How can we rethink the neighbourhood for generations, inviting people of different ages to live together and share their skills and time?

A Neighbourhood for Generations unites urban design and social infrastructure. It’s a place that recognises different people’s daily needs and gives space for interaction and common activities that encourage mutual support and local community.

The world around us is changing faster than ever before. Longer lifespans, fewer births, an ageing population, smaller households, and more people moving to the city, are all drivers that characterise the demographic changes that Europe is facing – and consequently, the way we plan, inhabit, and live in cities must follow.

The demographic changes and urbanisation entails a number of consequences for 1) people’s mental health, where one out of many problems is the increase in the number of lonely people across generations, 2) urban areas experiencing growing segregation and social inequality, and 3) the quality of and access to welfare services.

With these challenges a number of opportunities and possibilities arise:

  • The increase in the number of active seniors represent untapped resources for civil society and local communities.
  • New family structures and more seniors create a demand for new forms of living and housing typologies.
  • Opportunities to promote new shared facilities arise when more people will need to share limited space.
  • Predefined perceptions of engagement and participation, service systems and institutional structures have the potential to be rethought according to values and mindsets of new generations.

Intergenerational community and housing

The vision is that the neighbourhoods of the future are characterised by intergenerational communities and housing. The Neighbourhoods for Generations concept recognises the role of different people, young and old, providing the space and occasions for meaningful interaction and mutual support as a natural part of daily life.

The intergenerational concept characterises a community where people of different ages are brought closer through cooperation, interaction, and exchange. Today many urban neighbourhoods are inherently multigenerational, with several generations living in the same area, but few of them succeed in bridging generations.

Creating an intergenerational neighbourhood is an ongoing, long-term, process, where innovation is required at all levels to challenge how we shape societies today. To exemplify what this means, four important planning components are highlighted in the competition:

Venn-diagram that illustrates four important planning components to an intergenerational community: Physical Environment, Social Infrastructure, Governance and Engagement, and Services System.

Physical Environment

A Neighbourhood for Generations should meet the spatial needs for all ages including public spaces, shared facilities, housing typologies, streets, and infrastructure. The physical environment - from the home to the surrounding neighbourhood - holds the potential to create inviting places that can be the stage for everyday activities and support a thriving neighbourhood community for all generations.

Social Infrastructure

A Neighbourhood for Generations should meet the social needs for all ages, incomes, statuses, identities, and beyond. The social infrastructures of a neighbourhood - local networks, community organisations, work spaces, cultural functions - all hold the potential to foster social interaction and meetings across generations. The quality of social infrastructure in communities affects the well-being, social networks, the shared community experience, and sense of belonging and identity.

Governance and Engagement

A Neighbourhood for Generations should include and engage people of all ages. Empowerment, participation in political processes, and opportunities for community involvement are all vital parts of an inclusive neighbourhood. To achieve a nuanced dialogue about how our cities can adapt to the needs of- and be enjoyable for everyone- involvement of all groups of generations is crucial.

Services System

A Neighbourhood for Generations provides accessible service systems and platforms for residents of all ages. Having high quality and available community based services, such as retail services, public transport systems, health services, home and daycare providers etc. in a neighbourhood does not only strengthen the individual’s well-being but also the community as a whole.

Affordable Housing

Having a good place to live is one of the most important prerequisites for creating a good life for oneself and others. Consequently, decent and affordable housing is central to ensuring a sustainable city and quality of life, as it contributes to reducing inequality and segregation.

In Denmark, affordable housing is secured by the non-profit housing sector. The non-profit housing sector is a unique model and constitutes 20% of the Danish housing stock. Unlike public housing or social housing, non-profit housing is not restricted to low-income families but is available for anyone. The tenants represent 180 nationalities and span broadly on the social and economic scale. However, in general – compared to the national level – the residents in the non-profit housing in Denmark are characterised by lower income, higher unemployment rate, more psychologically vulnerable, and poorer health. Non-profit housing consists of apartments, townhouses and single-family homes in cities, in provincial towns and in the countryside. However, the sector is more than just housing. The non-profit housing areas are communities and places for everyday life and togetherness and are an important part of creating socially sustainable neighbourhoods.

20% of the Danish housing stock

is non-profit housing

≈ 30 billion DKK

has been set aside for renovations in the period 2020-2026

149.980 homes

are currently being renovated

200.000 citizens

in 50 neighbourhoods are affected by social development plans supported by The National Building Fund

The National Building Fund can be considered as the Danish non-profit housing’s solitary savings account. The National Building Fund supports large-scale renovations, social development plans and activities in challenged housing areas, and rent regulations in the existing housing stock. Learn more about the non-profit housing model at

The Nordic countries have different models to provide affordable housing. In Finland, non-profit rental and right of occupancy housing companies and foundations, such as HEKA, are providing reasonably priced rental housing. In Norway, housing allowances’ is the main way to secure affordable housing, though cooperative housing still represents a small but important affordable housing supply. In Sweden, affordable housing is mainly provided by municipality owned public housing companies, and also by the two national cooperative housing organisations HSB and Riksbyggen.

Family types in non-profit and profit housing

The graph shows the difference between family types living in the Danish non-profit housing and the rest of the danish housing stock.

Single without children

Couple without children

Single with children

Couple with children


Bar chart that shows the difference between family types living in the Danish non-profit housing and the rest of the danish housing stock.

Source: BL calculations based on data from The National Building Funds Beboerstatistik, Danmarks Statistik og registerdata. 2022.

The non-profit housing sector has historically been a key player for innovation within housing in Denmark. Aspirational visions and ideologies of healthy welfare housing were the driving force behind many of the investments in non-profit housing projects of the 60 and 70s. These projects were characterised by monofunctional district, housing blocks, and a greater degree of private automobile ownership. In the decades that followed, neighbourhoods built around these ideal concepts became less attractive. Today, low income groups are increasingly concentrated in certain areas and are less likely to use the opportunities and services found in the city.

The non-profit housing sector now again strives to be innovative in the development of cities, neighbourhoods and communities. With the aim to be a key urban strategic partner in urban development, the Danish non-profit housing sector wishes to receive new creative and visionary ideas for socially sustainable neighbourhoods of the future. This is not only relevant for the development of new neighbourhoods but also for the development of existing non-profit housing areas to prepare them for the challenges of the future.

Two cases for inspiration

Two existing non-profit housing areas in Denmark have been selected as cases: Axelborg and Høje Gladsaxe. The cases are to be viewed as inspiration and to give concrete examples on non-profit housing areas in terms of size, location, residents groups, as well as to highlight current challenges and potentials that non-profit housing are facing today.

Based on interviews with residents and housing organisations representatives, six topics have been highlighted to show the potentials for each area. The topics have been chosen to give inspiration on how the neighbourhoods can support an intergenerational community and housing in the future. The six topics are as follows:

#1 Strengthen civil society
#2 Support the connection to the city
#3 Create and facilitate meaningful meetings across cultures and ages
#4 Offer flexible housing to every life situation
#5 Support an inclusive citizen involvement
#6 Encourage intergenerational understanding

Axelborg, Horsens

Axelborg is a non-profit housing area built in 1962-66 located in Horsens, Denmark. Axelborg is currently facing a large-scale physical renovation and wishes to be presented with new and innovative ideas for how they can use the momentum to safeguard housing and community in the neighbourhood in the future.

The development consists of ten blocks with 3-8 floors. With approximately 603 residents in 284 tenancies with 1-4 rooms, the average of people per household is 2.1. The majority of the households consist of single people without children. 20 of the apartments are youth housing.

Axelborg takes social responsibility and houses more people receiving social security benefits than the rest of the municipality and is therefore supported with a social development plan. The plan supports, among other things, a women's network and a job cafe that helps unemployed residents in their job search.

#1 Strengthen civil society

Guiding questions: How can we rethink organisation and planning to facilitate civic engagement? Which activities, digital platforms, processes etc. can enhance civic engagement and bridge generations? How can we reduce barriers to engage new generations and create a new social norm of volunteering?

Civil society and volunteerism helps to ensure a strong sense of cohesion and ability to act, and is one of the cornerstones in non-profit housing areas. In the social housing development plan, activities, and events in Axelborg are supported and planned. In recent years, however, there has been a decline in the number of volunteers. Many residents' perceived expectations of obligations and responsibilities of volunteers can act as a deterrent. This is also a general trend that is reflected in the rest of society. Young people in particular want to participate actively, but on a smaller and more non-committal scale. Volunteering is moving away from permanent commitment to episodic volunteering, which requires increased planning.

