Projects by the Thematic Group for Green and Inclusive Urban Development in the Nordics

The group has developed three projects that started in 2021 and two projects that began in 2023. This page will be updated continuously with project information.

New projects 2023-2024

Small Town Attractiveness – Planning multifunctional and liveable communities – cases from the Nordic Region

The aim of this project is to deliver Nordic planning practices and strategies that municipalities can learn from and adopt to enhance small town attractiveness. More specifically, the focus will be to examine how municipalities design plans and strategies to maintain population growth and ensure multifunctional, liveable and sustainable communities. Project Manager: Anna Granath Hansson, Senior Project Manager, Nordregio  (anna.granath.hansson(at)

Nordic Climate Neutral Cities: Perspectives and Practices

This project will analyse how municipalities in the Nordic Region seek to become carbon neutral, with a focus on spatial planning tools and practices. The project will consider how climate neutrality plans shape urban fields such as the built environment, transport and mobility, and energy production/consumption and look at the intersection of densification and carbon emissions. Project Manager: Luciane Aguiar Borges, Senior Research Fellow, Nordregio, (luciane.aguiar.borges(at) Read more on Nordregio's website.

Comparative review of national support initiatives for local urban project development

The desire for a better understanding of the diversity of support initiatives from national central governments or nationwide private stakeholders that support local urban sustainable development lies behind this project. A central question is to understand the relations and partnerships between the national government and the municipalities when it comes to the aim to support future partnerships between central government/nation-wide stakeholders, regions, and municipalities, as well as between municipalities, regions, and nation-wide private stakeholders. The overall aim is to examine and evaluate whether those initiatives support, hinder or facilitate green and inclusive urban development in relation to national targets. Project Manager: Johannes Lidmo, Research Fellow, Nordregio (Johannes.lidmo(at) Read more on Nordregio's website.

Planning for socially mixed and inclusive neighbourhoods

The purpose of this project is to deepen the understanding of how different urban planning and policy measures are used to create more socially inclusive and mixed neighbourhoods in Nordic cities. The aim of creating more socially inclusive neighbourhoods can be understood as creating communities where people can take part and feel included regardless of their resources, lifestyle, background, or abilities. Thematically, the project will build off some of the results of the former TG3 project Long-term planning for inclusive cities but focusing on issues that were not examined in the former project. While the focus is on Nordic cities, planning for socially inclusive cities and neighbourhoods is highly placed on the urban policy agenda in many European cities. Hence, it may be relevant to conduct an international outlook on relevant examples and cases also from elsewhere in Europe. This project builds on the Long-term planning for inclusive cities in the Nordic region project, executed in the previous programme period. Project Manager: Mats Stjernberg, Senior Research Fellow, Nordregio (mats.stjernberg(at) Read more on Nordregio's website.

Remote work: Planning Implications of Remote Work in Smaller but Growing Towns

COVID-19 has dramatically shifted the spatial relationships people have between home and work. Daily commuting to workplaces, schools, and universities have been replaced by increased remote working and people are working/studying from their home or second home, which affects their daily commuting patterns. Many businesses have already implemented new working from home policies that seek to improve the quality of life for staff and minimise costs associated with large office locations. This is having immediate impacts on the home-work relationship and is expected to increasingly impact the daily commuting and settlement preferences of a growing share of the Nordic population. As such, TGA wants to support a better understanding of the spatial consequences (emerging trends) of remote working and multi-locality, how to better prepare local and regional planners for responding to these consequences by developing attractive public spaces in cities and towns, and the economic, social, and environmental impacts for different regions and localities. Key issues will include impacts of these trends for different types of settlements along the urban-rural continuum and how to meet these impacts through early identification of challenges and opportunities to facilitate effective planning processes. This project will be developed in collaboration with the other TG's. Project Manager: Linda Randall, Senior Research Advisor, Nordregio (linda.randall(at)

Find projects from the previous group (2017-2020) on this page below.

Projects of Urban Development in the Nordics (2017-2020)

Sustainable Cities and Urban Development Thematic Group Projects develop the new knowledge of Nordic cities development strategies, stronger linkages between the urban and the rural parts of the regions, challenges of planning and developing transport connections across the borders and other issues. The projects summarise best-practice examples, study tours for regional policymakers to share knowledge with their counterparts in the region and make workshops where knowledge can be shared among rural policymakers and practitioners.

Click on the titles and you will find more about each project on

Housing construction in the market periphery

The housing markets in the Nordic countries differ regarding available tenure forms and financing systems, and there is potential for Nordic learning on housing policy.

