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Collaborative Housing (in preparation)

Proposed in November 2015


Claire Carriou
University of Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense
Interdisciplinatary Laboratory on urban studies
Mosaïques – UMR LAVUE (7218)
Paris, France

Darinka Czischke
Delft University of Technology
Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment
Department of Management in the Built Environment (MBE)
Delft, The Netherlands

Richard Lang
University of Birmingham
School of Social Policy
Housing and Communities Research Group
Birmingham, United Kingdom

Why “Collaborative Housing”?
Since the early 2000’s, many European countries have seen the development of a wide range of alternative or ‘user-led’ forms of housing provision, including the re-emergence of resident- or community led housing initiatives. These take a wide variety of shapes, including Community Land Trusts (CLTs), co-housing, different forms of self-organised housing, residents’ cooperatives, experimental work-life communities, ecological housing communities, new settlements based on (local) community asset ownership, self-building etc. Overall, features that run across these different types of initiatives include high levels of user/resident participation spanning the conception, development and management of the housing project, and the establishment of reciprocal relationships, mutual help and solidarity. Drivers that can be found frequently in these projects include high levels of environmental sustainability, mutual provision of care for the elderly, children and other people with special needs and/or, in some cases a redefinition of gender roles in the household. In addition, new drivers characterising large numbers of these initiatives in the post context of the global financial crisis are affordability and social inclusion. Furthermore, the recent proliferation of these projects can be seen to a large extent as a response to a perceived failure of institutional systems of housing provision to fulfil the above housing needs and aspirations of a growing number of households across Europe. All in all, the multi-dimensional nature of these projects requires the establishment of long-term collaborative relationships not only amongst residents but also between the latter and a wide range of external stakeholders. The umbrella term “collaborative housing” encompasses the large variety of shapes that these projects can take. In view of the increasing level of activity in this field, both in practice and in academia, this new working group aims to bring together researchers from all over Europe (and beyond) to exchange on their work in order to create stronger synergies, seek collaboration opportunities and develop specific (and adequate) conceptual and methodological frameworks in this field.

Central themes

The working group focuses on five central themes:

Wider social, economic and technological trends underpinning contemporary collaborative housing initiatives

This theme will address the overarching societal trends that may be driving current collaborative housing initiatives, as well as their mutually shaping relationships. These trends include socio-demographic developments such as ageing, the redefinition of gender roles, the environment and sustainability agenda, new lifestyles, increasing ethnic diversity, etc. Socio-economic developments to take into account include economic and financial downturns and their impact on housing markets and income levels of the population. Technological change such the increasing role of social media in self-organisation, the rise of the smart city paradigm and advances in sustainable construction and domestic/urban recycling systems, for example, can also be regarded as relevant drivers and shaping forces of these initiatives. Examples of research questions in these domains include:

  • What are the collective agendas and values ​underpinning different groups?
  • What is the sociological profile of these groups and, on that basis, their arrangements for collaboration and mutual aid?
  • (How) are these initiatives shaping wider social, economic and/or technological developments?
  • How are collaborative housing initiatives in different geographical contexts influenced by social, economic and technological trends?

The organisational dynamics of collaborative housing: management, stakeholders and networks

This theme addresses the variety of ways in which these initiatives and their participants are organised and structured, and how they re-structure as the specific projects progresses. It also looks at wider stakeholder relationships, networks and collaboration arrangements in which these initiatives take place. Possible research questions in this theme include:

  • What are the different types of legal and organisational forms that collaborative housing initiatives take in different countries?
  • How, under what conditions and to what extent do residents’ groups and institutions and / or professionals engage with each other in these initiatives?
  • To what extent do these experiences challenge the institutional practices of urban and housing professionals?

The links between collaborative housing initiatives and wider policy and institutional frameworks

This theme will deal with the degrees and types of embeddedness of collaborative housing initiatives in wider policy, legal and institutional frameworks in their respective countries. Possible research questions include:

  • (How) do these experiences link up with policy and legal frameworks in different European countries?
  • What does the (re-)emergence of these experiences tell us about changes in welfare systems and in housing policies in their respective countries?
  • What are the prospects for integrating or up-scaling this type of housing provision within mainstream provision systems?

Collaborative housing, urban planning and neighbourhood dynamics

This theme will look into the connections, synergies and tensions between the proliferation of collaborative housing initiatives and the wider neighbourhood and urban scales. Research questions relevant on this topic could include:

  • (How) are local planning regulations in different countries/cities enabling or hindering the development of collaborative housing initiatives?
  • What are the main synergies (actual and potential) between these housing initiatives and the urban and neighbourhood scales?
  • What are links between collaborative housing initiatives and socio-spatial cohesion?

Epistemological frameworks, methods and ethics in collaborative housing research

This last theme will seek to reflect on the specific epistemological and methodological frameworks that are most useful to research the different aspects of collaborative housing. In addition, it takes into account ethical considerations of potentially invasive methodologies used in this field (e.g. action research, participant observation, longitudinal ethnographic research, etc.). Such ethical questions relate to the boundaries between normative and empirical aspects of this research and the role of the researcher as militant/advocate and scientist.


First workshop sessions: ENHR annual conference, Belfast 2016
As a working group “in preparation”, the first step was bringing together a wide variety of researchers active in this field from all over Europe, many of whom were not (yet) active within the ENHR. To this end, the working group organised a first round of workshop sessions at the annual ENHR conference in Belfast (2016). A call for papers for this conference was published, with the view of laying the foundations for a joint research agenda on Collaborative Housing in Europe.

Over 30 abstracts were received, out of which 21 papers were presented at the workshop sessions. Papers covered the following themes:

  • Historical perspectives & country examples
  • Collaborative housing and public policies
  • Organisational dynamics of collaborative housing
  • Social inclusion and neighbourhoods
  • Social innovation, solidarity and reciprocity

Additional working group co-ordinator:
Following the Belfast conference, the working group co-ordinators approached Dr Richard Lang (University of Birmingham, UK) to invite him to join the coordination team. Dr Lang accepted this invitation and has since worked closely with Dr Czischke and Dr Carriou on the ensuing working group activities.

Special issue in Housing, Theory and Society
The discussions in Belfast raised the necessity to work on the conceptualisation of collaborative housing as a first step of future research on the topic. Following the Belfast conference, the working group co-ordinators launched a call for papers on this topic, which was subsequently accepted by the journal Housing, Theory and Society. The topic of the special issue is “Collaborative housing in Europe: Conceptualising the field”. The special issue is to be guest-edited by the three working group co-ordinators. The Call for papers can be found here

Workshop at the TU Delft
A second workshop of the working group was held at the TU Delft on 17 and 18 November 2016, which focused on the special issue “Collaborative Housing in Europe: Conceptualising the field”. The aim of the workshop was to provide feedback to authors presenting abstracts to be considered for the special issue. In addition, the workshop provided the opportunity for participants to present, discuss and network about other initiatives for collaboration in research and publications in the field (e.g. two COST Action proposals, an online repository for research on collaborative housing, etc.)

Besides the abstracts presented at the Delft workshop, an additional batch of abstracts submitted by 20 November 2017 is currently being considered by the working group co-ordinators (i.e. guest editors) for the special issue. Next steps and key dates in the process are laid out in the call for papers.

Future plans and activities

ENHR conference in Tirana, Albania
The Working Group plans to organise a third series of workshop sessions at the ENHR 2017 conference in Tirana, Albania.

The group will continue to discuss the following activities and ideas:
  • Further joint publication opportunities (Special issues in academic journals, edited books)
  • Joint research funding proposals (e.g. Horizon 2020, COST Action proposals, national funding bodies, other European funding opportunities, etc.)
  • Building links with other existing network / projects in the field e.g. the European network of co-housing researchers, Urbamonde etc. Professional networks such as social housing federations are also concerned.
  • Fostering links to practice and policy through the organisation of joint events e.g. seminar series, workshops, etc.

Policy implications

The working group facilitates comparative perspectives and exchanges of different views on collaborative housing. Outcomes of workshops should influence discussions in relevant scholarly, professional and policy communities as well as to identify directions for concrete action. First cooperation links have already been made with social housing federations especially in France and in the Netherlands. These federations are very interested in collaborations with researchers on this topic to help them to engage in European knowledge transfer for innovative practices of development and management of collaborative housing schemes.