The neighbourhood and its surroundings

The area is located in the south-western part of Horsens, 1.5 km from the train station and city centre. At a local scale, Axelborg is in close proximity to schools, day care centres, and a limited selection of retail. A cycle highway, which will connect the area with the city centre, train station and campus area, is currently being planned in collaboration with the municipality.

Personal interests and initiatives, such as allotment gardens and barbecue spots, can be seen in the outdoor space. There is a Resident’s House, which can be used year round by the residents and people from nearby non-profit housing areas.

Satellite photo  of Axelborg, Horsens, with 16 interesting locations

1. Daycare, 2. Retail, 3. Supermarket, 4. Gas station, 5. Elderly housing, 6. Multi sports field, 7. Playground, 8. Alotment gardens, 9. Barbecue, 10. Cummunity House, 11. Laundry, 12. Restaurant, 13. School, 14. Culture house, 15. Saloon, 16. Petanque

For the upcoming renovation, Axelborg has been granted financial support from the National Building Fund to rethink its infrastructure, with the purpose to strengthen the overall attractiveness of the residential area. The project aims to give the entire area a new and inviting character, which supports the experience of a welcoming, open, and inclusive place that is an integral part of the surrounding city and the centre of Horsens.

#2 Support the connection to the city

Guiding questions: How can we break down mental and physical barriers and create an attractive neighbourhood for all generations? Which programming can contribute to positive associations of the neighbourhood? How can collaborations with local stakeholders and institutions be an active part in creating an intergenerational neighbourhood?

Axelborg is a monofunctional housing area and is perceived as isolated from the rest of the city. Interaction with surrounding areas and citizens is limited, despite many institutions in the surrounding areas and attractive public outdoor facilities in Axelborg, such as a new flexible sports field. In similarity with many non-profit housing areas in Denmark, a few negative stories from the press have contributed to a stigmatised image of the area. The negative perceptions of the areas is a barrier to creating an attractive and integrated neighbourhood, that also risks further excluding marginalised groups.

An increase in the number of seniors

Axelborg has a younger composition of residents than the rest of the municipality, with less than 10% being over 65 years of age. But according to the population projections for the municipality as a whole, the number of seniors is expected to rise exponentially in the coming years, also in Axelborg.

Non-profit housing residents in Horsens municipality by age group

0 - 17 years

18 - 29 years

30 - 64 years

65+ years

Bar chart that shows the future non-profit housing tenants in Horsen’s municipality are expected to consist of a noticeable larger group of seniors compared to the municipality's current non-profit housing tenants.

Source: The National Building Funds calculations based on data fromThe National Building Funds Stamdata and Danmarks Statistik, population pr. 1st of January 2021 and 2022 (BEF2021 and BEF2022).

#3 Create and facilitate meaningful meetings across cultures and ages

Guiding questions: How can we facilitate positive meetings that break down barriers between cultures and ages? Which social, spatial, and digital resources can strengthen the cohesion in the neighbourhood? How can we create opportunities for intergenerational activities and shared encounters in the city?

Meaningful meetings with people who are different from us (ie. in age, cultural or ethnic background etc.) help us become more knowledgeable about ourselves, each other, and the world. There is a tendency in Axelborg, and in general, towards a greater degree of segregated communities, with lack of integration. This is a trend that characterises most cities, where segregation is reflected in everyday life - in schools and institutions, informal meetings in public spaces, on the labour market, etc.

Høje Gladsaxe, Greater Copenhagen

Høje Gladsaxe was built in the 60’s and was, at that time, the most modern and advanced prefabricated construction. The non-profit housing area is one the most important and iconic examples of modernist architecture in Denmark. Høje Gladsaxe has been selected as a case for inspiration due to both the area's history but also because of the current urban strategic development which consists of a close collaboration between the area’s five housing organisations and the municipality. The aim of the collaboration is to develop and strengthen Høje Gladsaxe as a neighbourhood and as an attractive place to live.

Høje Gladsaxe contains five 15-storey blocks, two 8-storey blocks and a row of low-rise buildings with around 2,000 apartments from 1 to 5-bedrooms. On average, there are 2.1 residents per household, with the majority being single people without children. On average, Høje Gladsaxe has fewer couples with children than residents in the rest of the municipality.

#4 Offer flexible housing to every life situation

Guiding questions: How can a neighbourhood be attractive to all generations and different life situations? Which typologies can offer a more flexible housing? Which initiatives can support a more flexible moving pattern based on changing life situations?

