AGEDI attended the webinar “Milan, the prospects of a European city in a state of emergency” hosted by Re Mind Filiera Immobiliare, in Milan on the 14th/02 with the City Councilors as well as leading entrepreneurs, managers and professionals from the private sector.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a strong impact on many aspects of cities and territories as well as on people. Culture of Living, Housing and Neighborhood plan, Sustainability, Real Estate, Security and Culture: these are some of the key points to help Milan’s restart.
Valeria Genesio, Chairman of Agedi Italia, in her speech underlined the depth of the concept of culture of living, a very beautiful thought and certainly not chosen randomly. We are all inhabitants of the Earth, then we are inhabitants of a city and, going even smaller, of a condominium. But the etymology of the verb “to inhabit” refers to a much broader meaning. “To inhabit” derives from the Latin HABITARE, frequentative of HABER to have, which in its proper sense means “to continue to have” or, more commonly, “to have a habit of a place, to inhabit it”.
Living thus represents one of the fundamental relationships that living beings have with the world, and the world with them. From this point of view, Milan, with most of its non-Milanese inhabitants, is emblematic. Here, in Milan, we say that ‘you do not born Milanese, you become one’. There is, in fact, a real ‘Milanese’ lifestyle that is the result of habits, connections, sayings and ways of being that are common to all who live in Milan. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the life of the world’s great metropolises, including Milan, with an immediate visual impact as these metropolises have suddenly emptied and become as if invisible. But if for Italo Calvino cities were invisible because they were imaginary, today cities are invisible because they are empty, emptied by the pandemic. The very essence of the ‘city’ has disappeared, human contact and the very concept of community have been lost. The pandemic has also brought back to life the traditional city-country relationship, with dynamics like those following the industrial revolution.
Even before the pandemic, inner-city housing in London and Paris had become the prerogative of short-term renters, taken out of the market of residents, with prices continuing to rise and part of the population pushed out of the urban fabric. Many Parisian and London residents had moved elsewhere, to more livable and economically affordable intermediate cities. Intermediate French cities, not only those of Grand Paris, have therefore received from Covid-19 the acceleration of a trend that was already underway, thanks to the possibilities also offered by smart working and physical distance. The rise in house prices in these more human-scale cities is a result of the pandemic, which is still growing today despite the decline in contagion. I think that the future of large cities, and of Milan in particular, will depend on their ability to put the human dimension back at the center, offering public services that make it possible to reconcile family and work, because the main reason why many people move to the Milanese capital is professional. It will also be important to understand how the property market in Milan, which has been growing steadily for years, will evolve, with the risk that, if it continues to increase, house prices will no longer be affordable and Milan will follow the same path as London and Paris, gradually losing its resident population. The problem today is precisely accessibility.
The trend of the real estate market will also be influenced by the increase in the cost of raw materials in construction recorded recently, which is likely to fall on the final cost of the houses, by the increase in inflation and interest rates. We can conclude with Italo Calvino in “The Invisible Cities”, saying that: “The hell of the people is not something that will be; if there is one, it is the one that is already here, the hell that we inhabit every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways of not suffering from it. The first is easy for many: accepting hell and becoming part of it to the point of no longer seeing it. The second is risky and requires constant attention and learning: looking for and knowing how to recognize who and what, in amongst hell, is not hell, and making it last, and giving it space”. It is true that today’s cities sometimes look like hell, but the solution is not to leave or to suffer them, but to renew and rethink spaces, rethink life, rethink the city as a community.