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:
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.
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 lbf.dk/om-lbf/english/
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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).