KEY LEARNING POINTS
- Minimal resources are needed to facilitate a modest programme of opportunities for group projects. In this situation one member of staff has enabled more than a dozen projects
- Political support is vital. As soon as the new Mayor of Strasbourg put his weight behind this initiative, it took off
- Don’t select based on the price offered for the land. Set a fixed price for the land and then select based on the concept the group puts forward, their organisational skills and their financial viability
Strasbourg became interested in this way of facilitating new homes following the completion of a pioneering 11 home project called Eco-Logis. This development was built by a collective of local people that first came together in 2001. It took six years for the group to find a site; and the real breakthrough occurred when a new Mayor came into power and backed the idea. The project was built between 2008 and 2010, and was one of the first schemes of this type completed in France.
Strasbourg has become a big supporter of collective projects, and currently has 16 developments in the pipeline or nearing completion. Collectively these will deliver around 140 modestly priced homes. The initiative has co-ordinated by one member of the council’s housing team.
Public Sector and Community
Low Cost and Intermediate
Buoyed by the success of this pioneering development the Mayor threw his weight behind a wider initiative, and 12 sites for further group projects were identified – some on the city’s own land, some involving small pockets of land owned by a private foundation. On these plots the Mayor effectively cut a deal with the foundation, agreeing to some of foundation’s larger housing developments in the city in return for reserving the smaller parcels of land for the groups.
The sites were then promoted by the council, with a call to groups to come forward with their proposals. Private developers and housing associations were not allowed to bid for the plots.
The Eco-Logis development in Strasbourg
Selecting the groups
Each group had to provide information across five headings: –
- Details of the members of their group – the council said it would give preference to diverse groups, with a range of social backgrounds and ages
- Details of the communal philosophies an ideas of their group – and how they hoped to impact positively on the local community
- Details of their financesDetails of their organisational structure, and how they proposed to make decisions
- Details of their ideas for using the site – essentially an outline concept of what they hoped to create (but not full architectural drawings)
A jury was then assembled to assess the information and identify the best groups to proceed with each site. When assessing the submissions the jury gave 30 per cent of their marks for the organisational structure. The group’s finances, concept and the communal aspects were each allocated 20 per cent, and the diversity information they provided scored up to 10 per cent.
Three families have built this block in Rue du Renard Prechant – it also includes some workspaces
Prices and resources
The price of each plot was set by the council, so the bids were not assessed on the highest financial offer; indeed groups were allowed to bid below the asking price if, for example, they planned to build the homes to very high environmental standards. The price of the plots varied, depending on their location, from €2,650 to €3,800 per sq m.
The process has been handled by one member of staff in the city’s housing team, and has cost the city around €100,000 – roughly €40,000 of this has been spent on communicating/promoting the opportunities, so that groups would form and submit bids.
The Ecoterra group provides 14 homes on Passage de la Gosseline. It was due for completion in the autumn of 2015 This scheme in Rue Ernest Rickert provides 23 homes
Some of the other group projects underway in Strasbourg
For the purposes of this Toolkit we have made the following definitions:
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- ‘self and custom built homes’ as properties commissioned by people from a builder, contractor or package company (this is known as ‘custom build’ housing). When people physically build themselves, sometimes with help from sub-contractors, this is known as ‘self build’ housing. We call all these people ‘private homebuilders’.
- ‘serviced building plots’ are shovel-ready parcels of land with planning permission, laid out and ready for construction with access and utilities/services provided to the plot boundary. Some private homebuilders just purchase a plot; others opt for a ‘shell’ home (that they then finish off), or they select from an extensive menu of options offered by developers/builders.
- ‘group projects’ mean homes built by private homebuilders who work as a collective.
140 homes on 16 sites
Decide the criteria for selecting the best groups
In most cases a jury is formed consisting of local politicians, community representatives and technical experts from the council. The selection process needs to be transparent and communicated in advance so the groups know how they will be assessed
Having selected the successful groups the city has organised a series of workshops to explain the processes it wants each group to follow.
At the time of writing (September 2015) five of the projects were complete, and most of the others were on site. Collectively they will provide around 140 new homes. The smallest plot accommodates just two homes; the largest about 20. One of the conditions imposed on the groups is that the purchasers have to occupy the homes for at least five years.
The city says there is now strong political support for the programme, as it has boosted the reputation and profile of the city.
The location of the various projects across Strasbourg
Reputational spin off
Councils that are involved in innovative housing developments get noticed by the media and attract more visitors. Strasbourg has already seen the impact, and cities like Tubingen, Freiburg and Almere now run tours for people who are keen to see their pioneering projects
- 2001 Eco-Logis collective forms
- 2007 Site secured after six years of searching, when a new Mayor came to power in Strasbourg
- 2008 Construction work begins on Eco-Logis
- 2010 Construction completes at Eco-Logis
- 2011 Twelve further sites identified for group projects across the city, following success of Eco-Logis
- September 2015 Five projects complete; most of the other seven are on site
This case study was compiled with reference to the following sources:
Vincent Frick – Eco-Logis
François Desrues – Eco-Logis
Alain Kuntzmann- Maire de Strasbourg (City council of Strasbourg)
CS 23 – Hafenliebe – available at a later stage
CS 21 – Vienna – available at a later stage
CS 16 – Arche Nora – available at a later stage
The NaCSBA Research & Development Programme is funded by the Nationwide Foundation and aims to promote the self-build and custom build sector as an affordable route into housing for a greater number of people in the UK.
For further information, please visit:www.nacsba.org.uk or www.selfbuildportal.org.uk