The Peer review has evaluated this group as Good
“Housing” and “neighbourhood” are two identifying terms which designate the specific point of view of the research group in studying urban change and urban policies. If reference is made to a “local” field of practices, the general approach however is “urban” – urban issues are re-defined starting from house and neighbourhood issues, the questions raised from housing and neighbourhood - local housing needs, local forms of deprivation, local conflicts - are seen as occasion to redefine and re-orient general strategies turned to the entire city. The advantages for this approach may be found in the methodological opportunities it offers (witnessed for example in the common resorting of the group to ethnographic methods and to action-research), and in the changes that have involved urban policies in this decade. In fact this focus reflects two major changes in urban policies in Europe: on one side the reappearance of housing poverty and the crisis of the traditional policies brought about by the welfare state; on the other side the coming out of neighbourhood/area policies and the increasing popularity of the model of “local integrated plans” (multidimensional, multiactor, participatory) as a tool for local development, regeneration of distressed areas, fight against poverty. The main fields in which the members of the groups are working are the following. Distressed urban areas Regeneration and social development plans and policies in peripheral areas of the city and in marginal neighbourhoods. The growing interest for “local integrated plans” (multidimensional, multi-actor, participatory) has produced new tools and policies also in Italy (the ‘Neighbourhood Contracts’, a national government programme started in 2002). The experience in these years underlines the necessity of a critical understanding of the value of this approach, its potentiality and its limits, the problems of implementation, etc. Particular attention is paid by the group to the conditions for a real involvement of inhabitants and the possibility to build new capacities of self-organization and self-management. A crossnational approach and intense participation in international networks is considered by the group as a necessary ingredient for the critical evaluation of these experiences. The new housing question and the search for new social housing policies Starting from the variety of situations which make the new picture of housing needs, the research group is engaged in the search for innovative models of housing provision and for guidelines for new housing policies, with particular reference to the “low” and marginal segments of the housing demand, the development of social rented accommodation, the provision of adequate forms of special housing, temporary accommodation, transitional housing. Particular attention is paid to the institutional and organizational implications of the ongoing transformation of the social housing system in Europe: the changing role of the traditional institutions, , the rise of private actors of civil society in providing new models of housing offer, the effectiveness of new public-private relationships in responding to the new needs. Homeless populations and illegal settlements Two situations of extreme housing exclusion are the object of particular concern for the research group, homeless populations and illegal settlements. On the first problem 7 5 members of the group have been involved for years in the international debate, and the outcomes of the comparative research carried out in these years have been widely invested in the national debate on welfare and on the changing construction of the homeless question in Italy. Illegal settlements, which in Italy concern components of the immigrant population and gypsies, are dealt with by the group as a basic indicator of the inadequacy of (housing, welfare, immigration) policies and as evidence of the need for rethinking policies, out of the traditional ‘public order oriented’ approach. Methodologies of grassroots urban action Linked with the above mentioned themes, various members of the group are involved in a systematic reflection on the methodologies for participatory urban planning and design and on the perspective of constructive conflict transformation – particularly on “listening” and “creative conflict management” in programs of urban renewal and participatory inclusive urban planning. Even if research is the principal activity of the participants, the groups is widely involved in consulting activity to public and private subjects; the organization of meetings, seminars and conferences directed to the academic community and to specific sectors of civil society or public; training activities directed to organizations active in the field of housing policies and the promotion of local development.