Plenary Sessions

Welcome Plenary

When: 31 Aug, 2021


Welcome Plenary: Setting the Context of the Conference

Welcome by the Chair of the Local Organizing Committee

Welcome by the Rector of the University of Cyprus – Prof. Tasos Christofidis

Introductory Talks


Settlements And The Unsettled – Housing Challenges And Opportunities In The Cypriot Context

When: 31 Aug, 2021

Chair: Andreas Savvides, Associate Professor, Department of Architecture, University of Cyprus

The plenary will attempt to approach aspects of housing development in Cyprus with an emphasis on affordable housing. It will examine this theme in a historic context staring with the first public and private attempts to provide affordable housing for segments of the population who had few other options for securing decent living quarters. It will do so by examining different historical milestones that prompted or necessitated organized housing development from the middle of the twentieth century to the examination of current challenges in the post economic crisis period. The speakers will address these topics from the points of view of governmental entities, municipal authorities and grass roots initiatives.

Agni Petridou, Architect

A growing need for affordable housing: development potential for entrepreneurial municipalities

The presentation explores the adoption of planning strategies that are aiming to provide affordable housing for young, low income people back to the city centers. This can be achieved through policies, planning and economic incentives based on the principle to reuse available building stock, rather than to expand towards the outskirts. This is a more sustainable patterns of development and can achieve multiple objectives; the reuse of listed buildings for housing purposes can be also included in this framework.

Dr. Thomas Dimopoulos

An analysis of today’s challenges in the Cypriot housing market

The presentation aims to analyze todays challenges in the housing market. The key issues could be synopsized on values of residential properties,  the construction cost, land values and vacant land in central urban areas, loan criteria and the phenomenon of property cycles. 

Charalambos Iacovou, 

Cyprus Land Development Corporation: Challenges and Opportunities for the provision of affordable housing in Cyprus

Following a brief description of Cyprus Land Development Corporation’s activities, the presentation analyzes current challenges and Organization’s future plans. Additionally, it explores opportunities for collaborations regarding developments based on sustainability and affordability, taking into consideration current and future needs.

Unsettled Settlements: Housing The Displaced

When: 31 Aug, 2021

Chair: Byron Ioannou, Associate Professor, Frederick University, School of Engineering, Department of Architecture

The relations of displacement as an extensively defined process with the configurable condition of unsettled settlements arise as a critical debate at the core of ENHR2020 context. Plenary 2 hosts two distinguished guests Prof. Yiftachel and Prof. Bolt, both of them focused on similar issues seen by different perspectives and through different geographies.

Unsettled settlements are neighbourhoods where uncertainty or instability about their future affects their material, economic and social functions preventing them from being liveable human places.

Debating the condition of unsettled settlements extends the discussion on gentrification initiated by Peter Marcuse. In this case, gentrification processes are postponed, delay or even supressed, since the stagnated condition of unsettlement is possibly retained by formal political or planning actions. Despite this, gentrification remains a strong neoliberal narrative of spatial competitive progress. Does the typical narrative of urban processes of gentrification and displacement reverse in the case of unsettled settlements? Are political conflicts and contestations more powerful than market forces?

Rowland Atkinson approach goes on step back addressing also the past of the unsettled residents. The plenary should also discuss the manifestations occurred to displaced people prior their unsettled settlements condition. How do their bios change before and after the displacement that result by dislocation and isolation processes? When and how do dislocation and isolation processes by the physical and social changes emerge, already at the neighbourhoods of their origin?

Finally the plenary 2 discussion can be linked to Davidson and Lees work on the phenomenology of new built gentrification. Again, the plenary can debate on the paradoxes of unsettled settlements, since in most of the cases they are constructed as new built environments, either as by a plot to plot procedure or as a single development. Why this hybrid nature of unsettled settlements controversially provides both, the notion of ephemeral and permanency? Under this spectrum, can we see glimpses of gentrified neighbourhoods in unsettled settlements provide? What do they serve?