In Høje Gladsaxe, the different sizes of the apartments provide housing for different living situations and needs. Some residents in Høje Gladsaxe have lived there all their lives, from when they were children to seniors and have moved inside of the area as a result of changing housing needs - for example when children move away from their parental home. But there is also a tendency for residents to move out of the area when they start a family, as they do not find that the area meets the housing needs of a family with children. The apartments which do meet family needs are in high demand and have a long waiting list and are often occupied by single families without kids - in general the more rooms, the longer people stay in their homes.

The neighbourhood and its surroundings

Høje Gladsaxe contains and is surrounded by many different facilities and institutions. The original idea of Høje Gladsaxe was to create a small-town community within the area with the required amenities needed for all ages. In general, the residents of Høje Gladsaxe hold a great pride in the area. They especially appreciate the affordability of the housing, the green area, and the proximity to different facilities.

Satellite photo  of Høje Gladsaxe, Greater Copenhagen, with 31 interesting locations

1. Daycare, 2. Playground, 3. Public school, 4. Alter-school centre, 5. Church, 6. Youth club, 7. Local police station, 8. Supermarket, 9. Library and cummunity center for general public, 10. Retail, 11. Restaurant, 12. Alotment gardens, 13. Barbecue, 14. Community room, 15. Grocery store, 16. Frisbee gold, 17. Sports fields, 18. Taekwondo, 19. Gas station, 20. Bus stop, 21. Swimming hall, 22. Racket sport, 23. Bowling, 24. Stadium, 25. Ice skating, 26. Soft ball, 27. Hairdresser, 28. Arena for recreation and activities, 29. Community space for residents, 30. Hourses, 31. Petting zoo

Participation and civil society

An active and rich community with more than 50 local activities and initiatives is a unique characteristic of Høje Gladsaxe. But as with many activities and interests, several of these are typically age- and nationally-based communities. The same applies to the resident democracy, where the democratic process sometimes struggles to attract younger generations.

#5 Support an inclusive citizen involvement

Guiding questions: How can we qualify citizen involvement and create space for new participation formats? How can we secure representation across all ages with involvement while recognising the heterogeneity of each generation? How can we make sure that every generation has a say in the shaping of their neighbourhood?

Tenant democracy is one of the three pillars of the Danish non-profit housing model and gives the tenant influence over their own housing area. The democracy model consists of formal structures and guidelines, which do not necessarily agree with the tendencies that young people want in relation to participation in association communities.Recent years, some housing organisations have been challenged with a decline in participation across generations - a challenge also known in Høje Gladsaxe. It has been difficult to attract new generations and cultures to participate in the formal decision-making fora.

A diverse neighbourhood

Around 4,000 people live in Høje Gladsaxe with a large diversity both in terms of age, household types, cultures, and life situations. The housing association and the municipality have a joint strategic goal for Høje Gladsaxe to reflect the surrounding city. In the future citizens in Gladsaxe Municipality and in non-profit housing areas are expected to consist of a larger group of seniors compared to the municipality's current non-profit housing tenants but is also expected to still consist of a lot of families with children and teenages.

Non-profit housing residents in Gladsaxe municipality by age group

0 - 17 years

18 - 29 years

30 - 64 years

65+ years

Bar chart that shows the future non-profit housing tenants in Gladsaxe’s municipality are expected to consist of a noticeable larger group of seniors compared to the municipality's current non-profit housing tenants.

Source: The National Building Funds calculations based on data from The National Building Funds Stamdata and Danmarks Statistik, population pr. 1st of January 2021 and 2022 (BEF2021 and BEF2022).

#6 Encourage intergenerational understanding

Guiding questions: How can we challenge age-based assumptions about people? How can we improve the experience and perception of safety in the neighbourhood including physical and social safety, for all generations? How can locally based services, platforms, and technologies be imagined differently in order to build trust and interactions between generations?

Assumptions about people based on their age are often misleading and can be a barrier to bridge generations. One of the challenges Høje Gladsaxe is facing today is low perception of safety in the neighbourhood. When talking to the residents in Høje Gladsaxe it shows that part of the low perception of safety derives from negative assumptions about especially young people and their behaviour in public spaces. In general, perception of safety is influenced by spatial and social circumstances and varies across generations. Experience and perception of safety is an important factor for people’s overall wellbeing.