Fostering the alliance between local governments and civil society on community-led housing

From May 31 to June 3, the city of Geneva hosted the annual meeting of the “CoHabitat network”: A civil society initiative gathering community-led housing organizations and allies from across the world, who work, in its own words, to secure housing rights through collective, non-speculative and people-led solutions. The meeting welcomed representatives from many members of the Global Platform for the Right to the City. It was held in connection to the Social Housing Festival of Lyon (June 4-8), which saw the presentation of many inspiring initiatives on the right to housing. Our Committee participated actively in both events with a view to build new synergies around the “Cities for Adequate Housing” Declaration.

In the framework of the Geneva meeting, our Committee’s coordinator facilitated the public round table “Housing as Commons, not a Commodity: Links between Municipal Action and Community-Led Housing”. Hosted with the support of the City of Geneva and the Charles Léopold Mayer foundation, this meeting gathered local authorities and civil society from Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

It particularly sought at exploring way to foster local government cooperation with community-led initiatives aimed at promoting and protecting the right to housing. Examples presented in this regard ranged from slum upgrading and urban poor organizing to international collaboration between local governments for the right to housing, as in The Shift campaign and the “Cities for Adequate Housing” Declaration.

“We, local governments, need to be able to count on the strength and talent from our cities’ productive and social fabric to co-produce mixed solutions, instead of exclusively focusing on public or business-led schemes. In addition, we aim to explore various options adapted to each city’s situation such as the cooperative or the community land trust housing models and create public-private operators to invest capital in the creation and preservation of affordable rental housing. Likewise, we must collaborate with non-governmental organisations and foster the participation, self-management and empowerment of residents, supporting good practices such as collaborative design or assisted self-construction.”

Cities for Adequate Housing Declaration

Discussions held in the framework of the Geneva meeting provided follow-up to last year’s CoHabitat Network meeting (where the Committee also took an active role). The 2019 meeting counted with new opportunities for exchanging experiences, and assessed the creation of new evaluation tools and methodologies. The CoHabitat network also resolved to design new tools and activities focused on political advocacy and to increase its visibility, all in the framework of its new 2019/2020 strategic plan.

As for the International Social Housing Festival held in Lyon right after Geneva’s meeting, the main aim was to “highlight the importance of access to decent housing for all by celebrating the long tradition of public, cooperative and social housing and its key role in addressing current and future housing challenges”. Lyon’s festival gathered practitioners, tenants, architects, researchers and policymakers in a vibrant full week of events and discussions.

Members of the Global Platform of the Right to the City, among which our own Committee, participated in many events of the Festival and promoted a whole day of debates around the concept of “European Collaborative Housing Day”. The Lyon Commitment, expressing many of the Festival’s outcomes, is accessible online here.