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Zoe Tzika


Zoe Tzika is a PhD candidate at the Polytechnic University of Valencia and is actively engaged as an early-stage researcher in the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Research Network project “RE-DWELL: Providing Affordable and Sustainable Housing”. Her doctoral thesis centres on community participation and community-led housing, investigating the cooperative housing movement in Barcelona. In 2017, Zoe graduated from the architecture school of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTh). Her research thesis there focused on the impact of the financial crisis and the neoliberal policies on the urban space of the city. Her diploma project used the conceptual frameworks of the urban commons and of the circular economy, to suggest alternatives for the repurposing of an abandoned building, involving the local population in the process. She also studied at the École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Lyon and has a Master's degree from the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IaaC). In the past, she practised architecture in Denmark, France and Greece. She was part of the Atelier d' Architecture Autogérée in Paris working on self-managed architecture and participatory urban design, and of Urban Agency in Copenhagen, working on urban and residential projects. She has worked as a freelance architect on residential projects and social housing, mainly on the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of existing buildings. Finally, she has worked as a research assistant for the FabCity initiative. In her ongoing research, she employs a mixed-methods approach to delve into the socio-spatial implications of community-led housing, grounded in the conceptual framework of the capabilities approach. Her recent academic endeavors and published works center around themes such as social sustainability, co-creation, transdisciplinary research, and the housing landscape in Southern Europe.

Research topic

Updated sumaries

August, 31, 2023

February, 23, 2022

September, 17, 2021

Collaborative housing models to achieve more affordable and sustainable housing: Analysing the case of Barcelona's grant-of-use cooperative housing


Collaborative housing models have been emerging as viable alternatives to conventional state or market-driven housing provision, especially in an era characterized by the increasing financialization and commodification of housing. In this context, where housing is often prioritized for profit maximization and lacks the involvement of future residents, such models offer an alternative path, by enabling communities to actively shape the built environment and experiment with diverse ways of living.  


This research delves into the dynamics of the grant-of-use cooperative housing model in Barcelona and Catalonia, which emerged in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis, rooted in principles of democratic governance, communal living, and public-communitarian collaboration. Beyond the fundamental goal of securing affordable and stable housing, these cooperative groups strive to combat social isolation and foster sustainable lifestyles.  


The aim of this study is to shed light on the evolving landscape of community-led housing. This is achieved, firstly, by comprehending the driving forces behind Barcelona's emerging housing movement and the relationship between architectural outcomes and social dynamics. Secondly, through the application of the capabilities approach to analyze the critical factors that enable or hinder valued outcomes, the study investigates the potential of collaborative housing in shaping equitable housing results and cultivating inclusive urban environments. Ultimately, the findings of this study can significantly inform housing policies and initiatives that prioritize community-driven solutions.  


The study employs a comprehensive mixed-method design, drawing upon quantitative data sourced from Catalonia's cooperative housing observatory and qualitative data collected through extensive fieldwork. This multifaceted approach encompasses interviews, site visits, focus groups, document analysis, and participatory action research, enriched by informal conversations, presentations, and participant observation. By synthesizing diverse data sources, the research aims to provide a nuanced understanding of collaborative housing's transformative potential in contemporary urban contexts. 



Research questions:

How can community-led housing initiatives achieve more equitable housing outcomes and foster inclusive urban developments?

What are the critical factors and contexts that facilitate or inhibit the development of affordable and sustainable community-led housing?

How can community participation be supported to achieve meaningful housing results for the residents?

Reference documents

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An analysis of community participation for the provision of affordable and sustainable housing: The case of Barcelona