Gideon Bolt

Displacement by demolition – effects of urban renewal on households that are forced to leave

Following the work of Rowland Atkinson, this keynote will conceive displacement as a process of un-homing. Therefore, it is necessary to bring the element of temporality into the analysis. Un-homing already starts years before the actual forced displacement when residents have to grapple with the changes in their neighbourhood (displacement pressure in Marcuse’s classic typology) and the anxieties and uncertainties that arise from possible displacement. Despite the fact that the period prior to actual relocation may have been experienced as stressful, many residents have a positive view afterwards, as the forced move has enabled them to move into better-quality housing. However, the costs and benefits of relocation are not equally distributed. Categories that are most likely to experience negative effects of displacements are older people, poor people, minority ethnic groups and people with complex needs. Perhaps informal tenants (a neglected group in the displacement literature) form the most vulnerable category, as they are usually not entitled to compensation.

Oren Yiftachel

From displacement to displaceability: Reshaping urban citizenship

Urban displacement has become a central topic in the social sciences, particularly in urban and housing studies. This welcome development, however, appears to focus on the act of displacement rather than the condition of displaceability. The literature on the subject is dominated by a ‘traditional-critical’ approach, concentrating almost solely on the impact of capitalism, neoliberalism and gentrification in the global ‘northwest’.

The lecture argues that displacement and displaceability denote wider phenomena, often stemming from conflicting logics of spatial power, which spawn the rise of ‘unsettled settlement’. The lecture highlights the need to use ‘southeastern’ approaches, which focus on urban dynamics and concepts emerging from non-western societies or populations. These ‘views from the periphery’ highlight a pluriversal nature of the urbanization process during which several structural logics, such as (but not limited to) nationalism, statism, identity regimes and struggles for human and urban rights, interact with the exigencies of globalizing capitalism to generate new types urban coloniality and stratified citizenship.

Within these settings, a shift to a prevailing condition of displaceability and to new assemblages of urban coloniality typifies the rapidly expanding southeastern metropolis. This implies a reduced right to accessibility to housing and urban rights, and a growing level of urban mobilisations and (often latent) conflicts. The lecture draws on comparative urban example from the global south and east, with special focus on Israel/Palestine, in order to map a continuum of ‘displaceabilities’. This is used as an important analytical tool for the understanding of the changing nature of contemporary urban citizenship in the majority of world’s regions.

(Changing) Role Of Housing In The Production Of Inequalities

When: 01 Sep, 2021

Chair: Christos Hadjichristos, Associate Professor, Department of Architecture, University of Cyprus

This plenary will explore geographies of inequalities in European cities as well as the role of welfare regimes/housing systems, urban policies, and the cities’ socio-spatial structure and will address:

  1. the non-linear relationship between spatial segregation-social inequality, the implications for policy responses and the role of academic debate (metaphors). Theories that regard spatial segregation as an indicator of social inequality and exclusion will be challenged, stressing the need to recognise that marginalisation is also linked to dispersal processes, and it is no less problematic because less visible. The role of academics to reframe the debate away from ghetto and neighbourhood effects, mainstream metaphors used by policy-makers to legitimised neoliberalisation and recommodification of welfare pillars (and media to support populist discourses against immigration) will be discussed.
  2. aspects of Southern European cities and their familistic welfare regime/housing systems that are relevant also in other contexts: e.g. the role of patrimony vs wages in accessing housing and society (intergenerational inheritance of wealth and inequality); residualist housing system/dualist rental system (systemic root of chronic housing affordability crisis) and area-based approach (faulty argument that social problems can be addressed by de-concentrating and dispersing allegedly problematic groups/neighbourhoods). Both housing policies and area-based programmes are often regressive rather than redistributive; How does segregation work in cities with large proportion of owner-occupation, and highly diverse neighbourhoods?
  3. the (changing) role of housing in the production of inequality. Kemeny’s argument that the way housing is conceived and organised ‘in a sense can come also to shape, if not actually define, different types of welfare systems’ (Lowe 2011:140), will be resumed. The debate on the role of ‘housing within society’ (approach put forward in Allen et al. 2004 on welfare and housing systems in Southern Europe) as either a right, or a good, or a financial asset = housing (system/policy) as a tremendous tool for redistribution or for accumulation will be reframed, raising questions on how can we have a universalist, highly redistributive welfare state (right) in a context where housing system and urban policies are residualist (good) and steering accumulation (asset).

