Beyond buildings, the entrepreneurs brainstormed ways to increase housing accessibility. One suggestion was to create a co-sharing approach in which banks, financial investors and real estate agencies help to subsidize property through matched funding. They then could provide a number of homes that could be shared with people.
This search for innovation was echoed by Maria Vassilakou, Deputy Mayor and Deputy Governor of Vienna, where 62% of residents are in social housing.
“Cities with affluent budgets tend not to be the most innovative. What’s not economically sustainable won’t last in the long term,” Vassilakou said, noting that the City of Vienna buys land and sells it to developers at below-market rates. Developers are then required to offer highly affordable rents.
Adaptive reuse is key
As cities change, assets and infrastructure will need to be repurposed. “Public space will be shared differently. Humans will find a different space in the city,” said Albert Asséraf, Executive Vice-President, Strategy, Data and User Innovation for JCDecaux France.
Entrepreneurs are prepared for this challenge as well, pondering what to do with underutilized buildings in a world where many work remotely and most shopping is done online. Their suggestion: create communities in the space, such as charter schools, that would be created by public-private partnerships. Companies could then fund the schools to develop needed skills within the next generation of students.
Of course, the changes brought by increased urbanizations may be unpredictable, and cities will have to make room for experimentation. “We need to create safe spaces where innovation can thrive,” said Sebastian Peck, Managing Director of InMotion Ventures. “Let people take risks, and don’t create an environment where people fear reprisal.”