Findings from the first INUAS conference provide insight into the challenges associated with growing cities

Keynote INUAS Conference Roesler
Keynote INUAS Conference Roesler

INUAS conference picture gallery

Around 110 international presentations, excursions and posters by experts from the worlds of academia and practice highlighted the importance of interdisciplinary discussion at the INUAS conference. The discussions clearly demonstrated that, in the long-term, it will only be possible to overcome the challenges associated with urban and residential planning in growing cities if all the players and different disciplines are in sync with one another. There is no such thing as a panacea.

Christoph Stoik, an expert in social spaces at the FH Campus Wien University of Applied Sciences and a member of the INUAS conference’s scientific committee, notes that “although cities around the world are affected by similar market mechanisms, and intervention is necessary to regulate the housing market, these measures must all be seen in a regional and national context.” Marc Diebäcker, fellow committee member and expert for housing research and social work at the FH Campus Wien University of Applied Sciences, adds the following: “Basically Austria has to address the question of how building regulations, zoning measures, housing subsidies and tenancy laws can codify social and ecological considerations to develop affordable housing in climate-neutral parts of cities.”

Keynotes on gentrification and displacement, realities and utopias of housing in India, urban climate in everyday life, and Barcelona’s housing policy

Keynote speaker Loretta Lees, professor at the University of Leicester and one of the most well-known researchers on gentrification, concludes that economic restructuring in many large cities and the financialization of the real estate market are catalysts behind ever diminishing housing rights and population groups being driven away. “The renewal and upgrading of cities in southern metropolises is producing social and urban apartheid. The renewal of the northern cities has to be seen in connection with state-controlled gentrification where, for example, projects in which different social groups are mixed together result in residents being driven to the periphery.’’ Three key factors have to be taken into account for integrative urban development: affordability, accessibility and diversity.

Amita Bhide, professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai, brought up “housing for everyone” during her presentation on the housing situation in India. She put the definition of affordable housing up for discussion. “The housing market usually defines affordability for groups of people with medium incomes. Most of the poor are left out, which creates weaknesses and social exclusion.” State-planned and mono-functional living quarters fail in many cases because, according to Amita Bhide, they do not address people’s real-life situations and the ways they organize their use of these spaces themselves.

Keynote speaker Sascha Roesler, professor of architecture at the Academy of Architecture in Mendrisio, identifies conflicting goals in planning with regard to social justice, the economy and the environment. Ecological factors and building structures influence the environment in an urban area just as much as inhabitants’ use of energy does. Ever-increasing consumption is said to be particularly worrying in view of climate change. Citing the example of China, Roesler notes, “that the speed of growth globally also has an impact on resources and our architecture. In China alone, 30 percent of energy consumed is because of construction. We have to learn from past strategies and translate them into a new language, both in terms of buildings’ architecture and the ways inhabitants use them.”

Javier Burón Cuadrado, Barcelona’s city councilor for housing, talked about the situation on the Iberian Peninsula in his keynote speech. “In the last 50 years Spain has gone from a country that mostly rents to a nation of homeowners. Now we need to take countermeasures.” The Catalonian capital’s policies focus on anti-gentrification measures in tourism and the housing market, with targeted market intervention. For example, 30 percent of new buildings, also in the existing inner-city parts, must be declared as affordable living space. “We extend open invitations to groups to discuss and review the housing plan and take a transparent and democratic approach,” says Burón Cuadrado, summarizing Barcelona’s residential construction policy.

IBA talk, poster presentation and final discussion

The IBA talk in cooperation with the international building exhibition IBA_Vienna took Vienna as an example to address questions about what social housing means in growing cities and which instruments can ensure affordable housing for everyone. Vienna is considered internationally to be a perfect example of how housing stock owned by the municipality and state-subsidized housing can influence housing markets. With its own zoning category known as “residential construction which can be subsidized,” Vienna is attempting to actively influence land policy. Discussions on whether a sufficient amount of affordable living space can be created were heated.
The poster session was notably international in scope. Michelle Xiaohong Ling from the South China University of Technology won the jury prize for her poster “Micro-renewal of Qinghu Village of Shenzhen, China.” The audience award went to “Redensification in Vienna and social space-oriented social work” Fabian Mayrhofer and Johann Gorbach, two master’s students at the FH Campus Wien University of Applied Sciences.

The conference’s final discussion focused on affordable housing for everyone and the right to reside in city centers. Javier Burón Cuadrado and Amita Bhide insist that, depending on the structure of the housing market, a mixture of instruments and strategies will be needed to control property prices and make affordable rents possible. In their opinion, an open dialog between various players such as planners, resident initiatives and builders as well as a firm commitment in urban policy to the right to housing are key factors in order to lay a democratic groundwork for the future.

The INUAS conference series will continue

The next “Urban Transformations” conference in the series will be held in Munich from September 9-11, 2020. The 2020 conference will address the topic of “resources” from four different perspectives: time, space, energy, and material. Details regarding the call for papers as well as additional information about the conference in Munich will be available soon. The final conference, which will take place in Zurich in 2021, will focus on the topic of “public spaces.”