Howayda Al-Harithy, Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at the American University of Beirut (AUB).

Towards a People-Centered Recovery of Post blast Karantina in Beirut, Lebanon

On the 4th of August 2020, the huge explosion that detonated in the Port of Beirut killed more than 200 people and wounded 6,000, and left dozens missing. 300,000 homes and livelihoods were affected in several neighborhoods adjacent to the Port. The Beirut Urban Lab at the American University of Beirut mobilized in response to the blast to support efforts on the ground and to initiate its own work upon site visits and early assessment of the situation. 

During early observation in the field, it was possible to identify some of the typical patterns associated with earlier post-disaster responses. The state institutions played at best a subdued role and failed to position themselves as the custodians of a common good. The challenge of coordinating a people-centered recovery was therefore massive. Many actors operate in absence of coordination, shared vision or framework. The de-facto reconstruction approach was generally based on quantitative and physical assessment of damages, in which buildings are the focus. It falls short from understanding urban recovery as a holistic and multilayered process, one that goes beyond the physical and the humanitarian to include an actual reconciliation of people with place. It further fails to locate the blast within historical urban processes that have shaped the production of the severely affected neighborhoods, addressing it, instead, as a momentary rupture.

Building on its experiences in urban policy advocacy, mapping, and post-war reconstruction studies, the Beirut Urban Lab initiated multiple interventions that challenge the dominant framework of post-blast reconstruction and redefine it along the lines of a holistic and inclusive recovery. The Lab worked on three tracks, in coordination with multiple partners: The Observatory of the Reconstruction, Neighborhood-Scale Recovery Interventions, and Visioning the City in the Post-Blast Period. The Neighborhood-Scale Recovery focused on Karantina, which serves as a first case study for the initiation of a bottom-up, inclusive and people-centered recovery. This work therefore adopted the participatory CDS model and combined it with the training of Citizen Scientist to maximize the community engagement aspect. The keynote lecture will share the work related to the strategic framework of recovery for Karantina and will reflect on the experience with community engagement towards a people centered recovery.

Thomas Maloutas, Professor Emeritus of Social Geography, Department of Geography, Harokopio University

Micro-segregation and its neglected importance in the debate on social mix

Housing Policy Transformations And Urban Governance

When: 01 Sep, 2021

Chair: Lora Nicolaou, Architecture & Urbanism, Frederick University, Nicosia

Very often Housing Policy in conventional terms focuses on quantitative and qualitative aspects of the provision of housing space and its distribution across equally engineered social frameworks.  Aspects such as access to housing is also linked mono-semantically directly to the notion of affordability and the ability of national governance to regulate delivery through relatively static mechanisms.  Furthermore, despite often common goals and challenges, housing policies differ considerably across Europe with activity at levels of governance and policy structures characterize current policy profiles. The plenary will attempt to gain insights on the interaction of markets, the regulatory environment and policy instruments in the border context of the bidirectional relationship of urban governance of European policy landscapes and the constantly shifting market dynamics; this is in search for alternative conceptual frameworks and descriptions decisive to the success of future housing policies.

Mike Raco, Professor of Urban Governance and Development in the Bartlett School of Planning, University College London.

Liquid Planning, Private Law and the Production of Urban Housing

The presentation draws on recent writings in political studies on liquid regulation and the growing power of private law and governance arrangements in shaping the production of housing in cities. It argues that planning systems have become increasingly liquid in character and that too much research in housing studies still draws on an out-dated separation between public and private sectors, notably planners/policy-makers on the one hand and the real estate sector on the other. Drawing on in-depth research on housing market investment and regulation in major European cities, the presentation critically assesses the form and character of contemporary modes of housing production.  It argues that a stronger focus on liquid planning and private law sheds light on the growing importance of softer modes of regulation, organisational legitimation and authority-making in shaping policy practices and outcomes.  The presentation concludes by highlighting directions for future research and conceptual-methodological approaches in housing studies.

