Tensions between affordability and sustainability and the implications for vulnerable groups

Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands

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Prof. dr. ir. Marja Elsinga, chair Housing Institutions and Governance


Dr. Adrienne Csizmady, Centre for Social Sciences, Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary

Dr. Joris Hoekstra, Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands


Clarion, United kingdom

Housing Europe, Brussels, Belgium

European Federation for Living, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Research project

Given the current housing affordability and sustainability challenges that Europe is facing, it is of vital importance that housing becomes both more affordable and environmentally sustainable. Unfortunately, there often is a tension between affordability and sustainability ambitions, in newly built housing but also in the existing housing stock. Newly built highly sustainable housing is usually more expensive than housing that is developed through conventional building techniques. In the existing rental housing stock, investments in sustainability measures may give rise to higher rental prices which in turn can create affordability problems for tenants, even though energy costs tend to go down as a result of these measures. In the home ownership sector, housing affordability considerations often prevent investments in sustainability enhancing renovations. After all, such investments require high upfront payments and it may take a long time before the invested money is earned back.

The research to be carried out in this project will unravel the ways in which affordability and sustainability are potentially in conflict. This will be done by mapping and comparing the affordability and sustainability dimensions of housing policies and projects across Europe. Furthermore, best practices (case studies) demonstrating how to overcome this conflict will be identified. These practices can take various forms and shapes, ranging from the provision of innovative affordable and sustainable housing models (e.g. tiny housing) to specific new financing arrangements (e.g. green mortgages). Specific attention will be paid to sustainable and affordable housing solutions for vulnerable groups (by income, gender, cultural background or health condition), since these people are most in need of affordable housing. Ultimately, the case study analysis should result in a set of more general policy recommendations.

The research will be based on a range of different research methods such as policy analysis, case study research, focus groups with professional stakeholders and interviews with vulnerable groups. The case studies are expected to come from various European countries. The planned secondments are intended to deepen the case studies.

->To conduct an individual research project, interlinked with the other ESRs projects, focusing on:
  • An international comparative statistical analysis of the potential tensions between affordability and sustainability indicators at both the macro (countries and regions) and the micro (individual households) level
  • A case study analysis of good practices (policies, projects) that have the potential to overcome the tensions between housing affordability and environmental sustainability, and that specifically focus on vulnerable groups
  • The formulation of a policy and research agenda with regard to sustainable and affordable housing for vulnerable groups
->To participate in the network-wide activities (workshops, summer schools, conferences)
->To carry out the training required by the PhD programme of the host university.

As part of the individual research project, ESRs will carry out two secondments, each of 2 to 3 months, in the partner organisations.

ESRs are expected to have completed a doctoral thesis that can be defended at the host institution within or shortly thereafter the project lifetime.

Specific requirements
->Masters’ degree in a relevant discipline (social or spatial sciences, economics, architecture)
->Sound knowledge of, and experience with, quantitative and qualitative research methods
->Prior experience with research on affordability and/or international comparative research is preferred.
->An excellent command of English (C1 or C2)
Generic requirements

The candidates must fulfil the eligibility and mobility requirements of the Marie Curie ITN programme:

To be eligible for recruitment within an ITN project, you therefore must – at the date of recruitment – be within the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of your research career and not have a doctoral degree. Full-time equivalent research experience is measured from the date when you obtained the degree entitling you to embark on a doctorate (either in the country in which the degree was obtained, or in the country in which you are recruited), even if a doctorate was never started or envisaged. You may therefore be required to provide documentation proving your eligibility for recruitment.
You are therefore required to undertake transnational mobility in order to be eligible for recruitment in an ITN project. As such, you must not have resided or carried out your main activity (e.g. work, studies) in the country where you have been recruited "for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the recruitment date"5. Holidays are not counted. Your employer is required to verify this fact, therefore you may be required to provide supporting documentation proving your place(s) of residence or work during the previous 3 years. Note that the mobility rule applies only to your first recruitment within the project, and not to other organisations to which you might be sent on secondment or at which you may subsequently also be recruited. Finally, the mobility rule is related to your residence or main activity and not to your nationality.

Please find here more information about the requirements for Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellows in Innovative Training Networks (ITN)

About us

Since its foundation 110 years ago, the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment has built up a solid international reputation for training architects, urban planners and designers, as well as for its research portfolio and coaching of PhD candidates. With around 2,600 students and 500 staff members, and around 230 full-time employees devoted to academic positions, our institution is one of the most prestigious architecture and the built environment faculties globally as demonstrated by our number 2 position in the global QS-ranking 2020. Traditionally, the faculty has prioritised high-quality training in design and research in the field of the built environment. Over 40 chairs embrace a wide range of academic areas in design, process and technology, which together cover the entire field of the built environment. The faculty has a budget of around €38 million, of which approximately €7 million is sourced indirectly and from contracts with third parties.

The chairs Housing Institutions & Governance and Housing Management have a track record in participating and (co)leading EC funded projects such as: UPLIFT Intergenerational inequalities and housing for vulnerable young people : (H2020SC6-TRANSFORMATIONS-2019, 2020-22), Housing 4.0 Energy Applying new digital techniques for small affordable near zero energy housing, (Interreg NEW, 2018-21), CHARM Circular Housing Asset Renovation & Management (Interreg NWE, 2018-21), RE-InVEST: Rebuilding an inclusive, value-based Europe of solidarity and trust through social investments (H2020-EURO-SOCIETY-2014, 2016-19).


The Marie Skłodowska-Curie programme offers highly competitive and attractive salary and working conditions which include:

->a living allowance (3,528 Euros per month)
->a monthly mobility allowance (600 Euros per month)
->a family allowance (if applicable, 500 Euros per month)

These allowances are used to cover the gross salary, employers’ compulsory deductions and benefits for the three years of the Marie Curie programme. The living allowance is a gross EU contribution to the salary costs of the full-time researcher. The family allowance is an estimated average that will be adapted to the specific conditions of the hired researcher. All three subsidies are subject to the deduction of compulsory social security contributions and income taxes in accordance with the regulations applicable in the country of the host institution. At the end of the three-year contract any possible difference between the gross amounts paid and the amount to be paid according to the programme will be equalized.

Enrolment fees in the PhD programme of the host institution will be covered by the programme during the 36-month period.


Please use this form to provide the following information:

->personal data
->confirmation of compliance with the eligibility and mobility requirements

And the required documentation:

->letter of motivation (maximum 2 pages)
->CV in EUROPASS format
->certificate of English proficiency
->transcripts of your academic degrees (translated into English, by a sworn translator; including ranking of degree classification)
->a research proposal in line with the ESR project (maximum 6 pages), for each ESR project you would like to apply (maximum three)
->if applicable, a professional portfolio
->two reference letters

Prof. dr. ir. Marja Elsinga (

More information

PhD programme at the TUD Graduate School of Architecture and the Built Environment

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