Housing is becoming unaffordable for an increasing part of the population, due to the rising real-estate values, financialization, and commodification of the housing market, leading to exclusion and dislocations. Particularly, in the countries of the European south, the model of private ownership traditionally prevailed, provided through the open market, and social housing provision appeared limited. At the same time, the existing built stock is often inadequate as it doesn’t cover the current dwellers' needs, values, or desires. The research aims to investigate processes of community participation in housing provision, as an emerging practice, that seeks solutions to the housing crisis and more sustainable practices. The focus will be on the case of Barcelona, where during the last fifteen years, local groups are exploring alternative paths of housing co-creation as a response to the housing crisis. We will be focusing on cooperative housing that uses the legal form of ‘grant of use’, and that is following a transdisciplinary co-creation process. The first step of the research will be to map the cases of housing co-creation that appear in Barcelona, using GIS, to understand and analyse their characteristics. The characteristics will follow three categories; spatial/technical, demographic/social, and tenure/legal. Through this mapping we will be able to categorise and understand, what are these projects, who participate and in what tenure forms. In the next step, three cases will be further researched through participatory action research, using interviews, focus groups and participatory observation. Through this investigation, we will be able to analyse the processes that are being followed, the objectives and the outcomes. The cases will be in different stages of their development: initiation, in-process, or already occupied, allowing us to understand critical factors throughout the development of these projects. The emerging practices of community participation in the provision of housing are considered ways to address on the one hand the challenges of long-term affordability of housing, and on the other hand, to pursue the environmental and social sustainability of the communities. Social and environmental sustainability is understood as the entanglement of the two concepts, that need to be defined by each community, encompassing their habits, practices, and modes of living and aiming in pursuing their collective wellbeing. The research aims to provide a better understanding of the emerging model of housing, analyse its critical limits and success factors, and suggest ways of pursuing such a direction. This analysis has the potential of diffusing this knowledge to other countries of the European south, as a way to pursue models of affordable and sustainable housing through community participation.

Reference documents

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Retrofit of existing buildings and cohousing: Co-creation of sustainable living environments


The aim of the research is to investigate processes and practices of collective co-creation of housing and neighborhoods in order to give solutions to the current housing crisis in the context of the european south. The research takes its departure from the need for a critical exploration of what defines a sustainable urban environment, that promotes socially inclusive, environmentally aware and affordable modes of living, that is co-produced by the local population, according to their needs. The research seeks to connect the act of inhabiting with the active involvement in shaping the built environment and creating sustainable communities with respect to their identity and socio-cultural characteristics. 


Housing is becoming unaffordable for a big part of society, because of the rising real-estate values, financialisation and deregulation of the housing market and a permanent housing crisis. At the same time, the right to affordable housing should not be separated from the right to decent housing and to access resources, infrastructures and services. Often, urban areas are being (re)developed following centralised decision-making, which leads to dislocation of the local populations, gentrification or exclusion. In addition, the climate crisis strengthens the importance of re-considering the dominant paradigm of urban development, suggesting more ecological approaches and energy efficiency. Bottom-up practices of collective retrofit and cohousing are creating alternatives that challenge the commodification and precarization of housing and the atomization and isolation of people, offering opportunities for collaboration, appropriation, self-management and empowerment of the residents. 


The research will investigate collaborative practices of housing with the adaptive reuse and retrofit of existing built environments, understanding the socio-political context in which they emerge to create perspectives that go beyond a normative approach. I will use case study research with a mixed method of quantitative and qualitative data, to investigate the process and the characteristics of retrofit cohousing. The post-occupancy evaluation will be followed by participatory action research. Also, the field surveys will be combined with interviews and ethnographic methodologies to develop a comprehensive analysis of the existing conditions. The aim is to arrive at analysis and methodologies for sustainable retrofit of existing buildings considering the social implications and exploring the potential of collaborative housing.  


Recent activity

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Exploring the right to housing in Spain: some reflections

Posted on 22-09-2023

I had the chance to participate in the seminar, `Housing and Neighborhood´ (Vivienda y Vecindario), held in Valencia and organized by the Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo. The seminar, directed by Carles Dolç Soriano and David Estal Herrero, provided an interdisciplinary platform for learning from academics, policymakers, and members of social movements and reflecting on the state of housing in Spain and the ongoing challenges it faces.    Historically, Spain has favoured private ownership in housing, and there have been limited public housing options. However, in recent decades, the landscape of housing has undergone significant changes. As affordable, adequate and sustainable housing seems unreachable for a big part of the population, issues such as the scarcity of social housing, the increasing vulnerability of the residents in certain urban areas and neighbourhoods, the growing need for community-oriented housing solutions, and the issue of reuse of vacant properties through rehabilitation, need to be addressed.    The starting point for the discussions was the new housing law, which came into effect in Spain in May. This landmark legislation is the first of its kind, aimed at establishing principles and guidelines for ensuring equal access to affordable and adequate housing for all. Doubts have arisen about the law's effectiveness, particularly regarding the lack of specific implementation mechanisms, as the responsibility for regulating the housing market and providing solutions falls on each autonomous community. Despite these challenges, the recognition of housing as a fundamental human right is steadily gaining ground.    As a consequence, the debate that took place focused on how this right to housing should be realized, taking into account all the current challenges, as well as the mistakes of past policies, and thinking on strategies and tools to achieve it. The seminar provided an opportunity for collective reflection on public housing policies, new architectural typologies and models that promote and support community living, and the enhancement of energy efficiency in vulnerable households facing energy poverty.    In the world that we live in today, a world vastly different from the times that produced the established housing systems, we face urgent social and environmental crises. Housing can no longer be viewed as a commodity with exchange value, it must be recognised as a shelter, a fundamental human need that takes precedence over all other societal concerns. This makes us wonder whether now is the moment for radical changes, to push for tangible solutions and for new models. These discussions and reflections make us think that we are maybe evolving towards new cultures of inhabiting.  

