While capital metropolitan areas often experience constant population growth, over the last decades many non-capital small and medium-sized EU cities are facing decrease in population. Indeed, the most dynamic metropolitan areas are increasingly growing whereas already declining territories present particularly affected economic structures. Population loss and changes can be related to the shrinkage process. Shrinkage is an overly complex and recent process that affects the spatial-economic structure of cities (ie. lower use of infrastructures, impact on the housing market) as well as the social and cultural urban fabric (ie. attractiveness of the city, social and intergenerational link) and results in population loss. The phenomenon is far from being only driven by demographic factors such as population ageing or migration flows. Indeed, economic decline, extreme weather events, policy changes, and processes such as metropolisation and urban sprawl are key drivers that affects the demographic, economic and social structures of cities. Thus, urban shrinkage brings about fundamental challenges for urban societies, planning processes and governance structures.
Acknowledging shrinkage and adapting to economic and demographic conditions could be an opportunity for urban authorities to modernise local governance and public services and to reorganise public building and land use policies. In order to help addressing these challenges, the 5th UIA call for proposals invited urban authorities to propose innovative solutions to adapt to demographic decline, to reverse demographic trends and to attract relevant economic activities and residents for sustainable urban development by putting forward innovative and participatory actions addressing:
- The accessibility and sustainability challenges regarding basic public services and infrastructures;
- The reorganisation of land use, public buildings and administration;
- The economic development encompassing new economic trends, e.g. "silver economy", 5.0 technologies, IA; training life-long strategies, e.g upskilling and training facilities development; fostering local entrepreneurship.