A view to a life-long living for seniors and vulnerable citizens.
The City of Ghent puts at the forefront accessibility by making homes adaptable for the elderly needs as well as providing a ‘City for all’.

The city of Ghent has put at the forefront creating a city that can be accessed by all citizens. As part of the ‘City for all’ initiative, the city has prepared routes that are completely accessible with a thorough brochure and map that assists citizens to travel around and experience the city.

Simultaneously the pilot housing project Ghent Knapt Op is in the middle of the renovation wave and delivering transformed homes to project participants that took on the renovation challenge 2 years ago. The pilot programme run by the City of Ghent and a consortium of partners have put at the forefront not only to upgrade living standards of vulnerable citizens but also to provide accessibility solutions as part of its core programme.




Ghent Knap Op has already concluded more than 20 renovations out of the 85 total homes that will be delivered by the end of 2022 year.

Ghent Knapt Op has included a larger and diversified target group of home owners in order to improve more housing conditions for more people that fall between the cracks of the housing support system. Besides captive owners, Ghent Knapt Op’s primary target group, elderly homeowners have been included also as a group that are in need of urgent housing attention.


Vincent Caroline and Devriendt Els


In particular, 10 homes out of the 85 belong to elderly homeowners that are in the process of renovation as part of the pilot housing project Ghent Knap Op. This target group includes homeowners over the age of 55 years that owns their home, they are unable to afford repairs or necessary improvements and additionally are in need of house adaptations to meet their physical needs (according to age and vulnerability). Most homes are in need of urgent technical repairs such as roof repairs and insulation, heating, etc. but for the majority of the group it is advised to make home adaptations as it provides prevention and lifelong independent living in their own home environment. Specific home adaptations are proposed for each home and according to the different physical and emotional needs of the owners.  

‘Including accessibility in the housing upgrades should be part of all target groups renovation criteria not only the elderly homeowners. ' 
Els Devriendt, member of the steering committee Ghent Knapt Op

In addition most of the homes that belong to the elderly have low market value leaving them unable to sell and buy or find an alternative housing option in the city thus becoming prisoners of their own home. Most of the Elderly live with a small pension, have serious health issues and are unable to find other options as they feel insecure because of the lack of knowledge and social network hopeless. Many face several disabilities, mental as well as physical, therefore these housing adaptations have been imperative in the renovations process. The outcome of the renovation has a positive effect on the physical functioning, but also on the mental well-being. e.g. some participants mentioned a feeling of shame concerning the condition of their house, feeling of being left out, barriers in receiving visitors in their house. This means we see a positive impact of the renovation on different levels of participation.

While many face a deteriorating health during the course of the renovation process additional help is provided for emotional support and for preparing and emptying the house. In addition, help is provided throughout the process as it is lengthy and the elderly are assisted by their social counselor through the administrative and communications issues.


Caroline Vincent and Els Devriendt from the city of Ghent's department of Health and Care have been working and assisting elderly owners through the whole process from the start until the renovation has been successfully concluded. They have been informing and emphasizing the importance of accessibility in home environments through the design process and of including such groups to the renovation waves and to the housing programmes since they are one of the most vulnerable groups. Since they have a very poor social network and most have poor health so they rely on the city for guidance, assistance and support.


People might consider moving to a smaller and more adapted house, but discover that, even after selling their property, they don’t have the budget to buy a new house. They are prisoner of their own house, they have no option but staying where they are' Caroline Vincent, Occupational Therapist, Ghent Knapt Op



H.B. (58) : I knew that I wouldn’t be very good at making major alterations to my house. I have owned the house for quite some time. With the help of my ex-partner, I did manage to plan renovations, but now that I’m single again, I simply hadn’t come around to it. My house was unfinished. There was no floor in the kitchen, no sink, no partition between the kitchen and the bathroom, etc. Something had to be done, but I didn't know where to start. I was very insecure about myself and about my position as an alone woman. Furthermore, I hadn’t saved enough to have the works carried out.
Gent knapt op has taught me how to go about renovating. I have gained confidence, which will help me should I have problems with my house in the future. I’m very happy that problems, which had been dragging on, have finally been tackled. It took time, but in spite of the long waiting period, it was actually a positive experience!


M.D. (60): I have been living here for 30 years, my children grew up in my house and I grew up only a couple of streets from here. I didn’t want to move to an apartment. I fought to keep my house. But a house where nothing has been done for many years has to be renovated. It needed a lot of work. Gent knapt op seemed to be the best solution to meet my wishes. They gave me the opportunity to have the most pressing works carried out in order to comply with the contemporary housing standards, preserve my mobility and make sure I can continue to live here as long as possible.



G.A.(79):My bathroom will be changed. I will be able to take a shower. Now I can only take a bath on the days the nurse comes by. A few steps in my house will be removed, too. At the moment I have no problems going up and down those steps, but that may change in the future. I have to be careful not to fall, especially at night if I get up to go to the toilet. Now I use my cane to come downstairs. In the future I will no longer have to, a second banister will be installed for extra support.





The city of Ghent has put at the forefront creating a city that can be accessed by all citizens. As part of the ‘City for all’ initiative, the city has prepared routes that are completely accessible with a thorough brochure and map that assists citizens to travel around and experience the city. There are also a number of transport options for visitors to Ghent with reduced mobility, or families with young children.

The city mission “Ghent is a proud city where people like to live, work and relax. It’s a city that breathes and let us breathe. Everyone is as much different and as much Ghentian. Children are given space to grow up here. People get chances to deploy their talents. In Ghent we experiment and we take action.
We are open to the world. We make the city together.
And we make the transition to an even better Ghent for our future generations.”

Citizens or visitors that have a temporary or permanent disability, or if you have difficulty walking, this city guide can support them for travel around the city. The handy removable map with descriptions explains exactly which route you should take to avoid obstacles. In addition, it provides information about accessible accommodation, care, mobility aids, transport, parking and accessibility to landmarks and public toilets.

The City have coded the accessibility according what degree a certain attraction or parts of the attraction are accessible to visitors with limited mobility. They also indicate which obstacles you can encounter or where you might possibly need a helping hand.


In addition, the city has also set up a ‘Borrow a wheelchair’ initiative for getting around the city if your mobility is limited. It is free of charge and can be picked up from the Bicycle Point Ghent.


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Ghent, Belgium Small sized cities (50k > 250k)
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Urban Innovative Actions

The Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) is a European Union initiative that provided funding to urban areas across Europe to test new and unproven solutions to urban challenges. The initiative had a total ERDF budget of €372 million for 2014-2020.

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