31. Fare e abitare – Doing and living project
31.1. Short description
This project was also developed by Immobiliare Sociale Bresciana. Fare e abitare is a very small but quite innovative project devoted to young people (aged 18-30 years) who want to leave their family and live independently. Two apartments (100 per cent furnished) are available, one for two young people and the other for four of them. They are located in a little building now owned by ISB which was bought apartment by apartment (one thanks to a bequest to ISB).
Rents are about 140 euros per month plus expenses, total 200 euros per month per person. Dwellers pay quite low rents but have to activate themselves for the city or for the neighbourhood through voluntary activities, be they cultural (for example through events that promote integration among migrants and “autochthonous”), social (for example offering help to migrants during daytime moments) or pro-environmental (for example doing urban gardening).
The project idea was launched and then implemented by ISB and one of the affiliated cooperatives, “Il Calabrone”. The cooperative is also the social manager of “Fare e Abitare” following its mission.
31.2. Conceptions of and ways of addressing users
Initially, ISB wanted to simply devote the two apartments of the current project to cope with young people’s housing needs because in Brescia policies to support young people’s housing inclusion are very weak. After some discussions with the municipality director of policy sector on young people that decided to support the project, it was decided to turn to a wider project in terms of scope, even if no further resources were dedicated to it. Through “Fare e Abitare” ISB launched an “ideas event” for the city, inviting interested young people to apply, bringing projects for the neighbourhood (Il Carmine) or for the city in some way assuming that “young people are not the needy but those who have resources and capacities to share” with the rest of the population.
The project aims are the following:
- To activate young people in the city, asking them to develop value-added activities and giving them stable accommodation.
- To increase the quality of living in the neighbourhood with low-cost activities that can bring strong social cohesion.
- To promote co-habitation as a lifestyle among young people in this specific historical moment, characterised by the need to reduce land use and new constructions.
These aims should be reached all together. The innovators have been inspired by international cases that have been studied in detail. They look at experiences in Manchester in the UK, where young districts have been done to support their working activities and partially their housing needs. They also worked with Italian academics who are also involved in developing policies for young people.
“Fare e abitare” received sixteen projects from different groups of potential co-habiting persons. Almost all projects are related to the neighbourhood where the dwellings are located, in “Il Carmine”. The content of those projects declared as winners are:
- To promote moments to eat together in the neighbourhood to support friendship and relationsships among neighbours. The neighbourhood is “Il Carmine”, where there are a lot of migrants (who live there but mainly work there running mostly ethnic commerce activities). The project is called “Parla come mangi” that can be translated as “talk as you eat” following a very well-known popular adagio. Partners of the project are the local ethical purchasing group (Gruppo di acquisto solidale) and Brescia University.
- To promote cultural activities in Santa Giulia Museum and in the Verziano prison. This project is supported also by the local university. The winners are four young girls; one of them is serving a term of imprisonment, sleeps in prison and has permission to work outside the prison during the day and have an apartment to use in these hours.
31.3. Internal organisation and modes of working
One of the more innovative aspects of the project is the way by which users have been recruited. A call for projects was launched in August and was closed after 2 months, receiving sixteen projects and applications. Young people are considered as resources for the community and not just “a specific target”, a concept that has an impact on the way of working because the social manager not only has to recruit dwellers and manage their insertion into the apartments, but has also to help and support them in developing their project, which implies further and more collaborative work among “formal operators” and “informal facilitators and agents” as the selected dwellers are.
Dwellers had not been chosen directly by ISB but had to pass through a selection mechanism that obliged all the involved stakeholders to conjugate their aims with the others’, giving life to a positive and synergic outcome.
31.4. Interaction with the local welfare system
The role of the Brescia Municipality (Assessorato Politiche Giovanili) in this project is quite marginal although they have formally supported it. The municipality has offered an office and a person who made telephone calls to promote the project and has involved the “informagiovani” (a special service for young people who look for jobs, information about working or studying opportunities, etc.) to publicise it. No funding has being provided.
The call for projects was been launched under the following partnership: ISB, Brescia Municipality and Cooperativa Il Calabrone (affiliated to ISB and the manager of the local informagiovani counselling and information service for young people who look for work, study opportunities, etc.). The competent town councillor has declared that the public support for the project goes along with “our initiatives for employability and access to credit […] because housing and housing autonomy are the instruments though which the young people liberate themselves from the family dependence […] the project shows that rights have to be thought with duties”.
The emphasis put on the project by public officers is high even if no substantial public resources have been invested in it. The social manager thinks that the interaction with Brescia University and with the prison, as well as with one of the principal museums of the city (Santa Giulia) through the winning projects, will enhance the possibility to collaborate in the future within the same scheme (ISB provides new apartments and call for projects) or in other relationships as participating to financing opportunities, etc.
As a critical point, it is considered that rents (at the time of writing, about 140 euro per month plus expenses, total 200 euros per month) are too high for young people that have to share their home. Even if 200 euros is a low price to live in Brescia, in order to really help and support young people, housing autonomy costs should be significantly lower. Another critical aspect is that the two-room apartment is too big and has too many common spaces that do not allow enough privacy for its dwellers. This aspect informs future other opportunities that will be provided to young people.