Reflections, Conferences

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Urban regeneration and new housing research — European network of housing research conference (ENHR) 2023

Posted on 01-09-2023

In the final week of June, I had the luck of participating in this year´s ENHR conference which was held in Lodz, Poland. This three-day event was a great experience, featuring a plethora of insightful presentations stemming from research projects addressing the current housing challenges. Amidst engaging conversations and exchanges with colleagues, the conference provided the opportunity to delve into the issue of urban regeneration. The topic of this year was “Urban regeneration: shines and shadows”, and as the conference was held in Lodz —a city undergoing significant revitalization over the past decade—we were able to witness firsthand the profound impact of urban renewal. The central question explored in the main plenary sessions was: Can regeneration occur without triggering gentrification?   I participated in the collaborative housing workshop, which featured an impressive lineup of presenters covering a diverse range of topics related to collaborative housing models. The workshop consisted of five sessions, each offering insights into various investigations of community-led housing. There were presentations that delved into the historical evolution of cooperative housing in different parts of the world, including Finland, Hungary, and Denmark. We also learned about ongoing research projects focusing on the current state of cooperative housing in cities like Barcelona, Prague, Berlin, and Leeds. In other sessions, we gained perspectives on topics such as Generation Z's attitudes towards cooperative housing, the phenomenon of home-sharing in Brussels, and the dynamics of senior cooperative housing in the Netherlands and Denmark.   I presented my paper: “Understanding Community Participation in Cooperative Housing using the Capabilities Approach: The Case of Catalonia”. This took place within a stimulating session chaired by Claire Carriou. Alongside me were Henrik Larsen, who presented a historical overview of cooperative housing in Denmark, and Valentina Cortés-Urra, who shared her latest research on scenarios for the development of collaborative housing in Chile.   Leaving the conference, I felt inspired by the presentations and the things that I learned from all the participants! I am grateful that this conference brings together all these amazing researchers. With a refreshed perspective, I feel excited to continue the work and already looking forward to next year´s conference!

Conferences, Reflections

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Cooperative housing in Barcelona

Posted on 01-02-2023

Cooperative, community-led, or collaborative forms of housing appear as collective responses to the way we inhabit. At times they are perceived as experimentations in a certain socio-spatial context that seek to push the limits, question or re-interpret existing practices of inhabiting. As a phenomenon tends to reappear and grow in periods where the mechanisms in place for the provision and distribution of housing are not providing solutions (or adequate solutions) for all households. The main values that have been identified as drivers of such initiatives are: fostering a communal way of living, seeking affordable solutions through collective action, rethinking the ecological impact of housing, and addressing gender equality, as well as aging issues. The difference between cooperative housing and market or state-provided housing is that it attempts to overlap three aspects of housing that are usually separated: property, development of housing, and participation in decision-making (Lacol et al., 2018).   In the last months, I have been conducting my case study research in Barcelona, as part of my secondment, where there is a renewed interest in this form of housing. Since its initiation, starting from bottom-up collectives, and neighborhood movements, and growing towards more parts of society, the groups manifest for the right to housing, stressing the importance of the engagement of the inhabitants and the creation of non-speculative and long-term affordable housing. Currently, there is a collective effort in place, from the groups and the support organisations, to promote the model and make it more inclusive. A platform was created at the regional level, where all the cooperatives participate to discuss the evolution of the model. The values that the platform is highlighting as the core of the model, and the ones to reinforce and improve are (XES, 2019):   Non-profit and collective property The cooperatives use collective tenure forms, through long-term and secure access to housing but without the possibility of owning the property and making a profit out of it.   Community engagement and self-management The participation of the inhabitants in the decision-making is at the core of this model. As each group is different, with different priorities, resources, and skills, community engagement can take different forms.   Affordable and inclusive housing One of the key stakes of the model is affordability. The main mechanism for that was initially the grant of use of land, instead of buying it. However, as the model is evolving more mechanisms are being tested and implemented to include more people.   Replicability Collaboration and exchange of knowledge are being promoted among the groups. As practices are being shared and knowledge is being slowly generated, we can look at the lessons learned and understand the critical points.   Sustainability Most of the cases are opting for sustainable housing solutions, by focusing on low-carbon materials, the passive design of the building, and renewable energies. As we are in a moment, when energy and material prices are increasing because of inflation, we see how the trends of the material choices of the initial projects are changing towards locally produced ones.   References: Lacol, la Ciutat Invisible, & la Dinamo Fundación. (2018). Habitar en comunidad : la vivienda cooperativa en cesión de uso. Catarata. XES. (2019). Regulatory principles of cooperative housing in grant of use by the sector for cooperative and transformative housing of the social and solidarity economy network of Catalonia.


