The ISHF: a global conversation on housing

Housing is the environment within which our daily lives take place: from art and architecture, energy and social equality, wealth redistribution to real-estate, housing is a good place to start if one wants to have a profound impact on people’s lives. No wonder then, that the first International Social Housing Festival has attracted such a diverse group of people, both contributors and visitors, in terms of our backgrounds, and… well, our backgrounds. So many different nationalities and walks of life are represented at our festival, because a home is as basic and universal a need as food and water. Indeed, many of us may not have been interested in housing specifically, but were pulled in by the beguiling range of activities on the myriad intersecting themes, or simply by the chance to hear stories of everyday lives and the work going towards making those lives better.

by Crispin Pownall, ISHF team

As a member of the Festival team, I myself came across this festival whilst I was looking for an internship, and jumped at the chance to work in social housing. Coming from London, a city where €1000 a month for a single room and shared facilities is considered a bargain, I saw in my current internship with the AFWC and ISHF an opportunity to learn about and contribute to my ideals of social justice and equal opportunity, in a way that could make a difference, however small. It was a way to get involved with issues very dear and close to not just my own life, but the lives of the vast majority of people around the world. Similarly, many people coming to the festival see in its events a way to learn about and discuss their own very specific interests.

It is because of the broad, all-encompassing focus that we have attracted speakers and participants from all across Asia, Europe and the Americas, both North and South. Interest in our festival stretches from the banks of the Bosporus to Bogota, and from Seoul to Seattle. Looking at the list of backgrounds for each event, it is clear that different events appeal to different groups. The Legacoop Abianti/Fondazione Housing Sociale event on co-operative housing, for instance, attracted a broad range of types, but the largest part was made up of housing professionals. The Seoul Social Housing Center and Social Housing Advocacy Consortium Taipei, on the other hand, attracted architects, representatives from tenant unions, and academics alike, who are likely intrigued by the chance to understand social housing within an Eastern Asian context.

It seems that we have really tapped into something special with this festival, and provided a jump-start to a network of people, places and groups who have so much to work together for, broadened the existing networks, and set the scene for collaboration amongst stakeholders in all parts of housing all around the world, for years to come. In future Housing Festivals we aim to extend this conversation even further.

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