Building the city on the city, our major urban, ecological and social challenge
Urban renewal, which was simply ignored for many years and has been clearly absent from recent debates, represents a simple, efficient and crucially important response to the two-pronged challenge of the ecological transition and its economy.
Adam Oubuih, CEO of Victoires Haussmann SGP, explains why building the city on the city is perhaps the greatest opportunity of the early 21st century.
Building better cities, the first response to the climate emergency
The latest IPCC report is categorical: one of the most powerful tools to prevent temperatures from increasing by more than 2 degrees is to design cities in which more people live close to their places of work.
The construction industry is responsible for more than 30% of greenhouse gas emissions and, in addition to the transport sector, represents a huge challenge in the fight to reduce carbon emissions. Furthermore, efforts to limit the artificialization of land will increase the space available for encouraging biodiversity, thus increasing the surface areas able to capture CO2. This underlines the absolute necessity to rethink the model of the sustainable city and its construction, and to take action now in response to climate challenges via national and local policies to design less dense cities with traffic-calming measures.
Building better cities, the leading vector of equal opportunities
To start with, this means providing solutions for spatial segregation, the main cause of the breakdown in republican mobility: closure of local services, unequal education, the phenomenon of “discriminatory address”, poor accessibility to and from employment areas , etc. Building the city on the city means having a direct influence on programmed urban diversity and its inherent multiplicity, and therefore equal opportunities.
Redesigning the city is also a powerful vector of competitivity and purchasing power. The average budget for housing represents 30% of household expenditure in France, compared with 10% in Germany. This situation is due to a shortage of offers in high-pressure areas, even though France is less densely populated than its neighbor Germany.
Combined with efforts to limit “thermal sieves” and reduce the impacts of energy costs, freeing up some of the purchasing power from housing is also a key vector of growth. Increasing available purchasing power, facilitating asset mobility, reinforcing French urban innovation initiatives would consolidate our competitive advantages, notably on the international market. Finally, fighting urban sprawl also limits the costs of local authorities in the areas of road networks, electricity and water networks, etc. while reducing transport costs and carbon footprint at the same time.
Building better cities, pillar of growth for the benefit of the community
How? By raising funds that can be invested in all territories and generating employment throughout France in the form of qualified and unqualified jobs that cannot be relocated.
Building the city on the city would thus create more growth and accelerate greening and digitization in the sector, while strengthening the advantages of our economy, without most of the benefits of this recovery being captured by competitor economies. Furthermore, many foreign investors, including for industrial projects related to the ecological transition, identify the lack of real estate and property funding as major obstacles. Once again, urban responsibility offers a wide range of solutions.
Building better cities, the power of new, sustainable and quality employment for all
Redesigning the city will ultimately help to reactivate the social ladder. The construction industry, a symbolic sector, is perfectly positioned to pioneer the transformation of professional industries into excellence industries. There are already many links between construction and education and the sector is viewed as a model in terms of social mobility. Technical sectors can provide, create and strengthen bridges with engineering educational establishments. Finally, by increasing the offer of affordable housing in city centers, densification will bolster social diversity both in residential districts and at school, thus improving the results achieved.
Building better cities, an opportunity for France and the French
Excellence made in France, combining the sector’s technical expertise, economic diplomacy on a ground-breaking model to fight climate change, and the ability to make the most of the financialization of the industry to attract foreign capital. Urban recovery would also be a practical way of boosting the economy and helping it to compensate for its deficiencies: digitization, financialization, increased mobility, ecological transition. A recovery of this kind would ultimately help to restore trust-based relations between the State and local authorities, becoming a pioneering model of cooperation between central government and the regions.