7 February 2024

Rotterdam employs a collective approach to transform homes and communities

Only 1% of European homes meet sustainability targets, with very diverse factors influencing the homeowners´ decision to renovate. In ICLEI Member Rotterdam (the Netherlands) as in the rest of the the Netherlands, this number is estimated to 6-8% of homes. Recognising the urgency of the situation, the municipality shifted to a collective approach, engaging with neighbourhood initiatives and cooperatives.

One-Stop-Shops’ (OSS) – or Citizen Hubs – such as those implemented during the Save the Homes project for efficient renovation policies and local energy cooperatives, are one such example. This collaborative approach signifies a strategic shift towards community-driven solutions for achieving sustainable housing objectives. What can contribute to effective Citizen Hubs?

  1. The concept of an OSS addresses financial and labour barriers to sustainable living. Removing obstacles is crucial, as without demand, solutions, business, trust, and investment, the circle of inaction remains unbroken.
  2. A successful customer journey involves engaging residents and getting them "on board" by explaining the implications and benefits of sustainability measures. Reporting back results is essential for maintaining community enthusiasm and showcasing the impact of implemented projects.
  3. Coordination and organisation are necessary to keep contractor interest, manage specialised companies engaged in the renovation market value chain and respond to the diverse demands of stakeholders. Ensuring continuous and high levels of demand for contractors strengthens private sector readiness for collective renovation projects.
  4. Resident initiatives often rely on volunteers, presenting challenges such as volunteer turnover and potential disparities in financial resources. Coordinated efforts are therefore needed to address challenges and ensure the stability of volunteer-driven initiatives.
  5. Local governments play a critical role in supporting and integrating energy cooperatives into municipal plans and initiatives. They can get some financial benefit by supporting and participating in energy cooperatives.
  6. Local governments need to balance between a bottom-up approach, as seen with grassroots initiatives like Alex Energie, or a top-down approach, taking the initiative themselves. The active involvement of local governments staff in energy cooperatives can be beneficial, for instance by encouraging them to join boards or provide resources and guarantees.

These points were highlighted at a recent webinar on heat transition in buildings, organised through the Save the Homes project. The Association of Dutch Municipalities’ Project Managers VPNG - with support from ICLEI Europe and the Municipality of Rotterdam - hosted this webinar, attracting nearly 100 local governments representatives from across the country. Key speakers included Donald van den Akker of Alex Energie, Haico van Nunen of Rotterdam University, Arthur Hinsch from ICLEI Europe, as well as Oubbol Oung, contact person at the City of Rotterdam for the project Save the Homes.

Holistic, community-driven and coordinated approaches in local government renovation efforts are needed to ensure sustainable living practices are embraced and effectively implemented. The energy transition involves multifaceted considerations that should be taken into account for local governments to efficiently tailor their strategies based on local contexts.