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Collaborative Housing

Proposed in November 2015

Henrik Gutzon Larsen
Department of Human Geography
Lund University, Sweden

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
Johannes Kepler University Linz
Institute of Innovation Management
Linz, Austria

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.


Working group Collaborative Housing session at the "Urban contradictions" conference, Paris, 28-30 March 2017
On March 28th 2017, the "Laboratoire Ville Urbanisme Environment" LAVUE organised a one-day International Conference on Urban contradictions (www.lavue.cnrs. fr/actionsscientifiques/article/contradictions-urbaines-1). The event gathered researchers from different fields of study to explore some of the contradictions running through modern cities and metropolitan areas. Along these lines, the conference focused on the issues of citizens' and users' counter- power in the co-production of public spaces, on the impact "collaborative research" may have on the promotion of citizens' initiatives, and on the specific topic of collaborative housing and social inclusion. Focused on this latter aspect, the seminar "Collaborative Housing and Social Inclusion: Unpacking Contradictions?" has been organised, as part of the Conference, by the ENHR Working Group on Collaborative Housing (www.enhr.net/collaborative.php) and the "Centre de recherche sur l'habitat" CRH. More than 30 researchers on this subject came from all over Europe to attend this session and the one organized the day after and take part to the fieldtrips organised in Paris and in the suburb to visit collaborative housing experiments.

Special issue in Housing, Theory and Society
The discussions in Belfast (2016) raised the necessity to work on the conceptualisation of collaborative housing as a first step of future research on the topic. The working group co-ordinators launched a call for papers on "Collaborative housing in Europe: Conceptualising the field" (call for papers here), which was subsequently accepted by the journal Housing, Theory and Society. A dedicated seminar of the working group was held at the TU Delft on 17 and 18 November 2016 to discuss the abstracts submitted for the special issue. The workshop was attended by over 30 participants and provided feedback to the authors whose abstracts were presented. The year 2017 was then dedicated to writing the papers. The WG coordinators (i.e. special issue guest editors) received 9 papers and conducted two rounds of peer reviews to provide feedback to authors for the improvement of their papers. The online submission for the blind peer review process is taking place from 30 October - 30 November. Publication of the special issue is planned for Fall 2018.

Workshop sessions: ENHR annual conference, Tirana 2017
The working group organised a new 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:

  • Social cohesion and neighbourhood
  • Affordability
  • Historical perspectives and conceptualisation
  • New partnerships and governance
  • Gender and social inclusion.
  • Future plans and activities

    Proposal for definitive working group status
    The working group has now reached two years since its creation. Over this period it has successfully organised two workshop series at the annual ENHR conference, namely Belfast (2016) and Tirana (2017). On both occasions, the workshop enjoyed a very high number of papers and participants, becoming the workshop with the highest number of papers out of all ENHR workshops at the Tirana 2017 conference. In addition, as pointed out above, the working group coordinators in cooperation with other working group members managed to organise two additional events (seminar in Delft, November 2016, and conference and seminar in Paris, March 2017). Furthermore, the special issue "Collaborative Housing: Conceptualising the field" (in "Housing, Theory and Society") resulted of these workshops and seminars and is currently in the process of blind peer review, with a prospective publication date in Fall 2018. All of this points to the high success and participation enjoyed by the working group, which attests to its readiness to become a definitive working group within the ENHR. The coordinators have submitted a formal proposal to the ENHR coordination committee to consider at their forthcoming meeting in Uppsala on 17-18 November 2017.

    ENHR conference in Uppsala, Sweden
    1) Workshop sessions The Working Group plans to organise a new series of workshop sessions at the ENHR 2018 conference in Uppsala, Sweden. 2) Plenary panel on Collaborative Housing In addition to workshop sessions, the working group coordinators wish to organise and host one of the plenary sessions at the 2018 ENHR conference in Uppsala, linking the overall conference theme to Collaborative Housing. Conversations with the LOC (local organising committee) are currently underway as to the content and suitability of this proposal.

    Edited book
    At 2017 ENHR conference in Tirana, Darinka Czischke and Claire Carriou announced to members of the Collaborative Housing working group, their intention to publish an edited book on Collaborative Housing. The book should fill a gap in terms of a systematic, scientific and theoretically informed international comparative text in this field. The book will include both country and thematic chapters. The idea was well received amongst workshop participants and Melissa Fernandez (University of Lancaster, UK) has since joined the editorial team. The editors are currently preparing a book proposal and a call for chapters to be issued a the end of 2017/early 2018.

    The group will continue to discuss the following activities and ideas: Further joint publication opportunities

  • Joint research funding proposals (e.g. Horizon 2020, COST Action proposals, national funding bodies, other European funding opportunities, etc.)
  • Building links with other existing networks/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.