It is in a particular context that the project Opengela celebrated it’s one year of existence. Its partners decided that the best way to celebrate was digitally, surrounded by representatives of 6 fellow One-Stop-Shops European Projects. This anniversary webinar took place on the 12th of May 2020, gathering 180 attendees from 26 countries. It intended to provide a reflection of different European OSS projects on the challenges and opportunities urban regeneration can raise in the context of the COVID 19 pandemic.
Ignacio de la Puerta, the Opengela Coordinator and Director for Urban Regeneration and Territorial Planning in the Basque Government, opened the session. He started by raising the question “How can we face the new reality?“, and highlighted the necessity of a collective brainstorming in this period of uncertainty. Ignacio made clear that, regarding the challenges posed by the health crisis for OSS projects, regional and local governments have an important role to play as they are the ones who are closer to the citizens.
One that note, Christophe Milin from EASME (the European Agency for small and medium entreprises) added that the Covid19 crisis is an opportunity to help us prepare for future crisis, as the Climate Crisis. But this raises the questions: how do we take this opportunity, where do we go and with what tools? These are some of the questions the panelists tried to answer through the specific examples of OSS.
During the webinar it appeared clearly that, in addition to the obvious health consequences, the most stricking impact for the the target groups of the Opengela project (vulnerable neighborhoods) would be economic and social: unemployment, increased dependency, etc. In short, social and economic imbalances will be accentuated, with as a consequence a paralysis of investment possibilities. This raises a basic problem: How is it possible to encourage a neighborhood to invest, when there are significant parts of the society that see their jobs put at risk, are left unemployed or under a psychological environment necessity to spend as little as possible?
With that question in mind, the webinar continued with the presentation of The Opengela peer project, EuroPACE. It has developed an innovative home-based financing formula which allows long-term loans at affordable rates for all home-owners, including those in a vulnerable condition. Davide Cannarozzi elaborated on this effort for eco-sustainable renovations. The need of affordable and smart funding is one of the keys. He added that “The access to finance, in a crisis context, will be really important, how to pay will become more important“. Stephan Hartmann from RenooBooster also highlighted the issue of accessing to funds by saying: “We have done an assessment of our project and the conclusion is that we don’t have to change the basis of our framework, but of course financing is more of an issue now“.
Other speakers repeated that the post-covid19 challenges will center around the question of financing, but this is not the only issue. Home renovation must be integrated with other measures. As an example, Cecilia Hugony from CitiesSharing explained that their goal was to decrease by 50% the use of energy with a strategy focused on ecodesign combined with a simplification of physical meetings post-Covid19.
Another lesson taught by this crisis is the need to guarantee health as an essential element of our life. The sanitary conditions of the houses in which we live therefore become an element of the first order to transform our society into a more resilient one. On this note, Andoni from the Opengela project commented that “the concept of home has changed so much into a wider concept. It has turned into a school, a work center (…) it is not about refurbishing, it is something deeper to adapt to the ‘new normal’ situation“. In that sense, SuperHomes, another OSS Project, gives us a good example. It focuses exactly on the health component of our homes. The initiative supports homeowners in a residential deep retrofit to achieve more comfortable, healthier homes with better air quality through sensible and cost-effective energy measures.
Wrapping up with the session, the panelists concluded that financing is as important as innovative ideas in order to get projects going. However, technical assistance and providing tailored advices to homeowners will be more important. The Covid-19 situation is not only a stress test for One-Stop-Shops business models, but for every actions that are taken to tackle the climate crisis. This emphacizes the need to ensure that the EU Renovation Wave we are constructing is local, bottom-up, green and fair!