Socio-spatial analysis of middle income housing projects in Brussels. Moving beyond mainstream solutions with lessons from Amsterdam, Hamburg & Copenhagen.

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Housing production in Brussels should change, both spatially and organisationally, in order to sustain its current population and address the ongoing emigration flow of middle income households. As expressed by the residents of a selection of five case studies in the North-Western part of the Brussels region, a number of spatial elements within their housing situation conflict with their prevailing housing preferences and aspirations. These ‘mismatches’ manifest themselves on the level of the individual home, housing project and neighbourhood, and contribute to the overall decision to stay or move (out of the Brussels region). Seven ‘best practice examples’ in the cities of Amsterdam, Hamburg and Copenhagen illustrate ways to address these mismatches. Out of the case study-analyses, this research proposes six parameters of improvement regarding the design and organisational structure of housing projects. With respect to the design, elements regarding the sequence and form of private, collective and public spaces, together with the circulation within the housing project and access to the dwellings, are identified as contributing factors to common privacy issues and decreases in functionality. Additional to these design parameters, it remains important to provide a level of diversity and flexibility to adequately respond to the observed housing preferences and aspirations. A mix of different typologies and housing units of varying sizes, and a structure that provides the possibility to move from one type to another adapted to the life stage and changing household composition, might offer solutions for public housing developments (such as those of
The case studies in Amsterdam, Hamburg and Copenhagen show some good examples of how, with the engagement of residents, an additional degree of flexibility is introduced and the housing units can be designed or can be modified throughout the development process. The cases show alternative ways in how the public authorities outsource responsibilities, how new actors are introduced and the role of existing ones have changed. With the introduction of what can be called Public-‘Common’ Partnerships (PCP’s), future residents and civil society organisations become engaged in the production of housing, with added possibilities to intervene or participate in the management, design and maintenance of the housing project. In contrast to regular public-private partnerships, these PCP’s offer the additional advantage of having the capacity to address specific individual and collective needs and preferences of the -known- end-users, and thus, aim to reduce the mismatch between housing preferences and what is produced. In short, in order to answer adequately to the observed diversity in housing preferences and aspirations, the housing production in Brussels needs to adapt its design practice and organisational structure to increase the quality and liveability, and diversify and democratise towards housing developments that are more demand-centred.
Original languageEnglish
Commissioning bodyINNOVIRIS - Brussels Institute for scientific research
Number of pages122
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Urban design
  • Public-private partnership (PPP)
  • Public-common partnership (PCP)


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