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The discussion for the right to housing. ENHR, Barcelona 2022

Posted on 12-09-2022

The annual conference of the European Network of Housing Research took place in Barcelona this year, under the title “The struggle for the right to housing. The pressures of globalization and affordability in cities today”. At the epicenter was the issue of the unaffordability of housing and its increasing financialization. As cities become part of a global arena, urban space is increasingly subjected to the flows of capital and market forces, leaving behind the needs and the voices of the local populations. This is what Raquel Rolnik referred to, during the conference, as the colonization of the built space by finance and the processes of dispossession that it implies. In these conditions, housing is being used as an exchange value, as the preferred asset for investment by funds, or for rental exploitation and speculation, by short-term rental corporations. This understanding of housing as an exchange value, demotes its use value, as the right for a shelter, for security, and as a place that is intertwined with people's lives and well-being.   At the same time, we observe how dominant paradigms of urban organization and planning, are spreading over the world, reconfiguring cities and territories. The urban mutations that are caused, for example, by the processes of touristification and gentrification, having a more profound impact on territories at the periphery (or semi-periphery) of capitalism, create unhostile cities for its residents, breaking the social fabric and disturbing social cohesion. As a consequence, these urban reconfigurations, lead to a restructuring of the housing regimes in terms of tenure forms. The rentierization of many housing markets, for example, leads to tenure and intergenerational inequalities between homeowners and renters, creating more precarious conditions for those at rent. On a policy level, important actions were discussed such as the regulation of short-term rentals and rent-control policies together with more supply of social housing, or public support of community-led housing initiatives.    As a counter-act to the ongoing processes of financialization and speculation, there are many bottom-up responses, from groups that are claiming housing as a right and are pushing for decommodified and affordable housing. The emergence of cooperative housing and community land trusts, is such a case, intending to create alternative forms of collective and non-speculative housing, separating the use-value from the exchange value. Through participatory processes and democratic decision-making, the initiatives are creating new forms of ownership, based on collective management. The objectives are plural, as apart from the demand for access to decent and affordable housing, the groups are creating more communal ways of living, in terms of spatial and social configurations and are reconsidering the meaning of sustainability in housing.   Aspects that were discussed in relation to cooperative housing were the affordability of the model and the opportunities for access by social groups in need of affordable, decent, and secure housing, such as low-income, single-parent or immigrant households. Also, the use of policy instruments to facilitate their production and regulate their access to them, as well as the long-term affordability of the model and the prevention of future privatization and speculation. Often the discussion on the inclusion of the model and the accessibility by different social groups is related to the question of governance, in all the phases of production, management, and administration of the housing cooperative, looking at the differences between more self-managed cases, and at others that are being developed in collaboration with associations and umbrella cooperative promoters.     Co-operative housing initiatives are framed by many researchers within the literature of the commons, and thus understood and analyzed by their capacity to create spaces and practices of commoning, embedded in the everyday lives of the inhabitants. This can be analyzed in the internal structure of the housing (spatially and socially), but also in relation to the neighborhood scale, and the impact it can have on the area. In close relation is found the research of cooperative housing through the lens of the ethics of care. The collectivization of the domestic sphere is creating opportunities for different forms of social reproduction that question the dominant ways of dwelling. There are current research projects that attempt to evaluate the contribution of cooperative housing, as a way of dwelling, in the life of its inhabitants, looking at the health and well-being of the communities or the potential to tackle the social rupture created by the individualization of housing, thus looking at the social impact it can generate.   As the model is expanding, and cases of collective, shared, and cooperative housing appear in different contexts from the global north to the south, it is important for the research community to keep shedding light on the potential, but also on the contradictions of these practices. The analysis and the comparison of different cases, help us to learn from the experiences of the groups and work to strengthen the idea of housing as a right, and as a space and a practice that can be meaningful for the communities.

