The Brussels-Capital Region participated in the Eurocities ‘City Dialogue’ on “COVID-19 and Urban Development”

On 14 April 2021, participated in the City Dialogue organised by Eurocities on the future of European cities in a post-pandemic world. A great opportunity for the Brussels-Capital Region to present the conclusions of the scientific report on housing at the European level.

COVID-19, an urban disease?

Sébastien Bourdin, a lecturer at the EM Normandie Business School, presented the results of the ESPON study on the geography of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic and the first policy answers in European regions and cities. The researchers mapped the virus’s circulation with a regional geographic database of daily deaths from February until August 2020.

Although the virus was able to spread like wildfire around the world because of globalisation, we should not ignore regional diffusion. According to the study, even though population density definitely played a role at the beginning of the pandemic, other factors proved more instrumental over time (such as connectivity, overpopulation, average age of the population or the level of healthcare…).

Governance quality was also discussed. The researchers demonstrated that governance structures also influenced the geography of this pandemic. Finally, the researchers concluded that the territorial responses mainly focused on the short-term and that the reactive measures outnumbered the proactive strategies.

The ESPON Programme will soon launch a follow-up study to analyse the next waves and the pandemic’s social and territorial consequences.


Mobility and housing: implications for urban planning and urban governance

Two cases of specific studies in the areas of housing and mobility/public space were presented, during the debate, namely Brussels and Milan. The two examples illustrated how the cities have learnt from this crisis to adapt to the new urban challenges.


Which challenges for Brussels housing?

Susanne Eliasson, a member of the Scientific Committee for Housing Policy, presented the challenges and recommendations of the report, which the Committee submitted to the Brussels Government.

The following challenges were identified:

  • Urgently devise solutions to the growing demand for public and social housing;
  • Improve housing quality;
  • Re-examine the links between health and architecture, health and the urban environment, while also rethinking the relationship with nature;
  • Increase knowledge and date on housing;
  • Develop better housing policy in the Brussels-Capital Region.

To meet these challenges, the committee made the following recommendations:

  • Improve governance in terms of the construction of public housing and improve the ‘socialisation’ of private housing stock;
  • Improve the quality and habitability of existing housing stock;
  • Increase the resilience of housing infrastructure;
  • Develop a joint framework for the various housing stakeholders in the Brussels-Capital Region.


“Strade Aperte”, or how the City of Milan optimises its mobility

Reducing the modal share of cars is the main ambition of this project, presented by Stefano Sgarbossa of Milan’s Environment and Mobility Agency. But the project goes much further. “Strade Aperte” also includes two new cycling routes, a reduction of driving speed in the city to 30 km/h, new amenities at intersections that are built with pedestrians and cyclists in mind, and much wider pavements.

The project’s results, which were collected by an intelligent system, speak for themselves: the modal share of cars was reduced by 10%, whereas the modal share of bicycles increased by 13%.



This Eurocities dialogue, which was chaired by, focused on the notion of liveability or quality of life as a key idea. Four areas are deemed essential for achieving this:

  1. The importance of rethinking the concept of density, by promoting a more qualitative and liveable density, that is mindful of the environment and its inhabitants.
  2. The importance of rethinking housing. This reflection is essential for dealing with the new reality of teleworking and ensuring that housing becomes more liveable, affordable and respectful of the environment.
  3. The importance of rethinking public spaces as the link between our cities. We must therefore make them more welcoming and liveable for all.
  4. Rethinking our cities also implies rethinking the relationship between cities and their metropolitan areas. To this end, solid partnerships must be created between urban, periurban and rural territories.

You can find other elements of the debate in the article “COVID-19, an urban disease?” that was published on the Eurocities website, which includes input from and the EM Normandie Business School.

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