and the mayor cannot have an urban transformation without us.”

Read more here:

Link to video

Category 5-Going the extra mile in extraordinary circumstances

Maja Staleska, President of the Housing and Tenants Organisation in Skopje, highlighted that even during the hardest times, we can do much more and be creative to help the community.

Winner: Arriving Home. A sustainable initiative on combatting homelessness in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vienna | GBV Austrian Federation of Limited-Profit Housing Associations and BAWO

Due to the financial consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, many more people became vulnerable and even homeless. The project has helped solving this issue by financing tenants’ contributions upfront and allocating apartments in a participatory way.

The number of partners in the project also added to the complexity of the initiative. In total, 50 associations, 12 social services, and 50 people prepared the scheme within a short 3-month timeframe while the Ministry of social affairs provided extra funding.

The biggest immediate impact of the project was the quality of life of tenants. More than 500 people benefitted from the scheme, more than half of which were women. The team is already planning the continuation and mainstreaming of Housing First for the whole country. As Gerlinde Gutheil-Knopp-Kirchwald, Advisor of GbV and a Housing Europe member rightly said, “it’s time to not only tackle homelessness but finally end it.”

Read more here:

Link to video

Congratulations to all the finalists and winners!

And many thanks to this year's sponsors: Gold - European Investment Bank and Bronze Council of Europe Development Bank.

Feel free to check out the European Responsible Housing Initiative website for more updates. The recording of the ceremony is available here.

While the European Responsible Housing Awards will resume for its next edition in two years, you can already mark your calendar for the International Social Housing Festival 2023 next March in Barcelona!

Press-release: Welcome
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