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All drOp partners in Elva

Elva - Nooruse neighbourhood

Last October, drOp partners gathered in Elva for the usual meet-analyse-plan meeting. But the highlight of the two days was the visit of the Estonian pilot neighborhood.

Brainstorming at the same table is still one of the best ways to move forward in a project. From the three different cities (Ermua – Elva – Matera), partners realised there are similar barriers when it comes to district regeneration: how to successfully engage citizens. The situation in practice shows that it is becoming harder and harder to build a sense of community. ‘Why should I be worried about this?’ is a common theme. This is most of the times paired with the residents‘ skepticism: ‘For so many years nothing changed. Why now?’

But every problem comes with a solution. Following its experience as an European Capital of Culture, Matera gained many valuable insights on how to develop a community. Good communication and a participatory approach are essential to implement new ideas, even when resources are limited. The best projects too can be rejected without proper involvement of the residents.

Elva shared its own experience on reaching out to the residents. So far, the approach was threefold: send out a questionnaire; when not enough data available to the municipality, go in the field to observe; and finally go and meet the people. It may seem like an ordinary idea, but the citizens appreciate it when they see their voices matter.

Partners were already familiar with the context of the Estonian neighbourhood on paper. But being able to see it in real life made a crucial difference, especially by understanding the cultural differences. The biggest problems in Elva: apartment buildings dating from the 80′, with some of them never having been renovated; lack of public utilities and badly organised parking spaces.

The Estonian Union of Housing Associations EKYL presented an overview of the national context. The apartment associations are a very important link between the state and owners, supporting a large scale renovation. A study of the Tallinn Technical University showed that state subsidised renovations can be budget neutral.

So what is going on in the drOp project at this moment? Partners have advanced on defining a co-governance model, on planning a strategy for the local economic development, and on analysing the social housing contexts in Europe. What is next? Using all the available data to advance from a strategic level to a design one in the Integrated Renovation Methodology. ⚡

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