Conferences, Reflections


Case studies

Contributions to the case study library


Contributions to the vocabulary

Capability Approach

Community Empowerment

Community-led housing

Housing Retrofit

Area: Community participation

The Capability Approach (CA), initially introduced by economist and philosopher Amartya Sen (1999) and subsequently developed by Martha Nussbaum (2011), provides a framework for evaluating individual or collective well-being and societal progress beyond traditional economic measures. As Coates and Anand (2015) pointed out, Sen’s approach aims to rectify certain deficiencies in conventional welfare economics. It contrasts what individuals and collectives are free to do (capabilities) and what they actually accomplish (functionings). This accomplishment depends on their means, such as resources and public goods, and their ability to convert means into outcomes, which is contingent upon certain conditions such as personal, sociopolitical, and environmental factors (conversion factors) (Robeyns & Byskov, 2023). When applied within the realm of housing, CA assumes that merely providing shelter is not enough and that spaces for living must be created. It emphasises the importance of examining the broader capabilities and freedoms that housing enables individuals or communities to achieve, thereby framing housing as a basic need and a means to human development. This approach can serve as a method of appraising both housing outcomes and means. The rationale behind adopting such an approach in housing, as articulated by some scholars, is to move beyond evaluating it solely through quantitative metrics, such as housing supply or homeownership rates. Instead, the emphasis is on considering qualitative aspects that better capture individuals' lived experiences (Clapham et al., 2019). In line with the CA approach, providing affordable and sustainable housing should encompass the development of people's capabilities, enabling them to create their living environments and promoting overall well-being. Recognising that a home is more than just its material components, housing plays a crucial role in enhancing people's abilities to lead fulfilling lives and actively participate in society. This perspective incorporates various dimensions that housing should address that go beyond mere shelter, such as security, community integration, neighbourhood relationships, and self-esteem. This comprehension of housing aligns with the literature on social sustainability, which sheds light on aspects that transcend the material and technical attributes of housing.   Beyond focusing solely on housing outcomes, the capabilities approach extends its scope to the means employed to achieve them (Frediani, 2019). One important aspect is the emphasis on the agency in shaping one’s housing conditions. It recognizes the diverse needs, preferences, and capabilities of individuals, advocating for their active participation and the implementation of supportive policies that empower them to choose where and how they live. This approach moves beyond the one-size-fits-all model, acknowledging the importance of providing diverse housing options that cater to the varied needs of individuals and groups. These needs encompass considerations such as location, size, typology, accessibility, cultural preferences, and the balance between private and communal spaces or shared facilities. Scholars have consistently underscored the relevance of this approach, particularly when coupled with the active participation and involvement of individuals and communities in decision-making about their housing. Prioritising their perspectives and needs fosters the valued aspects of housing, leading to personal, collective and structural empowerment (Clark et al., 2019). Moreover, CA highlights the need to address social inequalities in housing. It recognizes that disparities in access to housing resources, including affordability, quality, and location, can limit individuals' capabilities and opportunities. Marginalized groups, such as low-income households, ethnic minorities, or people with disabilities, often face systemic barriers that impede their access to adequate housing, hindering their overall well-being and social participation. Furthermore, within housing participation processes, recognising differences at various levels - from access to resources to the conditions and circumstances of the people participating- is crucial to creating more meaningful, equitable and democratic processes. Considering these aspects, the CA advocates for participatory processes and policies promoting fair and equitable housing opportunities for various social groups. Implementing the CA in the field of housing can take place across various disciplines, including policymaking, architectural practice, and community involvement.  It is an approach that establishes a multidimensional evaluation space, placing inhabitants at the centre. This represents a multi-faceted strategy engaging various stakeholders to improve the capabilities of individuals or communities. Governments, policymakers, urban planners, and community organizations play vital roles in creating environments that support individuals' capabilities through housing. This could entail designing inclusive housing policies, investing in affordable housing initiatives, ensuring that urban planning considers diverse needs, and fostering community engagement to create supportive and cohesive neighbourhoods.

