Liat Rogel: Milan

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Is Milan on the leading edge of alternative housing? Our insider from Politecnico di Milano’s Design and Innovation for Sustainability research unit, Liat Rogel, gives us some insight.

Is it expensive to live in Milan?

It is – although, of course, it depends where you live. For example in the center, there are areas that are more affordable because of their industrial past. But rents are about €14.4/sqm on average, which is not cheap.

What is the main challenge in Milan right now in regards to affordable housing?

Because of the high rents, young people are forced to share flats in order to make ends meet. After five years of university, most are fed up with sharing and want their own place, but because of the high rents, most of them end up living in a one-room flat. Young professionals are especially badly affected by this situation. And since there are no alternative solutions, the next step is usually to buy a place. Buying an apartment is part of the Italian tradition and the mortgage is usually as high as the rent.

What about alternative solutions like cooperative housing projects?

In Milan the real estate market is rather inhospitable to grassroots housing initiatives. But there are some associations that help groups of people create their own solutions by combining their desire to socialize with ecological concerns. It started a few years ago when “” came about and started the first cooperative project in Milan.

There are about 280 buildings based on a cooperative model, including ecological ones, like in Via Candiani. Often the young people who planned such projects choose to have private apartments with common spaces, like a swimming pool, where they can meet and socialize. There are also many other projects in the planning phase, including an eco house with a big greenhouse connected to it, rental cooperative housing and cooperative housing for older people.

How supportive are the authorities?

Right now, the state is more concerned with providing cheap housing for people with extreme economic difficulties.

What can be done to improve the situation?

People just don’t know that alternatives are available, so we need to raise awareness. Then we have to make the process easier, to make it possible for more people to take part in it. And last but not least, we need to prove these solutions are good for everyone – for the residents, but also for the neighbourhood and for the city as a whole. Then, we have to get financial aid from above, so that what we now call “alternatives” might one day become standard.

Milan stats:

Population 1,301,394

Average apartment purchase price/sqm in the city centre €5666

Average monthly disposable income (after tax) €1466

Density/sqkm 2750

Average rent for a one-bedroom in the city centre €1066/month