Matchmaking database

Blackburn village is an informal settlement in Durban. To support match making between growing job opportunities and the inhabitants of the settlement iTHUBA centre has been established. Through gathering data such as income and education levels and gathering data on foreseen job opportunities in the area matchmaking can take place. Many inhabitants do not have the right skills for jobs in retail, hospitality, security and construction, hence a tailored skills development programme is developed to bridge that gap and to prepare job seekers for the interviews with employers. A large urban development in the vicinity that includes housing, offices and retail will drive the regional job market. The unique approach of the iTHUBA is that it links job demand and supply within a specific geographic area.This contributes to reduction of transportation needs which in poor households in South African cities easily add up to 40% of the monthly family expenditure. The programme also offers a nursery for mothers with little kids so they are able to attend trainings and anticipate upcoming job opportunities.
Source: iTHUBA
Picture: Tongaat Hulatt

Ride-Sharing Services

ride-sharingRide-sharing services, like Uber, and taxi-hailing apps show us how increased connectivity shapes the behaviour of citizens. This has an impact on the mobility patterns of people, vibrancy of the city, on job opportunities, job efficiency and convenience. Two recent quotes on this matter:

“How Uber Is Changing Night Life in Los Angeles”, From the NY Times: 
…“It became very clear to me that I could use Uber and have the kind of life I wanted,” he said. “I feel like I found a way to take the best parts of my New York lifestyle, and incorporate them in L.A.”
Mr. O’Connell is part of a growing contingent of urbanites who have made Ubering (it’s as much a verb as “Googling”) an indispensable part of their day and especially their night life. Untethered from their vehicles, Angelenos are suddenly free to drink, party and walk places. Even as their business models are evolving, these ride-sharing services, which include Lyft, Sidecar and others, have upended the social habits of the area, and rallied its residents to be more peripatetic. A night out in Los Angeles used to involve negotiating parking, beating traffic and picking a designated driver. Excursions from one end to the other — say, from the oceanfront city of Santa Monica to the trendy Silver Lake neighborhood on the eastern side — had to be planned and timed with military precision, lest they spiral into a three-hour commute. More often than not, they were simply avoided.

“Before Uber was a thing, I would rarely go to Hollywood,” said Drew Heitzler, an artist who lives in Venice, a potentially treacherous drive away. “The prospect of going to Hollywood on a weekend night, if I was invited to a party or an art event, it just wouldn’t happen. I would just stay home.”
Now Mr. Heitzler, 42, uses the ride-sharing app at least weekly, gladly leaving his car behind when he socializes. “In Los Angeles, you have the ubiquitous D.U.I. checkpoints everywhere,” he said. “If you’re going to go to a party, you either don’t drink or you Uber there and Uber back, and problem solved.”….

‘Cab Fair’, From the Economist:
RU LI is typical of many Beijing taxi drivers these days—relaxed, smiling and, at rush hour on a Friday afternoon, politely declining to pick up passengers from the street. He is waiting by a mall in central Beijing for a customer he has connected with using Didi Dache, China’s leading taxi-hailing app. Across the street are two other taxis that have also arranged pick-ups using the same app.
Not long ago taking a taxi in Beijing was unpleasant for customer and driver alike. Passengers hunted desperately for cabs. Drivers, angry at working conditions and low fares, waved them away. The vague threat of a formal strike loomed and, before smartphones, might have happened.
Today the experience is transformed. Taxi-hailing apps have given drivers more control, as the apps match drivers with passengers, who can offer a tip as an incentive. The government stepped in, too: last year Beijing authorities raised the minimum fare by 30% to 13 yuan ($2.10), the first increase in a decade.

Like most drivers Mr Ru, who is 32, also uses the app Kuaidi Dache (which means “Quickly Hail a Taxi”), owned by Alibaba, an internet conglomerate. (Didi Dache, owned by Tencent, another conglomerate, means “Honk, Honk, Hail a Taxi”.) Owing to fierce competition, the rival apps offer subsidies to drivers as well as customers, who pay for the ride through their smartphones. The two apps each have more than 100m registered users and, at the end of March, claimed a combined 11m daily orders for taxis. Unlike apps in the West such as Uber, which use a network of drivers in competition with taxi firms, Chinese apps work in co-operation with them.
Thanks to the apps and to the rise in cab fares, Mr Ru says that, instead of 12-hour workdays and only a few days off each month, he now works ten hours a day, five days a week, for the same money—about 5,000 yuan ($800) a month…

Picture: Emily Berl for the New York Times
Sources: New York Times, the Economist

Smart Talks

Client: Zuidvleugel Year: 2013
Output: Notebook with Principles for Smart Innercity Development.
Project: De Zuidvleugel – a cooperation between the municipalities of The Hague, Rotterdam, the city regions of Holland Rijnland, Drechtsteden, Midden-Holland, Stadsgewest Haaglanden, Stadsregio Rotterdam and the Province of South-Holland – promotes the sustainable development of the existing urban area of the southern part of the Randstad. SmartCityStudio investigates together with Doepel Strijkers what successful instruments have been recently developed by local authorities to create qualitative inner city projects in times with less resources. The investigation revolves around successful innovative cross-sectoral planning methods and best practices of open planning concepts that engage citizens, entrepreneurs and developers in the process. Smart Talks focuses on five urban projects in the Hague, Rotterdam, Gouda, Alphen a/d Rijn, Dordrecht. Five intensive workshops with the municipality will each be followed by five Smart talks with the aldermen of the cities on the effects of Smart planning methods on decision making. The project will be concluded with the publication of a useful ‘notebook’ and a final public symposium with the aldermen in October 2013. Picture: One of the casestudies: Laakhaven, the Hague, between the railway and the canal, source: DSO, gemeente Den Haag.