Created on 18-01-2024

Author: Z.Tzika (ESR10)


Area: Community participation

Community empowerment appears in the literature of participatory action research (Minkler, 2004), participatory planning (Jo & Nabatchi, 2018), and community development (Luttrell et al., 2009) as a key element of participatory practices, understanding it as a process that enables communities to take control of their lives and their environments (Rappaport, 2008; Zimmerman, 2000). Many argue that community participation becomes meaningless if it does not lead to, or pass through community empowerment. As the term is being used in diverse and ubiquitous ways, it runs the risk of ending up as an empty definition and a catch-all phrase (McLaughlin, 2015). It is therefore important to specify the perspective through which we will view the term and clarify the nuances.  Since its origins, empowerment has been used in two different ways. Firstly, top-down as the power that had been ‘granted’ by a higher authority, such as the state or a religious institution, and secondly, bottom-up, as a process by which groups or individuals come to develop the capacity to act and acquire power. Examples of the latter can be found in social groups such as feminists working in nongovernmental organizations throughout the global south in the 1970s, who found a way to address social issues and inequalities that enabled social transformation based on women’s self-organization (Biewener & Bacqué, 2015). The term was gradually appropriated by welfare, neoliberal, and social-neoliberal agendas whose priority was individual agency and choice. In neoliberal rationality, empowerment is related to efficiency, economic growth, business productivity, and individual rational choice to maximize profit in a competitive market economy. In social liberalism agendas, empowerment is understood as ‘effective agency’, where ‘agency’ is not an inherent attribute, but something that needs to be constructed through ‘consciousness-raising’ (McLaughlin, 2016). A broader definition sees empowerment as a social action process through which individuals, communities, and organizations take control of their lives in the context of changing the social and political environment to improve equity and quality of life (Rappaport, 2008; Zimmerman, 2000). Rowlands (1997), refers to four types of empowerment: power over, as the ability to influence and coerce; power to, to organize and change existing hierarchies; power with, as the power from the collective action and power within, as the power from the individual consciousness. Using this classification, Biewener & Bacqué (2015), adopting a feminist approach, understand empowerment as a multilevel construct with three interrelated dimensions: 1) an internal, psychological one, where ‘power within’ and ‘power to’ are developed, 2) an organizational, where ‘power with’ and ‘power over’ are strengthened and 3) a social or political level, where institutional and structural change is made possible through collective action. Thus, community empowerment links the individual level, which involves self-determination, growth of individual awareness, and self-esteem, to the collective level, relating critical consciousness and capacity building with the structural level, where collective engagement and transformative social action take place. This view of empowerment, which considers its goals and processes, has a social dimension that is lacking in other approaches that prioritize individual empowerment. Aside from the feminist movements, the philosophy and practices of community empowerment have been greatly influenced by the work of Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator and an advocate on critical pedagogy. Freire proposed a dialogic problem-solving process based on equality and mutual respect between students and teachers; that engaged them in a process of iterative listening-discussing-acting. Through structured dialogue, group participants shared their experiences, discussed common problems, and looked for root causes and the connections among “problems behind the problems as symptoms” (Freire, 1970). The term conscientization, that Freire proposed, refers to the consciousness that arises through the involvement of people in the social analysis of conditions and their role in changing them. This awareness enables groups to be reflexive and open spaces, to enact change or to understand those limited situations that may deter change (Barndt, 1989). Empowerment can be understood as both a process and an outcome (Jo & Nabatchi, 2018). As a process, it refers to “the development and implementation of mechanisms to enable individuals or groups to gain control, develop skills and test knowledge”(Harrison & Waite, 2015) and it entails the creation of new subjects who have developed a critical consciousness and the formation of groups with a ‘collective agency’ ‚ or ‘social collective identity’ (Biewener & Bacqué, 2015). Empowerment as an outcome refers to “an affective state in which the individual or group feels that they have increased control, greater understanding and are involved and active” (Harrison & Waite, 2015). This can lead to a transformation of the social conditions by challenging the structures and institutionalized forms that reproduce inequalities. The values and the significance of community empowerment can be further applied in the participatory and community-based approaches of the housing sector. Examples of such approaches in the housing provision are the housing cooperatives, and self-developed and self-managed housing groups. Housing cooperatives aim at promoting co-creation to engage future residents, professionals, and non-profit organizations in all the stages of a housing project: problem-framing, designing, developing, cohabiting, managing, and maintaining. Such organisational models stress the importance and pave the way for community empowerment by uniting individuals with similar interests and ideals, enabling them to have housing that responds to their needs, preferences, and values. The participation of the residents aims to strengthen their sense of ownership of the process, the democratic decision-making and management, and the social collective identity, making community empowerment an integral characteristic of cooperative housing initiatives. With this social perspective, residents can gain individual and collective benefits while contributing to fairer and more sustainable urban development on a larger scale (Viskovic Rojs et al., 2020).

