Determination In residential areas that are being renovated, it is necessary to ensure that there are adequate social facilities such as schools, playgrounds, libraries and sports facilities. The area of these facilities is under increasing pressure. It is also often not clear what the desires of the population are and how this need will develop in the future. Ingrid de Moel (The Building Blocks of Society), Heidi Mensink (Zwolle Municipality) and Gert Jan Hagen (SpringCo) share their experiences with effective solutions to these problems.
“We have to look at social facilities the same way we look at roads.” These facilities are a public investment of Ingrid de Moel, director of the social real estate sector-connecting platform Social Building Blocks. Schools, playgrounds, care spaces and sports parks are essential to residents’ interconnection, health and the attractiveness of residential areas, among other things: “We have a mission to house a lot of people, so we have to think carefully about what they need.” A good standard of facilities ensures strong neighbourhoods, where residents can develop and find answers to their care questions.
See the necessary facilities
The importance of social facilities is obvious. But these places are under pressure, especially in cities. This is partly due to high rental costs and a scarcity of space, Gert Jan Hagen argues. He is the founder of Springco, a company that uses data analysis to help municipalities develop vision for necessary facilities. “For example, facilities such as community centers are disappearing because they can no longer afford rents in crowded cities.”
Not only are existing facilities increasingly having a hard time, but there are also bottlenecks in integrating new facilities into urban transformation. In the practice of area development, priority often lies with other functions such as housing and shopping. These provide greater financial returns. It seems that representatives of the estates and the social sphere speak a different language, with an insufficient understanding of each other’s interests. Social facilities are also often the victim of too much pressure for space or are difficult to finance. They have to fight for their place among various policy goals such as sustainability and accelerating housing construction. “Municipalities must therefore defend these facilities,” says Hagen.
If the social desires of the residents of a particular neighborhood or area are known, material developments will be better implemented in the long run. Hagen explains that to plan the required facilities, it is essential to begin with a comprehensive analysis. This creates a vision of the area, where developers can also participate. Gert Jan Hagen illustrates the use of the data with the example of the municipality of Delft, which wanted a better picture of space reservations for social facilities. Data on existing facilities has been linked to demographic forecasts and national standards, among others. This created a concrete picture of the gaps in the current supply of facilities. “Measuring this is important,” says Hagen. “People want to see evidence of what’s needed and keep you from delaying planning facilities.”
In Zwolle, the need for social amenities translates into implementation through an integrated approach, explains Heidi Mensink. She is the director of the Social Services and Circular Economy Program for the municipality of Zwolle. The demand for social real estate in this city will increase in the next 15 years because the population will grow by 10 percent. The demand for social facilities is also changing due to, for example, people with different lifestyles moving into existing neighborhoods.
Zwolle is working on this task with interdisciplinary teams from the Social Facilities Program, Mensink says. Civil servants from the physical and social spheres work together in an integrated manner and in close coordination with the Departments of Education, Culture, Housing and Welfare. There is also a social strategist who thinks about the social implications of spatial developments. An integrated approach is necessary because the starting point of the policy is to combine the use of space as closely as possible. Thus, the different functions and areas of politics are clustered in specific places. Where previously people thought more than the schools housing scheme, estate policy or housing vision, there is now a comprehensive development in terms of sport, sponsorship, welfare, culture and housing.
Flexible use of space
Zwolle is committed to the flexible use of space so that it remains possible to respond to changing needs or policy objectives. Despite the possibilities offered by data analysis, not all developments can be planned. “Every neighborhood needs a basic inventory that you control. Also with a view to a catastrophe or crisis, for example,” says Ingrid de Muelle of The Building Blocks of Social. Multifunctional and as yet undesignated spaces can help with this. For example, social facilities ensure resilient neighborhoods that are also equipped for unexpected events in the future.
This article previously appeared on urbantransformation.nl.
In the Urban Transformation Programme, municipalities, market players and other stakeholders unite to accelerate the pace of transformations within the city. More than 80 participants were present digitally at the webinar on May 22. With a surprising number of green background images, demonstrating commitment to the theme. About half of the work is also represented by government, developers, consultancy and design agencies, knowledge institutions and housing associations. Across the orientation scale, participants indicated what they perceived as the biggest challenges. Money and space were the most frequently cited issues for achieving ambitions for water storage, climate adaptation and biodiversity.
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