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Urban poverty

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One of the key objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy is to reduce the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion by 20 million relative to the levels in 2010. In 2016, one out of four Europeans were still at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Poverty is characterized by an accumulation of interconnected forms of inequality and exclusion in areas such as education, employment, housing, health and participation. It has multiple contributing factors such as unemployment or precarious jobs, low income/pensions, low educational attainment, health inequalities, high housing costs/poor housing quality among others, which makes it a crosscutting and complex issue. These factors tend to combine with others to create a vicious cycle of poverty that is structural and sometimes concentrated spatially within EU cities.  Although poverty is not only an urban topic, urban authorities are central stakeholders to tackle it. As economic growth for some often leads to exclusion for others, the natural consequence is that cities concentrate both opportunities and social issues. In many cases, social differences between people and groups are strong and can lead to significant effects on the way that urban policies and public space are designed. Indeed, as poverty increases, so does the risk of concentration of the poor population in deprived areas, which often presents issues regarding social segregation, stigmatization, reduced mobility, limited access to health and education services, housing depravation and not only environmental degradation but also reduced public spending on its prevention.

Finding innovative solutions to these interconnected and complex issues was the objective of the first call for proposal launched in 2015 as well as of the fourth call launched in 2018.

  •  The overall idea of the UIA Call for Proposals in 2015 was to get projects proposals that addressed in particular deprived neighbourhoods and to bring forth innovative solutions combining people and place-based approaches. The main aim was to identify and implement sustainable solutions that would break the circle of social and spatial polarisation.
  • The 2018 UIA Call for Proposals was less prescriptive in terms of subtopics proposed in the Terms of Reference. It invited cities to consider urban poverty from a cross-cutting perspective, looking at the different externalities and connections existing across diverse issues such as social, educational and spatial segregation, energy poverty, food and nutrition security, regeneration of deprived urban areas and neighbourhoods. In addition, the European Commission stressed the importance to target vulnerable or marginalized groups notably child poverty, homelessness, as well as Roma people and their integration in order to improve access to basic services such as education, healthcare, mobility services.

82 proposals were received in 2015 and 41 in 2018. An analysis of the submitted applications of both calls points out several trends in the solutions proposed.

  • A change in scale. The majority of the proposals submitted adopted an incremental approach to innovation. Several urban authorities proposed to address poverty concentration in their territories by changing the scale of previously tested solutions, retargeting complex interventions or reinforcing the level of integration of different policy dimensions (delivery of social services, active employment inclusion, housing, etc.) 
  • A strong area based approach. Several projects targeted one specific neighbourhood. Among then, many projects attempted to build upon existing (and underused) asset in a given area. 
  • New governance mechanisms. Proposals often included innovating governance mechanisms with a larger involvement of NGOs and a strong focus on social innovation.
  • Marginalized communities as target groups. There was a clear trend on solutions targeting either working with Migrants or Roma communities and more generally marginalized communities. 

Six projects have been selected in 2015: 
•    B-MINCOME – Combining guaranteed minimum income and active social policies in deprived urban areas, Barcelona 
•    USE-IT! – Unlocking Social and Economic Innovation Together, Birmingham
•    TAST’in FIVES – Transforming Areas with Social Talents: Feed, include, Value, Educate, Share, Lille
•    5Bridges – Creating bridges between homeless and local communities, Nantes 
•    MAC – Monteruscello Agro City, Pozzuoli 
•    Co-city – The collaborative management of urban commons to counteract poverty and socio-spatial polarisation, Turin 
Five have been selected in 2018: 
•    CAPACITyES – Children Against Poverty Awake the CITy Education System, Bergamo
•    EPIU- Energy Poverty Intelligence Unit, Getafe 
•    Home and Care, Landshut
•    WISH MI – Wellbeing Integrated System of Milan, Milan 
    A Place to Be-Come, Seraing 
When looking at the different projects selected, it is possible to highlight the following common trends.