Created on 03-06-2022

Author: Z.Tzika (ESR10)


Area: Community participation

Community-led housing involves residents, often organised into community groups, actively participating in planning, designing, financing and managing housing projects to meet their specific needs and preferences. This active involvement nurtures a sense of community ownership and control. This sense of community encompasses  feelings of belonging, shared identity, and mutual support among the residents of a community-led housing initiatives. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with the term "collaborative housing". Collaborative housing also refers to a participatory approach to housing development; however, the focus is on collaboration with the different stakeholders and encompasses various non-profit housing delivery models. While self-organised collective housing efforts are nothing new, a new wave of such initiatives has emerged in Europe since the 2000s (Lang et al., 2018; Tummers, 2016). In recent decades, market-provided housing has been the predominant model in Europe, often prioritising economic gain over the right to adequate shelter. The primary housing options from a tenure perspective are home ownership and rent, which are not always affordable for low-income groups (OECD, 2020, 2020). As a result, many communities are coming together to create secure and affordable housing solutions (Jarvis, 2015). However, the motivations behind these initiatives can vary among the involved groups and may reflect economic, ideological, social or ecological ideals (Caldenby et al., 2020). Some of these motivations include creating affordable homes, exploring more sustainable living practices, and fostering a sense of community and social cohesion. In contrast to other forms of collective housing, community-led housing schemes do not merely emphasize resource or living space sharing: they empower the community to play a proactive role in shaping their built and living environment. According to the Co-operative Councils Innovative Network (2018), community-led housing are developments that meet the following criteria: There is meaningful community engagement throughout the process, even if they did not initiate or build the scheme. The community has a long-term formal role in the ownership or management of the homes. The benefits of the scheme to the local area and/or specified community group are clearly defined and legally protected in perpetuity. Community-led housing can take diverse forms, contingent upon the extent of involvement from the participating communities and the specific type of development. These manifestations range from grassroots groups independently initiating projects to meet their housing needs, to community organizations spearheading housing initiatives. Additionally, developers, such as local authorities or housing associations, can initiate partnerships to provide housing solutions with a community-led component (Lang et al., 2020). Furthermore, concerning the development model, community-led housing can encompass constructing new homes, repurposing vacant homes and managing existing housing units. Each of these approaches has the potential to significantly influence the broader neighbourhood context (Fromm, 2012). The forms of community-led housing include: Housing cooperatives: These are groups of people who provide and collectively manage, homes for themselves as tenants or shared owners, based on democratic membership principles. Cohousing: These consist of like-minded people who come together to provide self-contained private homes for themselves while collectively managing their scheme and often sharing activities, including communal spaces. Cohousing can be developer-led, so it is important to examine whether cases meet the broad definition given above, rather than simply use the term cohousing as a marketing device. Community Land Trusts (CLTs): These are not-for-profit corporations that hold land as a community asset and serve as long-term providers of rental housing or shared ownership. Self-help housing: Small, community-based organisations bringing empty properties back into use, often without mainstream funding and with a strong emphasis on construction skills training and support. Tenant-Managed Organisations: They provide social housing tenants with collective responsibility for managing and maintaining the homes through an agreement with their council or housing association.   These models are adaptable and not mutually exclusive; for example, a co-housing group could choose to establish either a cooperative or a Community Land Trust (CLT). It is important to note that there are variations in how these models are applied in different contexts and countries. For local authorities, community-led housing offers several advantages. It improves the housing supply and the availability of affordable homes, diversifying the housing market while ensuring the long-term affordability of housing units. Additionally, community-led housing supports urban regeneration efforts and repurposes vacant homes. It has the potential to empower communities so that they become more self-sufficient. By involving residents in addressing their housing needs, these initiatives provide opportunities for vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, mono-parental families, etc., to live in supportive communities. Such housing schemes can be developed in various contexts, offering solutions for different housing challenges, including informal settlements, former refugee camps, and the heavily owner-occupied housing markets of South and Eastern Europe.

Created on 05-10-2023

Author: Z.Tzika (ESR10)