Rikke Skovgaard Nielsen, , Senior researcher, Department of the Built Environment, Aalborg University, Denmark.

The Danish ghetto legislation: Social engineering in radical neighbourhood regeneration

The presentation focuses on a specific and radical example of housing policy, namely the Danish legislation on parallel societies. Since 2009, a so-called ghetto list has been published yearly in Denmark; identifying areas that are, based on certain criteria, defined as ghettos. Previously, being on the list had limited consequences apart from the potentially grave consequences of negative stigma. However, legislation passed in November 2018 changed this. Three area types were introduced and with them a range of measures to be undertaken by municipalities with areas on the list. In particular for the category of so-called hard ghettos, measures will have grave consequences for residents as the share of social family housing will have to be brought down to 40% (being in all areas currently 100% or close to this). One way of doing this, which will be necessary in most areas, is to tear down housing and thus force residents to leave the area. This is a radical measure in Danish as well as European housing policy.

The presentation will present and discuss the Danish legislation on parallel societies and the consequences of this policy for the ‘hard ghetto’ areas, the residents of the areas and the areas receiving the residents forced to relocate. While the long-term results remains to be seen, existing literature offers us some clues as to what to expect. The presentation raises some major points of critique of the overall plan, but also points to more positive aspects of the legislation. The underlying question of the presentation is: can we, as the Danish parliament seems to expect, socially engineer our cities to reach the official political goal of no ghettos by 2030?


Housing As A Financial Asset, Housing As A Commodity

When: 02 Sep, 2021

Chair: John Pissourios, Architect & Urban Planner (ETEK), Lecturer in Urban Planning & Design

In many languages, the Greek one included, the word ‘house’ means ‘home’ at the same time. In such languages, as well as in the corresponding societies, the bond between these two concepts is so strong that it is even impossible for people to think of their homes, without actual pictures of their houses popping-up in their minds. However, in the contemporary and fast changing economic and technological landscape, the gap between these two concepts gets increasingly larger. On one hand, houses undoubtedly comprise economic assets. However, not to forget that the 2008 financial crisis was triggered by the housing bubble and the developments in the related primary and secondary mortgage market. Also, ‘the financialization of housing’, which refers to flows of international investor capital, seen to boost housing prices; high housing prices means young buyers increasingly depend on parental financial help. On the other hand, there is an increasing role of technology. Collaborative housing, blockchain and proptech represent new opportunities (faster, cheaper and disintermediated transactions and more flexible and innovative grassroot initiatives), but also new challenges: touristification of home, new forms of “collaborative” speculation and the substitution of homeownership by a simple right to “access” to a dwelling. All the above developments, which reinforce the financial aspect of housing and turn the latter into a commodity, comprise the core topic of this plenary session.

Kath Scanlon, Distinguished Policy Fellow, London School of Economics, London

Keeping it in the family: developments in the use of housing wealth

The term ‘financialisation of housing’ has spread in the last few years from academia into wider policy and media discourse. Former UN special rapporteur on adequate housing Leilani Farha, who addressed our 2017 conference in Tirana, has described the financialisation of the housing market as a threat to quality of life and democratic decision-making across the world. The term refers broadly to financial actions, and actors, that prioritise the exchange value of housing at the expense of their use value as homes.  The phenomenon is seen to contribute to decoupling house prices and rents from local incomes.  However, there is currently little consensus across countries and cities about exactly which activities are problematic; about the role of particular market actors (eg wealthy private individuals, foreign buyers, institutional investors); or about how policy-makers might best respond.  Our various academic disciplines look at these issues through different lenses.  How can we combine evidence from international experience with the insights of economics and finance, law and sociology to understand financialisation in the round?  

Sergio Nasarre-Aznar, Civil Law Professor, Director of the UNESCO Housing Chair, University Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona, Spain

From subprime mortgages to proptech: a return ticket to the housing crisis?