 

Public-private-community participative and partnership approaches 

Most projects have in common the ambition to explore new ways to increase the effectiveness of social services traditionally provided by public actors. The main trend to be underlined here is the attempt to build new alliances with a wide range of local stakeholders and, even more importantly, final beneficiaries and target groups. Their approaches are therefore particularly concerned with the establishment and consolidation of new public-private-community partnerships, which makes it possible to bring together human, technological and financial resources to deal with urban poverty effectively and sustainably in a cooperative approach. This is particularly evident when looking at how several projects made a genuine attempt to include final beneficiaries in the design of their solution as well as in its implementation.

TAST’in FIVES project in Lille is a relevant example of this approach as local residents are involved in the design and running of the community kitchen, which is supposed to support new economic and social activities for the neighbourhood. Another example is provided by the 5Bridges project implemented in Nantes and its attempt to include homeless people -its main beneficiaries- as well as social workers, civil servants and the surrounding communities in the co-design and joint implementation of the project’s actions.  The different stakeholders participate in small-scale on-site laboratories, comment on the present system and then co-design, test, and improve new services that will be available in a one-stop-shop social centre.

Partners from the private and third sectors (mainly NGOs) are also involved in the delivery of new solutions. The USE-IT! project, in Birmingham, is a great example of it. It aims at creating jobs and business opportunities as well as social cohesion by maximizing the added value that major investments (construction of a new hospital and a new major real estate development) could generate for local communities. For this, Birmingham works in a large partnership of about 20 partners from the private, public, and NGOs to test and implement new mechanism regarding jobs and skills matching and deliver the housing program.

Working with partners and beneficiaries from the design until the implementation phase requires to radically rethink the mechanisms and frameworks for cooperation and joint delivery of complex actions. In this perspective, and starting from a previous experience related to urban commons, the project of Turin is experimenting a new legal framework to define and regulate the new relationship being shaped between the urban authority and a wide range of local stakeholders for the delivery of social services to deprived population. The Co-city project is, indeed, building up "pacts of collaboration" with residents and local associations in order to include them in a collaborative management of urban “commons” (stimulating collective use, management and ownership of urban assets) to counteract poverty and socio-spatial polarisation.

 

An area-based approach: regenerating targeted places 

Most projects attempt to regenerate abandoned, underused or deprived spaces that have lost their function by imagining new urban functions in support of poverty alleviation (Lille, Pozzuoli, Seraing) or by testing new ways of delivering social services (Barcelona and Birmingham). 

The TAST’in FIVES project of the Lille municipality is, for example, reactivating a deprived neighbourhood, the Fives district, by rethinking its former industrial function and developing food related activities. This ambition is part of a larger brownfield regeneration project, aiming at renovating a 2.000 square meters former industrial building to host food activities such as food production as urban agriculture, food processing and a community kitchen. By renewing the use of a former important economic place of the area, the project attempt both to revive the economic and social life of the neighbourhood and to tackle food security issues.

As Lille’s project, the MAC project of Pozzuoli attempt to build upon underused asset in a low-income neighbourhood, transforming a large and vacant area into a farmland. The project aims at triggering a process of economic, entrepreneurial, and social development, together with the improvement of the urban environment that would benefit local residents. Another example of this approach is provided by Seraing's project. Indeed, the A Place to Be-Come project is renewing the train station area, one of the most deprived neighbourhood of the former industrial city. It aims at testing other mixed-uses (day shelter, a local meeting place) and offering new services as well as nature-based trainings to diversify the function of the former blast furnace. 

As for Barcelona and Birmingham projects, they combine a place-based major investment along with implementing modular social services (health, education, employment). In Birmingham, the USE IT project implements a set of training services related to the large investment projects planned for the area, in order for the new hospital building, to benefit local residents. In Barcelona, the B-MINCOME project invests in alternative welfare policies, testing different types of Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) in nine low-income neighbourhoods of the city while trialling different types of “solidarity based-services” (training and employment, social entrepreneurship, housing rent aid, community participation). Through this approach, the two projects are rethinking ways to regenerate deprived areas through investments and new ways of delivering social services. However, as the example of Barcelona illustrates, the area and people-based approach are often both considered at the same time, as they both tackle communities' and individual's living conditions. 

