Habitat for Humanity at the European Responsible Housing Awards Ceremony

Is it possible to ensure affordable and sustainable housing in Europe? Of course, all you need is innovation!

The second edition of the European Responsible Housing Awards has featured a great variety of innovative housing projects implemented by public, cooperative and non-profit organizations that showcased best practices from across Europe contributing to sustainability of local communities. The Award was established in 2014 by three European housing non-profits: Housing Europe, Delphis, and the International Union of Tenants. Habitat for Humanity has been involved in the initiative from its very inception.

In this cycle twenty high quality projects had been shortlisted for the Award that was conferred in four categories: 1) Local Social Sustainability; 2) Environmental Sustainability; 3) Good Governance and Fair Relations with Stakeholders; and 4) Responsible Human Resources Management. The Award Ceremony took place November 23, 2016 in Brussels. A professional jury that decided on the winning projects consisted of top European housing experts coming from public, private and non-profit sectors. Gyorgy Sumeghy, Habitat for Humanity’s EMEA Advocacy Manager and a jury member spoke about his experience.

  • What was the atmosphere at the Award Ceremony?

The Ceremony was a very nice gathering of housing practitioners, advocates and policy makers. As I noted in my short speech, we have been trying hard to convince policy makers that there is a growing housing crisis all over Europe, which is a tiring and not very motivating job. But the award ceremony was a great and inspiring moment, an opportunity to take stock of all the good stuff which is going on in Europe when it comes to innovative social housing practices. So I’m very glad that I could participate and contribute to this good spirit on behalf of Habitat for Humanity International. The only thing which I felt a bit weird about was that all applications for the Award were for Western Europe only. It’s our responsibility to map the good practices in new member states and encourage them to apply for the next round.

  • Which project impressed you most? Why?

I gave out the award in the category of Local Social Sustainability and in that category the winner was really close to my heart. It was a project called Venning ECO-life by housing provider Goedkope Woning from Kortrijk, Belgium. As the title suggests, this was a project focusing on energy savings and on good environmental impact. The organization turned a very deprived area of social housing into a beautiful new neighborhood, while managing to keep its original poor inhabitants in their homes. The novelty of the project was in solving together social and ecological aspects of the problem. I found it interesting that they deliberately chose to paint the houses in white so that the whole neighborhood looked more like a Mediterranean holiday resort than social housing estate. It was done intentionally to get rid of the stigma against people who live in this place.

  • What’s your assessment of the relevance of the European Responsible Housing Award?

We badly need to share good stories about social housing to change public perception of it and to prove to policy makers that it’s a sector worth investing into. The European Responsible Housing Award is a great opportunity to raise awareness about these issues. Also the organizers combined the Award Ceremony with a mini-conference where EU policy makers were invited to address the housing par actioners and engage in a meaningful policy discussion.

György Sümeghy received his MA in English and Hungarian Literature in 1995 in Budapest. He spent ten years in public education and later at a private business college. Based on his management experience in education and volunteerism and interest in social development he joined Habitat for Humanity Hungary as National Director in 2005. Under his leadership, Habitat for Humanity Hungary has become an advocacy led organization where field projects support strong awareness raising and advocacy initiatives to change housing policies in the country. Gyorgy joined HFHI EMEA in 2013 to lead regional advocacy initiatives and support national advocacy programs in the EMEA region. He represents HFHI in Brussels and all over Europe at regional conferences and meetings.