As Ghent suffers a lack of affordable housing and rising housing prices, the Ghent Knapt Op project aims to renovate houses for vulnerable families and transform them into healthier, safer and more energy efficient homes. The project ensures that households with limited financial possibilities can live in a quality and decent house, confirming that the right to adequate housing conditions is a human right.
This article comes at a challenging time during a global pandemic, and Ghent has experienced two major lockdowns since March. Although working from home, social restrictions, and the closing of commerce and businesses have created a challenging framework for Ghent Knapt Op, it has managed to successfully deliver its first housing renovations. Even during this turbulent and difficult time, the project has signed up 90 participants and is currently renovating 25 homes.
'In Ghent, we pursue a social climate policy, in which we strive for structural solutions with a long-term impact. We want to make households more resilient against rising energy prices by supporting structural energy-saving measures. Through this project, we can prepare the homes of 100 vulnerable families for the future.' - Tine Heyse, Deputy Mayor of the Environment, Climate, Housing and North-South
Ghent Knapt Op addresses the issue of poor-quality housing through an integrated innovative approach. Through its collaborative co-design process, it enables active citizenship, inclusion and longer-term sustainability. It also stimulates neighborhood cohesion and is a strong instrument in the fight against poverty. Ghent Knapt Op changes the lives of its participants by awarding 30,000 Euros per household for renovation costs. Unlike traditional grants, no pre-financing is expected from the resident, making it possible for families with limited financial resources to structurally improve their living situation. The homeowner receives a renovation grant and reimburse the City when they sell or they change residency. A rolling fund of 3 million Euros is being created in Ghent to provide financial support to future households.
Co-design and collaborate process is challenging by itself but invaluable. During the first renovations, keeping the balance between the owners and the renovation works that have to be carried out to make the house safer and more energy efficient, was challenging. Despite challenges in 2020, Ghent Knapt Op has continued to work with project participants and partners to improve houses in the city of Ghent.
This innovative project has not compromised on keeping the needs of the participants at the forefront through collaborative co-design, and the resulting home improvements have been well-received.
“A retired couple is very happy with their renovated home. In two months’ time, the house was transformed into a quasi-new home, completely in accordance with the guidelines of the Flemish Housing Code and energy efficient.” Umut Fisek, construction supervisor at Domus Mundi
Ghent Knapt Op will continue to work with participants to co-design housing renovations in 2021.