Monday, January 2, 2012

European urban development: Sustainability and the role of housing


In the new Millennium, sustainable urban development is becoming a fashionable topic, almost as popular as globalization or city competition. European countries differ widely from each other on whether they have a national policy for urban development or not, and if so, on the emphasis of such a policy. Pan European organizations are reluctant to establish a clear vision of a desirable European path toward urban development. This is even true for the European Union: although the EU is running extensive systems of support policies, it has no clear expectation of how European cities should develop or what they should look like in the future. (The European Spatial Development Perspective, ESDP, contains some statements about desirable urban development, but this is far from being a binding document or having substantial influence on the allocation of means of support.) The criticism leveled at the EU for having no common policy for the future of its cities should be seen in perspective, as the lack of ideas/patterns for sustainable urban development is even more visible in the accession countries and in Eastern Europe. The dramatic changes in the cities of the post-socialist countries even appear to be moving in the opposite direction - away from sustainability. .
Sustainability is a complex phenomenon, having economic, environmental and social aspects. Any concept of sustainable urban development must incorporate sectoral concepts; these must be well integrated in the overarching urban, regional and governance policies. One sectoral policy of great importance to sustainable development is housing. Without suitable suggestions for housing policies, no concept of sustainable development can be successful (and vice versa). Yet, housing is one of the less frequently discussed aspects of sustainability. This might be explained by the way housing research has developed; economic and social aspects have taken precedence over environmental effects and externalities. Of course, the fact that housing is not part of the common policies of the EU also helps explain the present situation. 
This paper elaborates on the link between housing and urban development. U sing examples of good and not so good practices, we consider why housing experts should investigate the environmental and spatial externalities of housing policies and why experts working on urban development policies should take the results of such analyses into account. Such collaboration could raise the status of sustainable urban policies supported by suitable housing policies. The analysis presented here pertains to the Western and Central parts of Europe, roughly to the area of the soon-to-be-enlarged European Union. The structure of the paper is as follows. The first chapter discusses models and trends of urban development. The second chapter gives an overview of policies with the potential to influence urban development, followed by good and not so good
examples for such policies taken from both Western and Eastern Europe. The third and fourth chapters concentrate on large housing estates, where interventions were needed to ensure the sustainability of development. Finally, chapter five offers some concluding remarks.

A housing project of US Army in Europe, by USACE Europe District

more about housing:

A New Look at Germany's Postwar Reconstruction

AN EQUILIBRIUM MODEL OF SORTING IN AN URBAN HOUSING MARKET: A Study of the Causes and Consequences of Residential Segregation

Residential Location Decisions: Heterogeneity and the Trade-off between Location and Housing Quality

Affordable Housing - theoretical utopia or achievable reality

Accessibility effect on urban land values

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