Area: Design, planning and building

Environmental Retrofit Buildings are responsible for approximately 40% of energy consumption and 36% of carbon emissions in the EU (European Commission, 2021). Environmental retrofit, green retrofit or low carbon retrofits of existing homes ais to upgrade housing infrastructure, increase energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions, tackle fuel poverty, and improve comfort, convenience and aesthetics (Karvonen, 2013). It is widely acknowledged that environmental retrofit should result in a reduction of carbon emissions by at least 60% in order to stabilise atmospheric carbon concentration and mitigate climate change (Fawcett, 2014; Johnston et al., 2005). Worldwide retrofit schemes such as RetrofitWorks, EnerPHit and the EU’s Renovation Wave, use varying metrics to define low carbon retrofit, but their universally adopted focus has been on end-point performance targets (Fawcett, 2014). This fabric-first approach to retrofit prioritises improvements to the building fabric through: increased thermal insulation and airtightness; improving the efficiency of systems such as heating, lighting and electrical appliances; and the installation of renewables such as photovoltaics (Institute for Sustainability & UCL Energy Institute, 2012). The whole-house systems approach to retrofit further considers the interaction between the occupant, the building site, climate, and other elements or components of a building (Institute for Sustainability & UCL Energy Institute, 2012). In this way, the building becomes an energy system with interdependent parts that strongly affect one another, and energy performance is considered a result of the whole system activity. Economic Retrofit From an economic perspective, retrofit costs are one-off expenses that negatively impact homeowners and landlords, but reduce energy costs for occupants over the long run. Investment in housing retrofit, ultimately a form of asset enhancing, produces an energy premium attached to the property. In the case of the rental market, retrofit expenses create a split incentive whereby the landlord incurs the costs but the energy savings are enjoyed by the tenant (Fuerst et al., 2020). The existence of energy premiums has been widely researched across various housing markets following Rosen’s hedonic pricing model. In the UK, the findings of Fuerst et al. (2015) showed the positive effect of energy efficiency over price among home-buyers, with a price increase of about 5% for dwellings rated A/B compared to those rated D. Cerin et al. (2014) offered similar results for Sweden. In the Netherlands, Brounen and Kok (2011), also identified a 3.7% premium for dwellings with A, B or C ratings using a similar technique. Property premiums offer landlords and owners the possibility to capitalise on their  retrofit investment through rent increases or the sale of the property. While property premiums are a way to reconcile          split incentives between landlord and renter, value increases pose questions about long-term affordability of retrofitted units, particularly, as real an expected energy savings post-retrofit have been challenging to reconcile (van den Brom et al., 2019). Social Retrofit A socio-technical approach to retrofit elaborates on the importance of the occupant. To meet the current needs of inhabitants, retrofit must be socially contextualized and comprehended as a result of cultural practices, collective evolution of know-how, regulations, institutionalized procedures, social norms, technologies and products (Bartiaux et al., 2014). This perspective argues that housing is not a technical construction that can be improved in an economically profitable manner without acknowledging that it’s an entity intertwined in people’s lives, in which social and personal meaning are embedded. Consequently, energy efficiency and carbon reduction cannot be seen as a merely technical issue. We should understand and consider the relationship that people have developed in their dwellings, through their everyday routines and habits and their long-term domestic activities (Tjørring & Gausset, 2018). Retrofit strategies and initiatives tend to adhere to a ‘rational choice’ consultation model that encourages individuals to reduce their energy consumption by focusing on the economic savings and environmental benefits through incentive programs, voluntary action and market mechanisms (Karvonen, 2013). This is often criticized as an insufficient and individualist approach, which fails to achieve more widespread systemic changes needed to address the environmental and social challenges of our times (Maller et al., 2012). However, it is important to acknowledge the housing stock as a cultural asset that is embedded in the fabric of everyday lifestyles, communities, and livelihoods (Ravetz, 2008). The rational choice perspective does not consider the different ways that occupants inhabit their homes, how they perceive their consumption, in what ways they interact with the built environment, for what reasons they want to retrofit their houses and which ways make more sense for them, concerning the local context. A community-based approach to domestic retrofit emphasizes the importance of a recursive learning process among experts and occupants to facilitate the co-evolution of the built environment and the communities (Karvonen, 2013). Involving the occupants in the retrofit process and understanding them as “carriers” of social norms, of established routines and know-how, new forms of intervention  can emerge that are experimental, flexible and customized to particular locales (Bartiaux et al., 2014). There is an understanding that reconfiguring socio-technical systems on a broad scale will require the participation of occupants to foment empowerment, ownership, and the collective control of the domestic retrofit (Moloney et al., 2010).

Created on 16-02-2022

Author: A.Fernandez (ESR12), Z.Tzika (ESR10), S.Furman (ESR2)



Tzika, Z., Sentieri, C., Csizmady, A., & Martinez, A. (2022, August). Models of housing co-creation as a means to achieve more affordable and sustainable housing? Barcelona as a case study. In New Housing Researchers Colloquium (NHRC) at the European Network for Housing Research (ENHR) Conference 2022, Barcelona, Spain.

Posted on 30-08-2022



Pappa, A., Tzika, Z., Roussou, E., & Panagidis, A. (2023, December). Informality as evidence: ethnographic insights from Southern European contexts. In KAEBUP 2023 Conference, Nicosia, Cyprus.

Posted on 17-07-2024



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