I recently had the pleasure of meeting Chiara Rizzica of Fondazione Housing Sociale who is from Milan, Italy. She is both an architect and the person responsible for coordinating International Partnership projects. In our discussions, I learned that the organization she works for is not a social housing company but a new aged consultancy firm of sorts that is seeking to help the social housing industry improve in all areas of operation.
Fondazione Housing Sociale (FHS) is a private, non-profit organization, and works for the purposes of public and social interest. The Foundation’s mission is to experiment with innovative solutions for structuring, financing, construction and management of social housing initiatives economically sustainable, not based on the logic of free grants.
Building Social Managers
FHS does not build nor manage social housing units, but designs processes and models. The most important actor in the management model is the “Social Manager”. The role of the Social Manager consists of the performance of duties relating to social promotion and the management of the rental property: this figure is different from a normal real-estate manager due to the central role assigned to the tenant and to the community that is the beneficiary of the services.
The way in which they identify and try out this type of operator, that is called a “Social Manager”. The social manager represents one of the most significant innovations in FHS’s work. The activities covered by the Social Manager include not only the provision of real-estate services, management of the financial and administrative aspects connected with activities, but also services relating to the community and neighbourhood, whose functioning requires the activation of non-financial external resources that are characteristic of the non-profit and limited profit sector. The main objectives of the Social Manager are the provision of high-quality services, including the monitoring and evaluation, and the integration of the financial and social aspects, focusing on the formation of relational and ethical networks, on participation and on the sense of belonging.
Changing Italy’s Social Housing Sector
FHS’s goal was to create a platform and raise the awareness and availability of social and affordable housing in Italy. . Up until early 2000, Social Housing in Italy had been based on a traditional model of intervention: the only way to have social housing was connected to the idea that the State government was going to play all the primary roles of planner and executor. The new model being used is a game changer! FHS works in the following ways:
- Financial-economic Planning of the various aspects of the intervention
- Social management of the buildings: They do not manage but help build up smart socially responsible management.
- Develop a Plan that Helps Create a Healthy Social Mix: They put in work to ensure the building has a good mix of populations.
- Design of services: Help develop relationships between a new building and the existing neighborhood as well as strong social services.
- Architectural design with particular focus on the definition of the relational space both inside and outside the buildings, in order to give value to the social aspect of the living space and to the relationships with the environment it is part of.
- Environmental sustainability and a sustainable lifestyle:
- Coordination with local council policies: the planning of the social housing intervention in partnership with the local council in order to maximise the coordination of housing policy.
- Community Start-up and support: a support phase is foreseen for both the start-up and consolidation of the social infrastructure of the community, which will last for many years following the construction of the buildings.
FHS promotes the creation of living and social contexts where residents are directly involved, supported by a network of services, and where they are able to make rich and meaningful human connections. The FHS model for the Community Start up process follows a path that begins six months before the arrival of the first residents and ends a year after move in. It is a process that trains the residents on how to plan the use of their shared space and to draw up self-governing rules.
FHS developed a rich and meaningful pathway in how they organize and engage with social housing companies, governments and residents. There is much to learn from this organization in how a “social” building comes into existence and the way it is integrated into a neighborhood. This holistic approach is extremely unique and something that all parties involved in social housing should pay close attention to. In future articles, we will dive in deeper to the work being done at FHS and look at challenges and projects.