City administrations the world over were too competitive with one another and should work together more, as they have similar sustainability problems, Coen van Oostrum, chief executive of international real estate development group EDGE, said at the World Economic Forum’s annual conference. Photo: File
City administrations the world over were too competitive with one another and should work together more, as they have similar sustainability problems, Coen van Oostrum, chief executive of international real estate development group EDGE, said at the World Economic Forum’s annual conference. Photo: File

Mixed income housing for sustainable cities is the way to go

By Edward West Time of article published Jan 28, 2021

Share this article:

CAPE TOWN - City administrations the world over were too competitive with one another and should work together more, as they have similar sustainability problems, Coen van Oostrum, chief executive of international real estate development group EDGE, said at the World Economic Forum’s annual conference yesterday.

He said in an online panel discussion about cities in a post-Covd-19 future, that many cities tended to be too experimental, which sometimes made it difficult for international real estate developers to operate considering the various property development models.

He said a “huge” change for the sustainability of property development, in terms of the problem where many cities were becoming unaffordable to live in, was a recent policy change in Berlin, Germany, which stipulated that no landlord could charge more rent than a specified amount.

Van Oostrum said the outcome of this policy still had to be ascertained, but many policymakers around the world were now considering this proposal for their own cities, he said.

Quantela founder and executive chairman Sridar Gadhi said almost 1 billion people were living in informal settlements around the world, and in many cities where land prices had escalated well beyond income growth, housing had become unaffordable for even the middle classes.

Quantela is an international provider of smart urban automation systems.

Gadhi said wellfunctioning health and housing systems would become a basis for sustainable city development in the future, and innovative ways were being found to counter the negative effects of gentrification, such as in land allocation processes, and in zoning legislation requirements.

Jan Vapaavuori, mayor of Helsinki, Finland, agreed with Gadhi in that one way to address sustainability in cities was through the mixed income housing development model, as this was a model that had been successful in many Nordic cities over the past 30-40 years and it had created some cities where there were no “bad neighbourhoods”.

Gadhi said the Covid pandemic had accelerated existing problems in cities. Cities were already facing challenges relating to the digital divide, with approximately 50 percent of people on the planet not having access to electricity or the internet.

He said before Covid-19, most cities had smart command centres that monitored, for instance, crime and traffic in urban areas. Through the pandemic, Quantela had helped many cities to convert these smart command centres into Covid-19 war rooms.

He said urban technology had improved considerably in recent years and he expected that the further development of these centres in future would improve the sustainability of cities by helping to curb crime, improve traffic flow, provide data services and other information as well as monitor pollution.

Vapaavuori said the pandemic showed that cities with good health care and other infrastructure systems and data collection services, had done well through the pandemic.

Cities with “reliable, predictable and functional” services had managed the pandemic crisis better than cities without these characteristics.

The pandemic had also shown that cities had a better chance to deal with crisis through partnerships with the private sector, he said.

Van Oostrum said the jury was still out on the future of offices post Covid-19. In March last year it seemed as if everybody was happy to leave their offices for good and work at home, but this view had changed since then.

He said the office market was at a crossroads. He expected that steps to make buildings, which make up 30-40 percent of harmful emissions, more environmentally friendly, would accelerate post the pandemic, as would moves to make them more healthy for staff.

He said employers were going to have to make it safe and enjoyable for employees to return to their offices.

He said policymakers were increasingly adopting a “carrot and stick” approach to the development of sustainable environmentally-friendly buildings, wherein the landlord would get rewarded for changing a building to become more environmentally friendly, and also would be penalised for not doing so.

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE

Share this article: