Dan Garbett tells us about his recent trip to Denmark & Sweden with the Chartered Institute of Housing.

I headed off to Denmark & Sweden on a three day trip with the Chartered Institute of Housing to see how they respond to the challenges of the modern housing world. There are around 513 social housing organisations and 560,000 social housing dwellings in Denmark equating to approximately 1 million tenants. Smaller than the UK for sure, but there are always interesting things to learn in different geographies. Here’s how the trip panned out.

Monday

Hother’s plad, Grey water project

We visited an old housing development with an amazing greenspace in the middle of the apartment block, where the residents were enjoying the sun, having picnics and children playing together in the various play areas. The main reason for the visit was to get a greater understanding of how they have developed innovative ways in which to overcome rain water flooding and reusing the water for other purposes. Drainage was cleverly disguised around the greenspace, transporting water from higher areas of land to the gardens, a number of ponds were also dotted around to collect and distribute rain water.

We also listened to a presentation about Northern Harbour where the majority of the land was reclaimed from the ocean and a huge development plan was set out, including housing, shopping, bars, restaurants, sports facilities and car parking lots. The development has purpose built social housing blocks and privately owned blocks, so social inclusion is not sought through housing but by being in neighbouring blocks and sharing nearby amenities.

Tuesday

On Tuesday we listened to presentation from a variety of people, but first up was BL, Danish Social Housing. BL is the Industrial Organisation of Social Housing in Denmark which has an interest in approximately 650,000 dwellings. The aims of BL when founded in 1919 was to ensure a fair mixture of housing for all tenures, whether that is privately owned, social rented, sheltered accommodation, young persons accommodation, etc. They explained how development in Denmark is funded and talked about financing an overall regeneration project. The various municipalities, loans, subsidies and subsequent information about the developers manage tenant consultations provided food for thought.

Wednesday

We had a guided tour around the Western Harbour in Malmoe, Sweden Louise Lundberg explained how Malmoe was originally an industrial area until industry declined. It was decided that a university would be built in the city to encourage education in the area, now making it a very academic city. Housing was soon in demand and new developments were constructed utilising very green technologies, water heating and cooling methods, which included water being heated by the sun in the summer and stored under ground, to be used in the winter with minimal heating requirements.

The last stop of the trip was to Maendenes Hjem. The aims of  this service are to help prevent homelessness and exclusion and offer help and support to abusers of alcohol and other substances, whilst trying to limit the number of people openly using drugs in public places.

A sobering end to a fascinating trip.