It is the inauguration day of CALICO building, the intergenerational cohousing multi-storey apartments, and on the new balconies you can see the flags of the associaitons who made this project possible. Realised with the support of UIA in the efficient tempo of three years, CALICO is the concrete result of the collective work among CLTB, associations Pass-ages, Angela.D, and EVA bxl, regional institutions Brussels Housing and perspective.brussels, and University VUB.
It is about 11am the common space, a gallery passage at the ground floor linking the neighbourhood to the community garden, is slowly getting populated with people curious of the project, the inhabitants, the neighbours, the CALICO project partners busy in making sure that everything at the opening event is perfect, and a colourful group of kids twisting with balloons among the crowd.
A cheerful atmosphere of pride and satisfaction is in the air, for having realised what is an innovative and unique non speculative participative housing project that reinvents the CLT model with cooperative housing mixing tenures, including Housing First, and community-based health care.
Among the distinguished invitees are Nawal Ben Hamou, State Secretary on Housing of the Brussels-Capital region, Alain Maron, Ministry of the Environment, Social action and Health, Mariam El Hamidine, mayor of Forest, and Nicolas Lonfils, director of the Social Welfare center of Forest. Political support is evident and all praise the project as a model for the future. But it is the speech of the representative of one of the association partnering for CALICO that tells in few words the spirit of the project: “CALICO is a project of transversality and solidarity, it is a place where people of different age live together, where everyone is aware of gender issues and inequalities; it is a project that allows people to share and live together crucial moments of life and death, and after all CALICO is a place that wants to be different, in a city where everyone has the right to a dignified life, along with the concrete spirit and desire to build a better society”.
The most engaging part of CALICO's work...
... is invisible - it is the agreements, the negotiations, the discussions among the partners over the last months and the innovative solutions created to make the budget fit into an unprecedented form of CLT plus cooperatives, which allow today to have inhabitants under a new roof. Almost all the thirty-four apartments are assigned, and some people are already spending their first days in the new building.
X has just moved to CALICO. An experienced arts and crafts textile maker, in precarious working conditions, X is part of the feminist association Angela.D: “I have decided to join the project to live together with other members of the association, to be able to access an affordable rent in a collective housing, defying the fear of isolation for the years ahead.”
Y is a mother of a 7-year-old kid, working part-time, who put together her savings to buy an apartment in the CLT. “Having access to a two-rooms apartment for this price would not have been possible anywhere else in Brussels. In addition, the idea of having kids living with other kids in the co-housing and sharing support with other inhabitants seemed to me a great option.”
The CALICO apartments are white and clean, welcoming plenty of light with views on the greenery and the neighbouring houses in a neighbourhood that is mushrooming with new residential buildings. The apartment model for two has an open spacious kitchen/living room, two bedrooms and a bathroom at the alley. If Y will be willing to resell her CLTB apartment one day, her return would not be more than the 25% of the difference between the market value of the apartment at the moment of purchase and the market value at the selling time. In other words, it’s a limited surplus she will make over the original buying price in addition to getting back her money. Hence, the purchase within the scheme of CLTB guarantees that speculation will be hindered.
...hold the most disparate reasons for joining in: from low income households unable to access the private market not even with the State subsidies for social housing, to those who did not urgently need a new apartment but joined CALICO to marry the philosophy of the project. Those who join in without needing a house will not buy or rent at social rates but at “logement moyen” rates, which has an income ceiling adapted to the middle classes (and can be quite high!). Out of 34 apartments, 24 currently are reserved for people under social housing ceilings and the rest (mostly Pass-ages residents) will have people at logement moyen levels. The representative of the inhabitants says: “Actually, I did not need a new roof, but I did want to be part of the project as I am a member of the association Pass-ages. Following the project of cohabitation, rethinking the neighbourhood-base care in the house of life and death is our dream come true. As an association, we have been working on it for many years even before the concretisation of this project with UIA, thanks to CLTB and others.”
The fifth floor of the left part of the building hosts an apartment with a minimalist kitchen in an open space, dedicated to medical consultation. There is a common space also for holding meetings and encounters in relation to the work of Pass-ages. Pass-ages accompanies birth and end-of-life, in two other distinct spaces on the ground floor. They are not yet accessible, still to be finished, as they needed additional work for soundproofing insulation to ease the work of midwives, palliative care nurses, residents and volunteers of the Maison de Mourance and Naissance (House of death and birth). The two apartments managed by the association Diogenes with the support of the district of Forest are still empty. They are dedicated to Housing First, a successful model implemented world-wide to provide affordable, dignified and safe accommodations together with a range of socio-medical support to individuals and families experiencing homelessness. At the ground floor, the Collective Space is a meeting place for all the inhabitants and the neighbourhood. It will be occupied first and until at least August 2022 by local association and mental health network Rézone, which will create a “meeting place” open to anybody seeking social contact in a welcoming environment.
Among the attendees there is also a CLT enthusiastic couple, who did not miss the inauguration: they are not part of the project and are not even neighbours. They own a house at the edge of Brussels and they have decided to donate their property to CLTB, to support the growth of the initiative with their own resources. Other people are from a potential co-housing initiative, to be possibly built not too far from CALICO, willing to learn more from the UIA project on how to start up something similar.
The roots and effects of CALICO are spreading already and as Y said, “The most interesting part is now: we will see how the cohabitation among inhabitants will become real.”
A warm welcome to the new inhabitants!
About this resource
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.