Not all hotspots are wonderfully connected places. In the Netherlands, hotspots are crime ridden, undesirable neighborhoods. The city of Rotterdam’s Urbannerdam program revitalizes those hotspots by helping its citizens become homeowners and making design a requirement.
Through Urbannerdam, Rotterdam sells municipal owned buildings and properties at extremely low prices to financially qualified buyers. As part of the program, the buyers are required to renovate the buildings according to high quality standards (e.g. energy efficiency, comfort, and aesthetics) and occupy the home for a minimum number of years. In the past few years, the city’s existing housing stock in formerly undesirable areas has been transformed.
Urbannerdam doesn’t just sell the houses and set the the owners loose to navigate the renovation world alone. The city monitors the entire project through completion, to ensure completion. Since good, personalized, modern design is integral to the program, help from architects is provided as part of the process. Building experts also guide owners through permitting and paperwork. Most of the properties sold are structurally sound, but in the case of those buildings that need foundation or base work, Urbannerdam helps the owner apply for subsidies to cover those costs. In the end the program provides more than the opportunity to create a dream home; it supplies the knowledge to do it right.
The success of Urbannerdam relies on the huge buy-in by the homeowners and the city. Even at below market housing prices, the renovation projects wouldn’t be feasible without the financial and administrative support of Rotterdam. And the amount of effort required to participate in the program means the newly formed communities are largely self selected from socially active and creative groups — the kind of citizens the city wants to rebuild the neighborhoods.
If it sounds like Rotterdam is encouraging gentrification, it kind of is. More importantly, though, Rotterdam has found a creative way to unload buildings that would otherwise sit empty and revive neighborhoods that would deteriorate further. It’s a solution that could be applied to the many foreclosed and abandoned properties across the pond, even at larger scales. Urbannerdam’s original project was the sale and renovation of an entire city block of buildings to a group of citizens who rehabilitated the structures collectively.
Over 250 houses are currently being renovated as part of Urbannerdam.