The Opengela model of urban regeneration is expanding not only in the rest of the Basque Country, but also in different European countries. On Thursday 31 March and Friday 1 April, representatives from seven municipalities and regions visited Bilbao and Eibar to see first-hand the pilot projects being developed in the Otxarkoaga and Txonta neighbourhoods, respectively.
The selection of the regions to replicate the model has been made by Fedarene, the European Federation of Energy and Environment Agencies and Regions, which in turn is one of the partners in the Opengela consortium. housing Europe also assisted in the selection of the regions that visited the project.
These are two regions in Croatia, two more in Spain – Extremadura and Asturias- and also an Irish entity established in three counties, Poland and Greece.
From Croatia, officials have come from two regions: on the one hand, from the county of Medjimurje, which covers three cities and 22 municipalities. There, the regional energy agency MENEA operates as an advisory centre for energy and climate issues and is now in the process of expanding its services to, among other things, integrate a home renovation service collaboratively and ensure financial sustainability.
The other Croatian region present in Euskadi covers the counties of Varazdin, Koprivnica-Krizevci and Virovitica-Podravina. There, the regional energy agency, REA North, has already started to provide consultation and technical guidance related to housing renovation. However, it is looking for ideas to address the financial side and questions on how to establish an innovative citizen-driven one-stop-shop model at the local and regional levels.
There was also a Spanish presence, through representatives from Extremadura and Asturias. Representatives from Extremadura came with AGENEX, an energy agency that has already participated in other European projects such as INNOVATE or HousEEnvest. It is looking for ideas and experiences to address social housing from a perspective in which homeowners are involved, in addition to the search for sustainable financial tools. For its part, Asturias was present through Viviendas del Principado de Asturias-VIPASA, the company that manages the public housing stock of the Principality of Asturias.
The fifth region comes from Ireland. There, the energy agency 3cea is active in the counties of Carlow, Kilkenny, and Wexford and is committed to energy efficiency and renewables. Finally, there were also the presence of the Polish region of Mazovia through the Mazovia Energy Agency, and from Greece via the Thessaloniki social rental agency.
Opengela, until January 2023
The heads of the seven European cities and regions have attended a busy programme in which they have learned about the general lines of the Opengela project, which started in May 2019 and is scheduled to end in January next year. They also visited the two pilot neighbourhoods: Txonta (Eibar) and Otxarkoaga (Bilbao), where work is already progressing on the buildings where the intervention is being carried out. Opengela focuses on the creation of neighbourhood offices that act as a one-stop-shop, where the neighbourhood receives support to tackle the refurbishment of their buildings from a perspective of improving energy efficiency and also with social criteria.
In Otxarkoaga, in Bilbao, work is being carried out on five buildings totalling 16 portals with a total of 240 dwellings. The office is located in the former BBK kindergarten. In the Txonta neighbourhood in Eibar, the pilot project involves work on 221 homes with 17 homeowners.
The project has received 1.7 million euros from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme and is led by the Basque Government’s Department of Territorial Planning, Housing and Transport. The consortium is joined by eight other partners: the local urban development companies of the two municipalities (Viviendas Municipales de Bilbao and the Gipuzkoa-based Debegesa), the Basque Energy Agency (EVE), as well as three companies: one specialising in financing, GNE Finance; another in European affairs, Zabala; and another in communication, Gabineteseis; together with two European organisations based in Brussels: Fedarene and the European Federation of Public, Cooperative and Social Housing (Housing Europe).