The 2007 financial crisis started due to the consideration of housing as a financial asset, as a commodity. It’s devastating consequences in form of evictions, housing exclusion and unaffordability in many EU countries have favored understanding it also as a human right which is necessary to fulfill fundamental rights such as full freedom, equality and self-development. This change of conception is being favored by reforms in the legal framework related to housing tenures and increased consumers’ protection at EU level as much as by new initiatives arising in the field of collaborative housing and new technologies. Thus, collaborative housing, blockchain and proptech represent new opportunities (faster, cheaper and disintermediated transactions and more flexible and innovative grassroot initiatives) but also new challenges: touristification of home, new forms of “collaborative” speculation and the substitution of homeownership by a simple right to “access” to a dwelling. Thus, have we learnt any lessons from the housing crisis? Are we buying a return ticket?

The Right To Housing Is The Right To Health

When: 02 Sep, 2021

Chair: Markella Menikou, Associate Professor, Head of the Department of Architecture, University of Nicosia

Housing environments are associated with a wide range of health conditions, including respiratory infections, asthma, lead poisoning, injuries, and mental health. Focussing on the right to housing as the right to health, this proposed session will address the relevance of social determinant of health to both formal and informal housing environments. Urban health has historically involved in housing issues and today health departments can employ multiple strategies to improve housing, such as developing and enforcing housing guidelines and codes, implementing programs to improve indoor environmental quality, assessing housing conditions, and advocating for healthy, affordable housing. In more details, this session will discuss both Global North and Global South housing conditions and their effect on population health; we will discuss housing as a social determinant of health, as a shelter, as a form, as a right and as a property, as well as a subject of state violence, biopolitics, an object of demolition and displacement.

Key questions to be addressed:

  1. Is there a role for architects and planners dealing with housing in promoting\considering health? And if so, what is it?
  2. Could we identify housing typologies that contribute to health justice?
  3. How can we strategically move for understanding GLOBAL housing justice in relation to health?

Haim Yacobi, Professor of Development PlanningProgramme Leader MSc Health in Urban Development, The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, London.

Beyond “causes of causes”: Notes on Housing and Health Justice

In this presentation I will discuss the necessity to understand the connections between housing and health within a wider context, where freedom of movement, access to public services and education, as well as freedom from pollution and environmental degradation, are central. Most rights have a spatial dimension, and the ways in which housing environments are (un)planned, controlled and organized, affect the protection\violation of human rights in general and health in particular. Hence, the fact that premature death, diseases and suffering are disproportionally concentrated within poor communities and ethnic minorities located in specific housing environments, stresses the necessity to consider housing as a central determinant of population health.

Based on my current research in progress (Israel\Palestine, Tanzania, Sierra Leone) I will argue that ideological forces, policies, spatial arrangements and housing typologies have a significant impact on the reproduction of power relations and inequality; the fact that premature death or diseases are disproportionally concentrated within marginalised communities’ points to the necessity to take housing seriously when discussing health.

Anne Power, Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics and Head of LSE Housing and Communities

The challenge of climate change for housing providers: why we must focus on the existing stock

Demand for new homes rises steeply as households multiply, life expectancy rises, immigration continues, and as we grow richer and want more space. But housing has a very high environmental impact. The embodied energy present in each new home is a major driver of climate change. If we make better use of the existing stock, housing can contribute significantly towards the zero carbon targets and the need for major reductions in energy use by 2050. It can also house more people, as we currently have over 30 million surplus bedrooms in the UK.

We can halve energy use in existing buildings by adopting a “whole house” retrofit approach. This is far cheaper than new build. We can make better use of space by giving incentives to large numbers of under-occupying households to move into smaller dwellings. A chain of moves can be unleashed which will help reduce both overcrowding and under-occupation, while only requiring a limited number of new, additional smaller units.

In this talk, Anne Power will explore how we can upgrade the existing stock to save energy, avoid new construction, protect land, use the homes we have got better, and avert climate change.