6 June 2024
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Housing Europe

Dreams for realists – more affordable homes without compromising nature

On June 6, in Amsterdam, social and affordable housing providers will discuss with EU decision makers, and urban experts the different ways nature and housing needs can be reconciled. In the afternoon, an excursion is organised to the Garden City of Hilversum, a best-practice example of a green and affordable place. The day will close with a networking àpero for those who wish to stay. More details will follow.

How can we meet the need to build more affordable housing without compromising nature?

All demographic projections show that the number of households will continue to rise in many European countries and housing needs will increase proportionally.  This will inevitably require new ways of building homes without compromising biodiversity and key ecosystem services.

Meeting Europe’s housing needs involves more than just delivering housing units for a good price. We need beautiful and liveable places that are adapted to climate change, are well- connected through sustainable transport, and co-exist with nature. In the week when we are voting for the next European Parliament, Housing Europe’s annual conference and Manifesto will add the need for homes that are affordable and close to nature to the equation.

The ‘Garden City’ movement, as it became known in the 19th century, and the New European Bauhaus initiative of the European Commission, came in at different times to re-imagine the places where we live: more beautiful, inclusive, and sustainable.

Today, 100 years after the first World Garden Cities conference in 1924, and in the midst of an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis that has only exacerbated housing unaffordability, we ask ourselves if the utopia foreseen has become more like a dystopia.

While it has been demonstrated green cities can have a positive impact on the environment, public health, and social cohesion, green spaces can also contribute to gentrification and, over time, the displacement of low-income residents. Often, the quantity of greenery in a given neighbourhood is closely correlated to its wealth. Without consideration of equity in access to nature, inequalities will only be reinforced.

Plenty of examples do exist of affordable housing projects that manage not only topreserve and enhance biodiversity but also to reduce land take and restore key ecosystem services via brownfield development programmes.

In the run-up to a new European Parliament for the next 5 years, what EU policies can catalyse a change in the way green cities provide affordable housing for all?