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website: www.alisei.org/english/

www.autocostruzione.net (Italian)

Photo: Roberto Faidutti

alisei: a roof for all
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who: Alisei is an Italian non-governmental organisation established in 1998 through the merger of two associations active in the field of international development co-operation, humanitarian assistance and inter-cultural promotion (Nuova Frontiera and Cidis).

what: among its activities Alisei promotes development co-operation and reducing global poverty in the South, intervenes in humanitarian aid and emergency contexts, and works to sensitise the North on new cultural, social and political development. In Italy Alisei supports the development of a multi-ethnic society with the aim of integrating immigrants harmoniously into the civil society.

why: Cidis/Alisei believes that helping foreigners does not just mean distributing handouts. It means providing immigrants with the fundamental tools they need to direct and orient their lives in a new context. Immigrants need to understand the habits and traditions of their hosting country, the rules that govern the society and its language, in order to be autonomous as much as possible in their everyday life. At the same time, there is the need to improve the hosting country’s attitudes towards immigrants, explaining the opportunities (not just economic) that migration brings with it. Migration does not merely mean ‘labour force’. It also represents an opportunity to open our minds to new ideas, lifestyles and knowledge.

the problem: finding accommodations is problematic for everybody, Italians and foreigners alike. However, housing problems are particularly serious and dramatic for immigrants. An in-depth survey made by Alisei in several Italian towns shows that:
  • housing problems regard a great part of the foreign community in Italy and in some cases also has serious consequences, such as homelessness;

  • foreigners often do not have access to a satisfactory accommodation even if they have the financial means;

  • discrimination often lies behind the difficulties foreigners have to accede to housing;

  • the occupation by foreigners of marginal and deteriorated areas suggests to the collective imagination the idea of a deviant behaviour;

  • transitory solutions are not feasible because housing is by its nature a structural problem. For those who intend to live and work in Italy on a permanent basis, emergency housing situations are impractical because of the degradation, marginality and dissatisfaction they produce;

  • housing currently available to foreigners is badly deteriorated and over-crowded and creates the conditions of physical and psychological hardship that provoke the foreigner to move house frequently.
the solution: A Roof for All is the name of a project aimed at finding better solutions for guaranteeing a roof over everyone's head. Alisei has begun a self-construction project in the Italian towns of Perugia, Terni and Marsciano. Thanks to facilitated loans, co-operatives formed by foreigners and Italians have been able to begin building new multiethnic neighbourhoods by themselves. Self-construction provides a partial solution to the housing problem. The idea has already received positive feedback in UK, Germany, Denmark and The Netherlands. It has also been rediscovered recently in northern Italy. It is based on the idea of using simple techniques and low cost materials to rehabilitate decaying buildings and build new areas.

how it works: the project is based on the manual labour of the future owners themselves (working under the direction of experts). Alisei uses financial credits and logistic and technical support from local administrations and local organisations to lower construction costs by as much as 70%.

The self-construction concept used by Alisei is that of activating a consensus among a homogenous group of foreigners and Italians interested in joining together in order to have access to a housing property. First they establish a building co-operative. Once a site has been identified with the support of the local administration, the construction group is formed and shown how to build its own houses. Alisei is also instrumental in facilitating possibilities of access to credit. Alisei itself is organised as a co-op, called Cooperativa Sociale Alisei, composed of architects, immigration experts, administrators, etc.

The self-builders involved in the initiatives in Perugia, Terni e Marsciano are a varied group composed of different nationalities (Italians, Moroccans, Albanians, Tunisians, Indians, Algerians, etc.). The largest group is represented by people 34-40 years old (around 16%) and 87% are male.

sustainability: “A roof for all” is a model sustainable housing project: it supports social, environmental and employment goals and promotes cohesive societies. Sustainable investment in housing means ensuring that everyone has access to housing which is in good condition, secure and healthy. It means ensuring that housing developments and urban planning are socially inclusive and cohesive, generate high quality employment, prevent ‘forced’ mobility and ensure that people have easy access to their place of work.


Piazza Fidia, 3
20159 MILANO - Italy
ph +39 02-66805260
fax +39 02-66809723
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