Antwerp's Pilot City Activity: LINK - Linkeroever Inclusief Naar Klimaatneutraliteit/Left Bank towards Inclusive Climate Neutrality

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Background

The Left Bank district in Antwerp faces significant emissions challenges, with 71% of emissions originating from buildings, particularly from housing. Social housing company Woonhaven manages 44% of these dwellings, actively renovating them, but the remaining 56% owned by private owners, mostly condominiums, require complementary action. Deep renovations focusing on more than energy retrofitting are needed for up to 90% of these buildings. Financial gaps and lack of incentives hinder private owners’ participation in energy renovations, critical for the city’s 2030 climate neutrality goal.

Antwerp has a substantial vulnerable population, with 48% of Left Bank residents from disadvantaged backgrounds. Autonoom Gemeentebedrijf Energie BesparingsFonds (AG EBF), an autonomous communal company ‘Energy Savings Fund’, provides extensive energy advice and support, but the renovation rate remains low at 1.5% for houses and 1% for flats.

The pilot activity aims to increase this to 3% by offering socio-technical support, designing financing instruments to bridge financial gaps, and implementing guidance in two selected buildings with 130 households. This initiative seeks to enhance renovation rates, address socio-economic barriers, and improve living conditions while contributing to the city’s climate goals.

Description of Activities

The main focus of the pilot activity is to enhance the renovation rate of private condominiums on Antwerp’s Left Bank, aiming for climate neutrality and improved living conditions, particularly for vulnerable households. This will be achieved through comprehensive socio-technical support, innovative financing mechanisms, and extensive stakeholder engagement.

Planned activities include:

1. Socio-technical support:

  • Analysis of data available (GDPR-proof) and needed to get a clear view on the heterogeneity of the groups to be included when it comes to risk for renovictions, where energy renovation buildings risk creating new vulnerable target groups that cannot finance the mandatory renovation and are therefore forced to sell their dwelling.
  • Provide in-depth guidance and support to co-owner associations and individual owners.
  • Conduct energy scans and develop detailed renovation master plans.

2. Innovative financing mechanisms:

  • Design new financing mechanisms in cooperation with financial market, adapted to the local context and target groups.
  • Test the acceptance of new financing instruments to address financial gaps and the split incentive issue.
  • Collaborate with stakeholders to implement and evaluate the acceptance of these mechanisms in two selected buildings with approximately 130 households.

3. Stakeholder engagement and capacity building:

  • Develop a methodology to reach difficult target groups beyond existing barriers.
  • Organise participatory processes with residents, landlords, and relevant stakeholders.
  • Conduct workshops, focus groups, and webinars to build capacity and share best practices.

4. Implementation lab:

  • Establish a co-creative implementation lab in the selected buildings to test and refine solutions.

Monitor and evaluate the impact of  implemented activities to inform broader policy and practice

Objective

To significantly boost the renovation rate of private condominiums on Antwerp's Left Bank district by providing comprehensive socio-technical support and innovative financing solutions, ensuring inclusive participation, improving energy efficiency, and contributing to the city's climate neutrality goals by 2030.

Are the pilot activities building upon or part of a previous and/or existing activity?

The pilot builds upon several existing initiatives in Antwerp aimed at energy efficiency and climate neutrality. Key among them is the AG EBF’s extensive support for energy scans and renovation guidance, which has been expanded to target vulnerable groups. The city’s Climate Plan 2030, and projects such as BE REEL! and CondoReno, provide a foundation for large-scale renovations and innovative financing mechanisms. These efforts are complemented by the city’s established grant programs for renovation master plans and investment subsidies for landlords. The pilot also leverages insights from past EU projects like SONNET and ACE-Retrofitting, which have focused on collective energy renovations and reducing energy poverty. This comprehensive background ensures that the pilot is grounded in proven strategies, enhancing its potential for success and scalability.

Which emissions domains will the pilot activities address?

