The Volkswagen Foundation has approved funding worth €361,000 for a three-year research project to study the effects of demographic change in cities. Czech and Polish cities are to be used as case studies to aid in identifying the experiences from the Eastern German Länder which are transferable and those characteristics which are not comparable. The UFZ Centre for Environmental Research (Umweltforschungszentrum Leipzig-Halle) is working closely on this project with the Czech and Polish Academies of Sciences and the Universities of Gdansk and London. The research project, ‘Social and spatial implications of demographic change for cities in Eastern Central Europe’, is one of five new projects supported by the Volkswagen Foundation through its funding initiative, ‘Unity amidst Variety? Intellectual Foundations and Requirements for an Enlarged Europe’.
City regions in Europe are currently facing far-reaching economic and social changes, which are leading to polarisation. On the one hand there are growth regions, such as the cities of Southern Germany or Northern Italy, where populations are growing and the economy is booming. On the other hand there are regions in decline in former industrial areas, such as Northern England, the Ruhrgebiet (Western Germany) and Eastern Germany. These areas are suffering from considerable losses of residential population with dramatic consequences: high housing vacancies, under-utilised infrastructure and large brownfield sites.
Cities in Eastern Central Europe are currently still predominantly viewed as booming regions with growing economies and populations. However, in the Czech Republic and Poland too the structural change is already linked to regional phenomena of decline, further exacerbated by far-reaching demographic changes. These include a dramatic drop in birth rates, more single households and the ageing of the population – although these may well be factors which the public are still largely unaware of. All these developments have as yet unknown effects on the cities, their housing markets and how they are used. The aim of the project is to employ the example of cities like Gdansk and Brno to explore these issues in more depth. “Above all we are interested in what are known as the second-level cities after the capital cities.
Doris Boehme | alfa
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