INTERVIEW: The path to sustainable neighbourhoods

The Housing Development Fund (HDF) created by the Housing Authority aims to invest public and private funds in community projects in social accommodation sites, to increase the general well-being of local communities.

TheJournal.mt spoke to the person heading this Fund. Charmaine Mangion, who graduated in child development and psychology, leadership and management emphasises the importance of achieving sustainable neighbourhoods through different quality projects aimed at improving the quality of life of individuals.

Why was the Housing Development Fund needed?

Mangion explains how the HDF was developed out of necessity in order to improve social accommodation on all levels, not just the physical building.

We take a holistic approach in the promotion of human well-being. For the community to benefit from a better quality of life, ideas and projects of social quality must be created. With these projects, we want to make it a point to reach every individual with the aim of creating opportunities in everything that improves the social life of every one of them. 

The Fund has been launched so that it can develop opportunities, ideas and projects to achieve this goal. 

The importance of public and private collaboration in strengthening the urban and community environment 

Mangion says that an essential aspect to achieve such goals is collaboration with both the public and private sectors. 

“In order to really improve the development of the social framework in our country, we must reach different spheres in society by developing sustainable projects in every field. Such as the environment, building renovation, accessibility, education, sports, arts and everything that improves the quality of our social life. 

By collaborating with vast entities, it will be possible to achieve sustainable and quality projects that require expertise, financial resources and even other possibilities. 

We must reach different spheres in society by developing sustainable projects in every field.

Mangion adds that collaboration creates opportunities for everyone to emerge victorious both in society and in private and public entities. 

As she explains, the collaborating entity, be it public or private, also helps to build trust and a positive reputation on a public level. Moreover, when an entity reflects a philanthropic attitude, it is not only attracting a greater sense of community for customers, but also attracts a positive and integral environment internally for employees. 

Such collaborations have a lasting positive impact – thus a long-term one, because they not only leave a legacy but also create a work culture within the company that reflects professionalism, responsibility and community, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals which ultimately provide inclusive, stable and growth-oriented security at European level.

Making the community more sustainable through the HDF 

Mangion makes it her own commitment, as the chairperson, to see that the goal of the HDF is being achieved by moving in the direction of a sustainable society, through various initiatives.  

The benefits of the HDF includes: 

1. Improving and enhancing public sector opportunities through the involvement of the private sector. This way we offer the private sector opportunities and resources to engage in projects that leave a social legacy, whereas normally this is often limited in the private sector, such as lack of access to public spaces. This also applies viceversa as it would be beneficial for the public to collaborate with the private sector. 

2.Through ongoing research and contacts from social accommodation, the public sector within the community and various entities, we truly understand what projects are needed and desired in our communities. This will help us develop ideas on projects that will really make a positive difference and thus make the projects more qualitative. 

3. HDF members come from different backgrounds where each area is considered a pillar for a sustainable society. Members come from the private sector of finance, arts, sports, entrepreneurship, recruitment and social well-being. This way, we are bringing an exchange of expertise and an expansive vision so that we can understand what kind of projects would be socially beneficial and what makes sense for the entities we are collaborating with. Therefore, we also improve the Corporate Social Responsibilities strategy of our local companies. 

4. A number of quality projects which leave a lasting legacy require greater investment of time, resources and even financial challenges. In some cases, in entities or companies the vision happens, but due to lack of resources, these projects cannot be carried out. Thus, the HDF coordinates several entities where the main aim is to carry out such projects.

5. Another benefit is flexibility. The HDF has different functions as to how these projects can be carried out. This is by assessing what is meaningful to the community and understanding the various needs of the entities. This will allow companies to invest in projects that are already in the pipeline and developed by HDF, or help companies develop their ideas as social projects and collaborate to implement and further develop these ideas into current projects. 

6. HDF also offers consultancy in various projects in different sectors, with the aim of improving the quality of life in our communities. This is done by offering various ideas for sustainable projects in the field of education, infrastructure, environment, accessibility, sports, arts and more. 

Projects launched by HDF in the first few months 

Although the HDF was set up only months ago, several projects have been completed, or are in the process of being carried out, Mangion explains.

We recently announced a Care Plan in collaboration with the Faculty for Social Wellbeing at the University of Malta, aimed at improving the quality of life individually through education. We want to add skills based on individual assessment, indicating what help one needs in order to have a better future. 

We are also involved in a number of environmental projects, and projects which increase recreational spaces. We recognise the need for mental, social and physical well-being for our children and the wider community.

Projects also involve involve sports facilities, whereby the HDF develops and encourages better spaces for the practice of different sports in a more sustainable way. 

Mangion explains how the HDF takes an intergenerational approach where the interests and needs of different age groups come together in common living spaces, which the HDF develops to enhance their social potential. These include roof gardens, the use of common spaces for exhibiting art projects or activities that improve the individuals’ well-being.  

Individuals or entities who would like to contribute or get more information can contact the HDF at hdf@ha.gov.mt.

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