Calico’s closing conference

Launched nearly three years ago in November 2018, the UIA project CALICO is starting a new chapter, marked by the final conference that took place on October 13, 2021 at the Royal Library of Belgium, Brussels. Moderated by Housing Referent Yves van de Casteele, the conference featured expert speakers, project managers and CALICO residents in order to look back at three years of project implementation while fostering an academic yet community focused conversation.

CALICO, ‘CAre and LIving in COmmunity,’ is a collaborative housing project that aims to create an intergenerational living environment that prioritises gender equality, care, birth and end-of-life in a familiar environment, and social diversity. At the time of the final conference, some residents had moved in for over a month with the last ones set to move in shortly.

The conference was opened by statements from Brussels Housing Director-General Arlette Verkruyssen, Brussels-Capital Region Secretary of State Nawal Ben Hamou, and Urban Innovative Actions expert Laura Colini. In a conversation with CALICO project manager from CLTB, Anne-Laure Wibrin, three residents shared their experiences living in the completed project.

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For resident Louise, a midwife at the Facility for birth and end-of-life, she enjoys “living in community.” In Brussels, “it’s very complicated to choose to live alone,” says Louise. CALICO presents an opportunity for her to live on her own in a home that is “financially affordable and of good quality and in community.” At CALICO, Louise is able to “share her everyday with people, feel supported, and not feel alone in life.”

Katrien, resident of the Angela.D cluster, moved to Belgium from France to be closer to her family, since she is alone with her two children. For her, like Louise, it was complicated to find proper housing in Brussels given her situation. She also explains that gender is a very relevant theme in CALICO : around 90% of people involved in the project are actually women and it’s important to consider that, to take it into account. CALICO was able to provide her a home in her state of “urgency.”

And for Marion, a resident of the Pass-ages cluster, CALICO presented an opportunity for intergenerational living. Through this model of community living, Marion appreciates “being able to know your neighbours.” When asked what the concept of Care meant to her, Marion responded, “Care, it’s a way of bringing attention to others with a kind attitude, gestures, being integrated in the housing … being a little more aware of looking after the well-being of each other, whether that be physically, that could be a helping hand, that could also be just encouraging words.”

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The closing ceremony also featured a presentation of the VUB research report on the CALICO project, presented by researchers Thomas Dawance and An-Sofie Smetcoren, who had been following the project since its inception in November 2018. A profile of CALICO residents reveals that for gender balance, there are overwhelmingly more women than men, with the largest proportion of adults being single mothers. As for multiculturality, there are as many residents born in Belgium as abroad, with a majority of non-Belgian residents being born outside of EU countries.

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Out of the reasons to move to CALICO, the most “important” reasons for residents include :

  • Stable housing at 94%,
  • Affordable housing at 93.9%,
  • Intergenerational character at 100.0%,
  • Solidarity character at 97.0%
  • And sharing of common space between inhabitants of the project at 97.0%.

In terms of resident housing satisfaction, residents were asked to respond to the statement, “The cost of my housing (within the CALICO project) improves my financial situation.” Across the three housing clusters, 17 out of 33 respondents agreed with the statement. When asked “What is your overall perception of the quality of your CALICO accommodation?,” 27 said they were satisfied; there were no dissatisfied residents.

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An expert panel featuring socio-economist and UCLouvain professor Florence Degavre, ULB professor Pierre Lannoy, and nurse and UCLouvain researcher Thérèse Van Durme followed. As powerful as this research is in suggesting the potential of projects like CALICO of improving the lives of many, Thérèse reminds us that “beyond the numbers and data, there is a permanent cycle of improvement of the quality of life, the quality of housing, of the quality of social relationships in a region such as Brussels.”

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In his closing remarks, New European Bauhaus Head of Unit Xavier Troussard spoke about the similarities between the values of CALICO and the New European Bauhaus: sustainability, social inclusion, and aesthetics. Like CALICO, the Bauhaus also values “focusing attention on the people, on the individual, and listening and discussing their needs.”

You can rewatch the final conference on Brussels Housing’s Youtube Channel. The presentation of project results by VUB researcher is available through the CALICO website.