 

No one left behind – empowering vulnerable groups

Overall, the projects attempt to support individuals in their paths out of poverty through improved access to basic services, which meet people basic needs (Getafe), individualized welfare policies (Barcelona, Nantes, Milan) to set the conditions for individual empowerment. In several cases this is done by redefining the right mix and intensity of financial support for each individual in particular circumstances wherever they live. As the approach is costly, the main challenge for municipalities is to test and find a financial sustainability for this type of personalized approach. Such experiment is deployed in nine deprived neighbourhoods of Barcelona (B-MINCOME), where the impact of different typologies of Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) are measured. Combined with different forms of services for the different categories of recipients, this experiment is an attempt to build a global sustainable model out of personalised social services and economic alternative policies to empower disadvantaged people. The EPIU project of Getafe is also experimenting an interesting tailor-made solution to the energy poverty problem in order to provide vulnerable people with better quality housing. Getafe aims at developing the Energy Poverty Intelligence Unit (EPIU) to identify, attend and fight Hidden Energy Poverty (HEP) with a pilot project in its two most vulnerable areas: Las Margaritas and La Alhóndiga. Once detected by the EPIU data system, tailor-made solutions and compensatory engagement actions will be proposed to the affected dwellings, buildings and neighbourhoods.

Such customised welfare paths are also experimented by projects targeting specific vulnerable groups. For instance, the project of Birmingham municipality (USE IT) is tackling marginalised migrants poverty while municipalities of Bergamo and Landshut address the numerous dimensions of child poverty through co-living practices. The home and care project of Landshut experiments such approach by providing a flexible childcare and a social housing solution to support single parents families. The co-living solution secures employment opportunities, improves community’s life and tackles both social exclusion and child poverty. As for the CAPACITyES project run by Bergamo, it also targets children poverty and address educational related issues by including disadvantaged children in the urban renewal process of their neighbourhood, using art and culture as participative tools. Such approaches gather people to share and design their shared living place and empower distressed households. The city of Nantes focuses on homeless people and on how to adapt social services to their specific needs. The 5Bridges project tests the one-stop-shop concept in order to centralize all the different services homeless people need (day and night shelter, temporary flats, and restaurant) in order to give them the opportunity to get training and to access temporary and permanent housing. Milan with the WISH MI project is also trying to centralize city’s services dedicated to youth (including public and private services providers). Indeed, as part of the renewal of its youth policy, the municipality is testing a participative and integrated approach involving children – especially deprived ones – and their families in the design of a digital platform, which will centralize all youth services addressing their specific issues (income inequalities, inadequate nutrition/ healthcare/ housing conditions, unequal access to education, social isolation).

First lessons learnt from 2016 UIA projects are:

  • Involve a wide range of actors.
  • Use participative approach in order to co-design the solutions that will benefit vulnerable people.
  • Combine place and people approaches: regenerating a neighbourhood should take into account both hard and soft solutions as well as taking into account individual’s paths out of poverty.

Get inspired and find more with UIA experts and UIA knowledge lab

UIA experts capture, analyse and narrate the main findings, lessons learnt and experiences coming from the different UIA urban poverty projects. Look for their journals (analysis on main challenges for implementation) and zoom-in (focus on a crosscutting dimension or specific component of the project) to get deeper knowledge about urban poverty and related-topics.

Explore the UIA Knowledge Lab and search for key words such as child poverty, energy poverty

Read the articles analysing the trends of the urban poverty projects: UIA innovative approaches to tackle urban poverty, Nils Scheffler

Have a look at our youtube playlist and check the video from TAST'in FIVES project in Lille.

Urban poverty's articles & publications

Urban poverty's projects

Achievements

UIA innovating when dealing with Urban Poverty

Proposals

82

Projects approved

11

ERDF

€ 49 M