  • Consumption of electricity generated for buildings, facilities, and infrastructure

  • Consumption of non-electricity energy for thermal uses in buildings and facilities (e.g., heating, cooking, etc.)

Systemic transformation – levers of change the pilot activities will exploit

  • Technology/Infrastructure  

  • Governance & Policy

  • Social Innovation

  • Democracy/Participation

  • Finance & Funding

  • Learning & Capabilities 

  • Data & Digitalisation 

Stakeholder types that the city would like to engage in the pilot activities 

  • Citizens

  • Financial Institutions

  • Public/Private Partnerships

  • Local NGO, Associations

  • Co-owner Associations

Transferable features of the pilot activities to a Twin City/ies 

1. Deep socio-technical support for renovations:

  • Providing comprehensive guidance and technical support to co-owner associations and individual owners for collective renovations. Antwerp uses a specific methodology called Masterplan Renovations approach that could  interest  other cities.
  • Establishing a co-creative implementation lab for owners and relevant stakeholders to plan and execute renovation projects.

2. Innovative financing mechanisms:

  • Developing and testing new financing instruments to alleviate barriers such as the split incentive, ensuring financial accessibility for all owners, including vulnerable groups.
  • Exploring solutions to engage co-investors, including citizen-based and impact-driven private capital, to reduce the financial burden on vulnerable groups.

3. Participatory processes and community engagement:

  • Running participatory processes to engage residents and landlords, with a focus on vulnerable citizens, to identify and address barriers to renovation.
  • Implementing intensive guidance and communication strategies to build trust and facilitate renovation decisions.

4. Capacity building and knowledge transfer:

  • Establishing internal capacity for technical and social support, including counselling and guidance for renovation processes.
  • Conducting learning sessions, focus groups, and workshops to build external capacity among local stakeholders and government levels.

5. Detection and sensitisation methods:

  • Implementing early detection systems and analysis of data to identify vulnerable groups at the onset of renovation projects.
  • Developing communication tools to raise awareness about renovation obligations and upcoming costs among owners and potential buyers.
  • Develop efficient methodologies to reach the target group, test acceptance of(new financing mechanisms in view of tackling barriers for renovation.

6. Role of independent mediators:

  • Utilising independent mediators to facilitate cooperation and successful implementation of energy transition investments within co-owner associations.

These features provide a comprehensive framework for engaging communities, addressing financial barriers, and implementing sustainable renovation projects that can be adapted and replicated in other cities facing similar challenges.

This answer is not exhaustive and simply an indicative one.

Enabling conditions that will support the successful replication of your pilot activities in the Twin City

Cities with a dedicated team supporting citizens (with focus on vulnerable citizens) in tackling barriers for renovation.

Cities with a large percentage of condominiums, with diverse typologies of buildings and substantial amount of private  ownership, also in hands of vulnerable owners (be it social-economically, elderly, young people with few savings, etc.).

Not only the diversity of the target group, but also diversity in buildings requires a customised approach for each building and typology of citizens. Cities with a similar typology of housing could benefit from the lessons learned on a methodological level.

This answer is not exhaustive and simply an indicative one.

What does the city want to learn from Twin City/ies?

  1. Methodology on collecting (GDPR-proof) data to identify the target groups more clearly and allow a targeted policy. Including difficult target groups (e.g landlords living abroad).
  2. Developing financing mechanisms for high-risk citizens both acceptable to the financial market and to the target group (in terms of complexity, capacity, etc.)
  3. Developing methodologies to successfully reach the target group and breaking barriers to make renovations financially feasible.
  4. Develop intensive knowledge on new financing mechanisms that could offer actual solutions on the ground for those citizens that fall behind with existing instruments.
  5. Develop a typology of vulnerable owners, for whom solutions on the private or public-private market cannot be found despite intensive efforts. Exchange on public policies to avoid renovictions for these groups would be very valuable.

This answer is not exhaustive and simply an indicative one.