Conference at the FA presented participation as a way to affordable housing

Social scientists and architects from five institutions presented the results of a three-year research project at the Participatory Housing conference on Friday. The multidisciplinary team has been researching participatory forms of housing at home and abroad since 2021 and has been looking at the possibilities and limits of their greater spread in the Czech Republic. The research has helped identify the challenges that this form of housing faces in the Czech context, and above all has shown that an innovative approach to housing with an emphasis on participation of residents and local governments brings the benefit of more affordable and socially sustainable housing when set up well.

Participatory housing means a wide range and degree of active involvement of residents in the preparation, use and management of housing. Such an approach promotes both affordability and sustainability of housing. This is not the only reason why participatory housing is becoming increasingly popular in various European countries. By participating, residents can save on shared facilities, construction and running costs or improve the quality of their housing in many aspects.

The core of the project was cooperation with six partner towns and municipalities - Jihlava, Liberec, Pardubice, Opava, Psáry and Hrádek nad Nisou. In addition to mapping good practice, historical development and institutional conditions, the research project also included participatory workshops with residents and municipalities and a nationwide research questionnaire. At the same time, the research helped the partner municipalities to better grasp the approach to the individual localities they had selected for pilot projects. The researchers summarized the findings and results of the research in a Participatory Housing Methodology for Municipalities and a Participatory Housing Manual for Residents, which will be available on the project website.

"We are aware that in many respects we are at the beginning of the development of participatory forms of housing in the Czech Republic. Our mission was to provide a framework for a common debate, to identify and present the basic possibilities and limits, including methodological approaches, of how participatory housing can work in the Czech context. Practical experience in preparing projects will allow to refine some questions and find solutions to the identified challenges. After all, participatory housing is in line with the European policy of the New European Bauhaus and therefore we believe that it can also play an important role in the Czech Republic. But now the state and the financial sector must also join the debate," says the project's lead investigator Jan Malý Blažek from the Faculty of Social Studies at Masaryk University.

Throughout the project, the team presented participatory housing to the general public and experts in many places in the Czech Republic and through the media. As part of the research, the researchers developed a detailed conceptualization of participatory housing, including definitions of the different dimensions of participation - social, spatial, organizational, economic, and participation of other actors. This helped to grasp the topic for work in partner communities and in professional discussions. The workshops and questionnaires focused on the perception of the concept by its potential users and also addressed the experiences to date and the obstacles faced by residents and municipalities in the search for appropriate and sustainable forms of housing.

"The research has shown that there is an interest in the Czech Republic for residents to participate in the preparation and management of their housing and that the presented concept of housing can attract residents of towns and villages of various sizes. An important role in the development of participatory housing in the Czech Republic can be played not only by its information support, but also by the cooperation of residents with municipalities, which can thus purposefully expand the possibilities of their own housing and increase its accessibility. The high cost of housing and the still limited range of financing options for new forms of housing, which is also related to certain limitations of current legal forms, remain key issues for residents and municipalities," says Jana Kubcová from the Department of Building Theory.

In addition to members of the research team, the conference also featured guests from local governments, the Ministry of Local Development, and other experts. They agreed that the next step in the development of participatory forms of housing, in addition to legislative changes, is to increase the availability of funding and that promoting participatory forms of housing is one of the desired ways to promote housing that can respond to current challenges, especially in the area of affordability and environmental sustainability of housing. Conference participants agreed on the importance of further interdisciplinary cooperation. Some municipalities, such as Trojanovice or Liberec, have already started implementing participatory projects. As an accompanying programme, an exhibition of examples of participatory housing was on display in the FA atrium.

The project Possibilities and Limits of Socially and Environmentally Sustainable Participatory Housing in the Czech Republic is funded with state support from the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic and the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic within the Environment for Life programme, and involved researchers from the Faculty of Social Studies of Masaryk University in Brno, the Faculty of Architecture of the Czech Technical University in Prague, the Institute of Sociology of the CAS, Arnika - Centre for Citizen Support and the Faculty of Arts and Architecture of the Technical University in Liberec.

A team from the Department of Building Theory: Michal Kohout, David Tichý, Jana Kubcová and Markéta Káňová participated in the project. All information about the research can be found on the website Photos from the conference can be seen in the gallery From the Life of FA.

For the content of this site is responsible: Ing. arch. Kateřina Rottová, Ph.D.