E-Co-Housing: Co-creating a Regenerative Housing Project Together with the Community

Budapest, Hungary Construction and Development, Environment and Resource efficiency, Local social sustainability, Relations to stakeholders, Target groups of housing
EU funded project



Housing affordability is a key issue both in Europe and in the District 14 Zugló of Budapest, Hungary. Social housing providers face many problems, e.g. residents with shrinking incomes, long waiting lists, expensive utilities, inefficient energy use, and unsustainable lifestyles producing significant CO2 emissions.

The district of Zugló provides more than two thousand units of subsidized housing but most are only one-room apartments and are therefore inappropriate for families. An additional key problem is the lack of high-quality buildings. After several decades of neglect, many units are poorly insulated and have significant problems with damp and mold.

Issues tackled

The main objective of E-Co-Housing is the creation of a regenerative and collaborative social housing community that is co-created by residents to house approximately 100 people in a social community. Considering prevention of urban sprawl, the site of the project is currently not in use. The building will be a multi-story prefabricated modular construction, with different unit sizes to house different sized families (e.g. single-parent, double-income large families, disabled and elderly couples, etc.) that reflect a cross-section of housing needs in Zugló. Low construction costs will enhance affordability and the regenerative use of land and recyclable materials, respecting Circular Economy principles, will contribute to climate resilience and a greener urban environment.

Actors involved

  • City of Budapest, District 14 Zugló Municipality
  • HBH Strategy and Development Ltd. - SME
  • Energy and environment Ltd. - SME
  • ABUD Advanced Building & Urban Design Ltd.- SME
  • GreenDependent Institute Nonprofit Ltd. - SME
  • Hungary Green Building Council (HuGBC) - nonprofit association
  • Budapest University of Technology and Economics - higher education and research institute
  • HABITAT for Humanity Hungary - nonprofit organisation
  • Zugló City Management and Public Services Company - infrastructure and public service provider

Actions carried out

  • May 2019: As a result of an integrated design process (IDP), supported with the use of a Building Information Modelling (BIM) system, tender documentation for public procurement prepared for modular multistory regenerative building
  • Dec. 2019: Expanded socially sustainable and transparent selection criteria for future residents created ensuring tenants highly motivated for cooperation and community development
  • June 2020: Modular multistory regenerative building with a smart integrative energy and IT system constructed with residential apartments of different sizes and community spaces to be used by all residents, designed and constructed to support collaborative, cross-generational and healthy lifestyle
  • August 2020: Community development and economic empowerment mentoring programmes (to run until the project end) started enabling the residents to set up and create the framework of a sustainable social housing community
  • May 2021: Complex multi-scenario feasibility study created for implementation of housing models in Zugló to be adapted to Zugló’s long term housing development programme
  • October 2021: Validated regenerative urban living and community guidebooks covering different aspects of modern urban living and cohabitation within a community, serving as a tool for wider uptake


The project ends in October 2021.

Next steps include:

  • The co-design workshops addressed people with a relevant profile for the envisioned
    social housing programme.
  • The definition of criteria for selection of actual inhabitants need to be further finetuned and agreed upon at the municipal level. Clear, objective criteria can prove to be an important tool to monitor the profile of the inhabitants, and changes thereof over time. With clear tenant criteria, it should be easier to communicate with the target beneficiaries and users, in order to find adequate candidates.
  • Training of inhabitants, on sustainable lifestyles in relation to the here provided spaces, as well as on basic economic conditions. Whereas the training is provided by the social partners of the project, the inhabitants also get some insights on technological aspects. This is an important organisational challenge: the project architecture provides a structure with two
    working groups  with a coordinating partner, as well as partners who are involved in both working groups.

Why it works

The realisation of the E-Co-Housing project illustrates that sustainability is only rarely addressed in social housing, that co-housing projects often develop in a setting of middle class incomes, or that the developers of sustainable techniques generally do not know the budget constraints of social housing. It requires a sustained commitment and effort to combine practices from a social housing context with sustainability logics, and to develop this as a co-design trajectory.

The ambitions, approaches and discourse of different actors largely differ a multi-facetted urban innovation, such as the E-Co-Housing project. The different logics have not necessarily merged in one setting earlier: a highly competent engineer might need to skill up to participate in co-design as much as an expert on the social housing crisis needs to skill up to better understand the integrative approach of sustainable techniques. The lead partners are repeatedly challenged to reconcile, to find a common ground between technical and social experts, and to make each other’s concerns understood, without losing track of the initial ambitions of each partner. For instance, this challenge occurred in the design of the social housing project, in the development of criteria to select potential inhabitants or in the decisions on technical equipment and shared spaces.

The organisational architecture of the project helps here: a strong partner for internal and external communication as well as a multifacetted link between the workings groups for
technical and social issues helped to find a common ground for (renewed) joint
problematisation. This does not only apply to the relation between the project partners and to the
total sum and integration of respective contributions, it also applies to the relation with
(potential) inhabitants and the users of the newly designed spaces. The users are challenged to
participate in new lifestyles, in co-habitation models and in sustainable practices. This
illustrates the importance of addressing target beneficiaries early on, e.g. with a presentation of
the objectives on a large billboard and a public event on site, as well as through codesign workshops.
Both in the relation between the project partners, as well as in the relation with beneficiaries, joint problematisation and a lead partner to support these processes are key to develop sound sociospatial innovations. It is strongly recommended to foresee sufficient time to develop integrated conceptualisations, which need to be supported by an integrated organisational arrangement.



More information

Budapest_E-Co Housing_Journal_0.pdf (uia-initiative.eu)

E-Co-Housing – Co-creating a Regenerative Housing Project Together with the Community | UIA – Urban Innovative Actions (uia-initiative.eu)

Rita Andrasek
Head of Project Management Unit

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