Skills for lighthouse districts? Developing links with the New European Bauhaus


 “Pressure on all MS is increasing. And the question will be….where all the workers will come from?” Özgür ÖNER, GDW

It’s not a comfortable environment for the housing sector at the moment. How can social housing providers balance renovation of existing stock as well as meeting demand for social and affordable housing? This was an important theme of the recent Affordable Housing Initiative summit one of the SHAPE EU’s, Affordable Housing Consortium’s, headline events of 2023. Could it be that the Affordable Housing Initiative is complicating the picture by asking if stakeholders can improve the energy performance of homes in a socially inclusive way?

But the examples of the project’s integrated district renovations, collected by Housing Europe, partners with Eurocities (among others) in the European Affordable Housing Consortium, SHAPE EU, project show this isn’t really a complication but instead is a current way of working for partnerships, led by cities and social housing providers which has great results for the local community. Case in point, recent New European Bauhaus Prize winner, Aalborg East )

With this in mind, the European Affordable Housing Consortium, SHAPE EU is in part about taking the knowledge and skills of practitioners involved in these projects and transferring it to colleagues, to prove the lighthouse district approach in their own neighbourhoods. A related but no less important question concerns having people (and people with the right sort of skills) to deliver these projects, as highlighted by the AHI summit session on labour shortages in construction. Although not as well attended as the morning sessions, it is nonetheless a crucial question to address if we are expecting to improve on the current rate of renovation.

And it’s not just in construction, where people and skills are needed for these lighthouse district projects, but rather the full range which are also relevant to driving the transition in ‘Smart and Green Cities’. This means ICT professionals, energy professionals, the urban space specialists, designers, transport and mobility, and specialists in citizen engagement. That said, it is important to note that according to EURES, the European Employment Service, it is within several roles in construction and building services engineering where the shortages in labour are among the 10 most acute.

Although not strictly within the scope of the European Affordable Housing Consortium, SHAPE EU, project to address this challenge, given the role of the project in shaping demand for the type of services and works involved in integrated district renovation projects, it seems important for the AHI to make the link between these large investments in local communities with initiatives helping to develop the ‘green skills’ required to deliver them, and particularly for those groups most likely to be left behind in the strive for Net Zero.

One of those could be in developing links with the New European Bauhaus, or ‘NEB’. The NEB launched recently the New European Bauhaus Academy, one of the flagship initiatives of the European Year of Skills, focusing on ‘Skills for Sustainable Construction’. This year it seems the academy is focused on skills in the construction ecosystem for bio-economy and a circular system of material reuse. It will be interesting to see how this could be broadened in future with intelligence from the AHI on the full range of skills and roles needed to deliver on integrated district renovation.

Furthermore, the consortium partners of SHAPE are also promoting the exchange of knowledge on initiatives related to green skills and green jobs. Eurocities, under the scope of the work on Inclusive Cities 4 All (, is planning a mutual learning event in the second half of 2023 for cities to share their experiences in linking local green initiatives with training and job opportunities for people from vulnerable groups. This will hopefully go some way to deepen our understanding of what it means to renovate in a socially inclusive way.

Please contact for any questions or comments relating to this article. James is the Project Coordinator for SHAPE EU on behalf of Eurocities.

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