Testing grounds

The city of Eindhoven introduces the concept of ‘testing grounds’ as a means to open the city to anyone who can add to the development of the city often recalled as ‘Brainport’. In a recent conversation the author of this BLOG had with the alderwoman, which resigned from office just days ago (troubled because of a financial debacle in the removal of a trailer park in the municipality), she explains how the reduction of public regulations is part of a larger concept in which the municipality reinvents spatial planning. The idea that not the municipality ‘makes’ the city, but its citizens, its entrepreneurs and its higher education requires an ‘open’ city that could facilitate initiatives and that leaves the leading role in the improvement of an area or neighbourhood to anyone who fits that role the best. The power of this radical, but also ‘fashionable’ concept lies in its uncompromising way that it now effects legal regulations and urban governance.
Eindhoven’s ‘Action Plan 2030 – New Space 2013 – Fundamental revision of local spatial guidelines Municipality Eindhoven’ concludes that too many local policies and guidelines on top of national and European legislation block initiatives from private parties, citizens and even of the municipality itself. This fundamental change in the municipality to facilitate rather than to control ‘blueprint planning’ has been advocated recently by more municipalities in the Netherlands, but Eindhoven realizes this change will not happen overnight. A change of culture requires a process of learning. Therefore the municipality defined ‘testing grounds’. In those testing grounds the municipality lets go some of its regulation and is able to learn from the effects. The testing grounds cover a range of urban areas in order to learn about the effects in different settings.

Picture: Piet Hein Eek Laboratory and Workshop. In a former industrial complex in Eindhoven the designer Piet Hein Eek created a mix of workshop, showroom, shop and restaurant. This space of 10.000 m2 gives a powerful ‘boost’ to the regeneration of ‘Strijp R’ and is one of the many initiatives that is not initiated nor controlled by governmental policy but adds to the cities ambition to become a ‘Design Capital’ in the world. Eindhoven also houses the famous ‘Design Academy’. Sources: interview with ‘Mary Fiers’ former alderwoman of the city of Eindhoven, ‘Plan van Aanpak nieuwe ruimte 2013, gemeente Eindhoven’.

Community Mortgage



“In many poor and developing countries, land markets, prevailing policies, practices and institutions limit many of the working poor’s access to secure tenure and adequate land for housing. The Philippines is one such country, where patterns of urban growth and development make it difficult for the poor to remain in the cities where employment and other opportunities exist.”

“Through the Community Mortgage Program, the Government lends funds to informal settlers organized as a community association, making it possible for them to buy a piece of land that they can occupy permanently. The land can be on-site, presently occupied by the community, or an entirely new site to where the community intends to relocate. The CMP also offers loans for site improvement and house construction even if, in reality, the majority of CMP loans are issued for the acquisition of land. The CMP was designed to be a demand-driven approach; it is the community that needs assistance that decides to participate in the programme and initiates the process. In an on-site project, informal settlers can obtain ownership of the land they occupy by buying it through a community mortgage loan. One of the requirements is a subdivision plan, where the houses and plots are then re-aligned or re-blocked to conform to minimum subdivision standards. An off-site project, on the other hand, requires relocation to another area that the community chooses and purchases.”

“To be eligible for loans, informal settlers have to have a homeowners’ association (HOA) with at least nine households but no more than 200. After an association has complied with the minimum requirement and met certain criteria, the Social Housing Finance Corporation approves the mortgage and advances payment to the landowner. The group loan is payable monthly for up to 25 years at 6 per cent interest per annum. The land to be purchased serves as collateral for the loan. The HOA is considered to be the borrower.Throughout the process, it is responsible for preparing documentary requirements, negotiating with the landowner, collecting the monthly amortizations of itsmember-beneficiaries, and ensuring that their financial obligations to the lending institution are met. The HOA also enforces sanctions on community members, and oversees the re-blocking and enforcement of the subdivision plan.”

“The Philippines is the fourth most populous nation in East Asia. Growing at an average rate of 2 per cent annually, the population is currently 92 million, of which an estimated 63 per cent live in urban areas. Metro Manila, or the National Capital Region (NCR), is the largest urban centre in the Philippines. At present, its 16 cities and one urban municipality together had an estimated population of 12 million. If the current trend prevails, the Philippines is projected to be 70 per cent urban in less than a decade with an urban population of around 86 million. Unregulated urban growth and acute poverty have resulted in severe housing problems. Of the roughly 10 million Filipino families living in cities today, an estimated 3.1 million lack security of tenure with 2.7 informal settler households in Metro Manila alone according to data from the National Housing Authority in 2007.” Source: Innovative urban tenure in the Philippines, summary report, UN-Habitat / Global Land Tool Network. Picture: Christoph Mohr

City Deals

In the UK cities have gained more power and control over their own urban planning. This decentralization of power offers them the possibility to invest in infrastructure and regeneration projects. They can claim future tax receipts of their local businesses directly from the state if they come up with a plan.

At least two of six key principles of the City Deals put forward by Whitehall in London are Smart: Putting cities in the driving seat: cities, not Whitehall, are best placed to understand the economic opportunities and challenges they face. Many have already taken the initiative and begun to develop credible economic strategies, and these will be the starting point for our work with cities. Focusing on the wider metro area: Encouraging deals across the wider economic area has clear merits in terms of scale, geographical reach and economic governance. Deals will be negotiated with groups of authorities across a functional economic area.” The first wave of City Deals are being made with: Greater Birmingham, Bristol City Region, Leeds City Region, Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester City, Newcastle City Region, Nottingham City Region, Sheffield City Region. The second wave will invite twenty other cities and their wider areas. Picture: Manchester Skyline by Andrew Brooks