Contemporary rentscapes is a biennial research project funded by Sidief Spa (Banca d’Italia) focusing on transformative strategies for large rental housing stocks. The first part of this project was published in the book Re-Housing, ‘La casa come dispositivo di integrazione’ – The house like an integration dispositive (Politecnico di Torino, 2018). Triggered by the need of a generational turnover of the urban tenant, FULL demonstrated the flexibility of a portion of the early twentieth century housing stock through a toolkit of micro interventions. The second iteration of the project (Living beyond property) investigates the innovative global offer on the private rented market, mapping and decoding the patterns and connections between private and public space in the serviced domestic realm.
Contemporary rentscapes is a biennial research project funded by Sidief Spa (Banca d’Italia) focusing on transformative strategies for large rental housing stocks.
The first part of this project was published in the book Re-Housing, la casa come dispositivo di integrazione (Politecnico di Torino, 2018). Triggered by the need of a generational turnover of the urban tenant, FULL demonstrated the flexibility of a portion of the early twentieth century housing stock through a toolkit of micro interventions. The second iteration of the project (Living beyond property) investigates the innovative global offer on the private rented market, mapping and decoding the patterns and connections between private and public space in the serviced domestic realm. This section of the project will be published in the book Abitare oltre la proprietà (Politecnico di Torino, 2019).
Can housing serve as an enabling factor to integrate new citizens?
The 8th of August 1991 the ship Vlora landed 20.000 Albanians on the Italian shores. Since then a lot has changed. During the last twenty-five years immigration from a wider and wider archipelago of foreign countries coincided with radical cultural and economic transformations in Italy. The social fabric in Italy was deeply changed by the interaction between different cultures.
This mutation was not compensated by a significant renewal in built environment, historically characterized by an inertia towards inflexibility. The progressive mutation of life conditions of new Italians makes their housing demand increasingly converge with the one of more and more Italians. This unexpressed potential can be reimagined today as a resource to forecast strategies of renewal in the existing urban fabric and build a common ground, a place of sharing and integration.
Integrating housing with the city New technological services and housing models trigger today the possibility to externalize much of the infrastructures embedded in the domestic unit. This phenomenon allows not only to conceive new housing typologies, but to transform radically a portion of the existing housing stock. The traditional housing models, characterized by a rigid and inflexible compartmentation, can be redesigned in flexible open systems thanks to the application of new spatial strategies and new management tools. Transforming under-utilized rooms in new collective spaces and organizing innovative management systems allows to formulate a new conception of housing. A new form of housing able to meet the demand of new Italians.
From specialized housing towards an original policy The Italian city, with its sheer quantity of public space and high-density urban blocks, represents since centuries an efficient model of integration between the individual and the collective dimension. This model, that in the recent past seemed to be replaced by a sprawl of detached houses, today becomes an actual one infilled with new ways to live and new conceptions of inhabitation of the private and public spaces of the house. New housing typologies, developed inside dense portions of the city, allow innovative forms of integration between the private and the public dimension. The porosity of a densely built city, subdivided in its core by a fragmented private property structure, represents the fertile ground to develop a system of housing and services distributed in the city in an efficient network instead of a one-size-fits-all model.
Italy is a country of homeowners. However, according to national statistics, cash renters do not seem disadvantaged in relation to their landlords: 9 million of tenants spend averagely 400€ per month on their rent (only 14% of the average national income). In major cities, these figures change radically. In the case of Milan, the affordable rental flat area is of about 30 sqm -the area corresponding 30% of median rent over the median city income-, while the median area of rental flats in the city is of 70 sqm.
Cities are the place where Engels’ Wohnungsfrage has always unfolded in its more severe form, historically in purpose- built housing typologies as the Mietskasernen of Berlin, the tenements of New York, and the Parisian immeubles de rapport.
In Postwar Europe, the deprived social conditions associated with these typologies triggered experimentation in the field of social housing, assigning to the State also the role of great landlord. The mass provision of housing led also to the dimensional standards still in use in planning regulations.
Paralleled to this mainstream story, some housing typologies were designed and optimized starting from human body dimensions. The hotel, from its first conception at the end of the 18 th century in the United States, has always been an incubator for domestic innovation.
Today, if we observe major cities across the globe, we find hybrid housing typologies, mixing the spaces and services of the hotel to the notions of comfort and security typically associated with the traditional rental flat. Rental housing in this sense operates simultaneously as dwelling and a constellation of included services. Units of reduced size are combined with common areas and facilities in single buildings. Plus, housekeeping service and hotel-like management are usually part of the rental fee. Depending on budget and target users, this can take the form of co-living for students and professionals, luxury or branded apartments, serviced apartments, and elderly apartments.
What would be the consequences in a city where no one owns a home, but everybody can rent a house?