No more new hotels in the city centre and most services available within 15 minutes on foot: these are the ambitions set out in the medium- and long-term plans just presented by the city council to combat “touristification” and make Florence citizen-centric. Sounds sensible. The issue remains that Florence is having growing pains. Although moneyed international travellers have been arriving in the Renaissance city since the glory days of the 17th century, the overly enhancing lens of Instagram and aggrandizing mentions in tourism trendsetting publications mean that Florence risks drowning in the wave of its own success as a destination.
All of us have opinions, more or less informed, and experiences, more or less lived, about the unbridled impact of apartment rental platforms on the residential market. But the housing emergency is real—and snowballing. A recent intern at The Florentine was on the brink of having to refuse the placement when she couldn’t find a room to rent for three months. (In the end, our network enabled her to secure a perch on the upper floors of St. Mark’s Church.) Another colleague in her thirties has been trying to buy a first home since before the pandemic started. The primary hurdle is the price, which now hovers around 4,067 euro/m2 for property in the centro storico (source: immobiliare.it).
2023 has started with headline after headline in the local press about the housing crisis in Florence, both for renting and buying. Therefore, the city administration’s presentation of structural and operational plans in January couldn’t have been timelier. The process has been a participatory one. In 2021, Florentines were asked to participate in sharing their vision of the city’s future through online and in-person meetings for every neighbourhood. One particularly interesting element of this active citizenship was an interactive map on firenzeprossima.it, which gathered proposals for specific places, such as piazzas and parks. Designs by students provided an original vision—old and new, green and built—of the future of Florence. The plans set out by the Comune di Firenze seek to incorporate these citizen-led ideas.
“This is a courageous and innovative operational plan to create a Florence for residents through measures that help families and young couples to find residential solutions, also by incentivizing the creating of student rent-controlled housing,” remarked Mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella. “We have also decided to put a total stop on the creation of new hotels in the city centre and to boost the 15-minute city concept for a more citizen-centric city that focuses on quality, not exploitation, combatting the parasitic income that often blows up the real estate market, making renting or buying a home difficult in the urban area.”
“We are the first city in Italy to put a stop to new hotel openings in the city centre,” commented Cecilia Del Re, councillor for urban planning. “At the same time, we are incentivizing the regeneration of derelict buildings with a functional mix and fining anyone who leaves property in a state of danger and neglect…Climate change must be our number one priority, so that the future of Florence we are building not only considers today’s residents but also the next generation of citizens.”
Mayor Nardella’s presidency of Eurocities, a network of more than 200 European cities that represents 130 million people, has brought him into contact with innovative urban concepts. A recent meeting with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo was undoubtedly an opportunity to gain further insight about her 15-minute city concept, a winning element of her 2020 re-election campaign, in which most daily necessities can be accomplished a short walk from residents’ homes. In a nutshell, the concept is all about returning to a local way of life, something that influencers have long been lauding when it comes to Florence and something that was emphasized during the pandemic.
Although the new structural and operational plans still have to be ratified, which will take at least 60 days, the guidelines are clear and will be funded by the Next Generation EU economic recovery package.
Key aspects of the 2023 Structural and Operational Plan for Florence
- Mapping the neighbourhoods mapping to check whether essential services are available within 15 minutes on foot, followed by investments in urban planning where there are scarcities
- No more new hotels in the city centre
- House owners will benefit from tax breaks if they agree to a minimum 10-year prohibition on renting out their property for short-term tourist lets
- Ground-floor commercial real estate cannot be used as housing and independent high street retail will be encouraged
- Adding a new cultural attraction for every neighbourhood outside the historic centre
- Compiling a detailed classification of existing real estate to safeguard cinemas, theatres, bookstores and historic businesses
- Functional development of the Arno as a place for socializing, exercise, clean energy production and public transport
- Heat island mapping, resulting in more green spaces, such as the new Florentia park, urban allotments and community gardens; safeguarding biodiversity, through boosting beekeeping, protecting swallows and swifts, and introducing new dog parks
- Introducing an ecological waste management hub in every neighbourhood
- Encouraging the use of renewable energy through installing photovoltaic systems and solar panels
- Adding tramlines, park and ride, cycle lanes and 30km/h zones