This project examines housing policies and planning strategies oriented to the “housing market periphery” in the Nordic countries, i.e. housing for students, elderly, newly arrived immigrants, etc. Why is it so costly to build new housing in Nordic cities? Are there examples from Nordic cities of innovative affordable housing initiatives or alternative new housing solutions that could be scaled up? Can we learn from each other?

With the help of national experts, the aim of this project is to describe the “market peripheries” in the Nordic countries and pinpoint measures and tools to strengthen the positions of the groups in the housing market periphery. The focus is primarily on the governance and financing of new housing.

Planning and designing the inclusive smart city

How are Nordic cities working for public transport solutions, public spaces or planning processes that take the interests of people with disabilities as a starting point? What does it mean to plan and design an inclusive city with a particular focus on disability issues?

The empirical focus of the project is urban public space, planning, and design for accessibility and mobility for all. We study both planning strategies and solutions in the built environment, and both address good examples and barriers to implementation.

A focus on disability issues also makes it possible to scrutinize “smart city” initiatives through a social sustainability lens, and ask questions such as: how is the new technology used to increase accessibility, safety, and security for people with disabilities? In what sense is the smart city inclusive?

Urban visions of the green and recreative city

Nordic cities are renowned for accessibility to green space, in terms of preserved natural landscapes, maintained green corridors within cities, and green public spaces with multifunctional recreational opportunities. Yet, Nordic cities cannot rest on their previous successes – new experiences, technologies and proven good practices are evolving, and they will influence how we interact in cities and inspire future projects that are needed to improve the urban greenspace accessibility for city dwellers. At the same time, Nordic cities are under multiple pressures that threaten access to urban green and recreative spaces: pressure to densify with new housing, increasingly liberal planning approaches that further commodify land and ethnic and economic segregation.

The aim of this project is to bring forward new planning and design visions for the green and recreative city and thereby contribute to the development of sustainable Nordic cities. This project analyses, discuss and develops new visionary knowledge on the preservation and design of public green spaces and recreational spaces for Nordic cities. It will include national expert reviews of current planning and design practices as well as workshops both scrutinizing the current situation and developing future visions of the green and recreational city.

Urban-rural flows of seasonal tourists – local planning challenges and strategies

Today, estimations for the Nordic countries show that around half of the population have access to a second home and these are increasingly used year-round. This means that the small cities and villages are subject to urban-rural flows of people, people with similar needs and desires as the permanent residents, although they only stay for limited periods. This illustrates a planning challenge or even a dilemma for these municipalities and regions.

Tourism is an important source of income for cities and regions in the Nordics, but it demands high investments and must trust mobile residents that are not necessary local taxpayers. Still, for periods there are high demands for public transport, housing, care, commercial goods and services, culture, etc. and for periods there can be very low demand.

Reviewing the contemporary Nordic research on planning for second homes and seasonal tourism in the Nordic countries it is clear that the role of seasonal flows of people and the second-home phenomena is still not fully understood. Further research on multi-residential and the flows of people travelling to rural areas for leisure and recreation is needed. Therefore, in this study, the focus is on seasonal tourism and second homes as a spatial planning challenge in the Nordic countries.

Long-term planning for inclusive cities in the Nordic region

Socio-economic inequality and other types of disparities are questions of increased concern in many Nordic cities. Inequalities are often discussed in relation to labour market restructuring, welfare provision, immigration and integration, and, in the urban context, particularly in relation to segregation and housing. Although the debate concerning urban inequalities has primarily been focused on larger urban regions, cities of smaller sizes also face similar types of challenges.

This project will examine how different small and medium-sized cities in the Nordic region work to overcome barriers for social inclusion and counteract the negative effects of inequality, through urban policy and planning. Cities of this category are heterogeneous and inclusion is a multi-faceted issue. The project will, therefore, focus on different thematic and geographical cases and investigate strategies for inclusion from a few different perspectives.

Transport for Regional Integration in Border regions (TRIBORDER)

TRIBORDER aims to analyse the potential challenges of planning and developing transport connections across the borders in the Nordic region. Nordregio tasks within the project consist of three main activities that all have a shared focus on public transport projects, planning in the context of cross-border regions and urban-rural relations.

The first activity investigates the local reception of the fast rail connection between Oslo and Stockholm. Nordregio researchers look at the existing literature on the consequences of new high-speed rail stations in small and medium-sized cities and conduct interviews with local actors in the regions of Värmland in Sweden and Østfold in Norway.

The second activity analyses the effects of the ferry connection between Umeå and Vaasa on their surrounding urban regions. The study includes different factors such as commuting, labour market, and cross border integration.

The third activity focuses on the public transport system in the cross-border region of Greater Copenhagen. It analyses connectivity and urban planning in relation to public transport.

Nordregio Forum 2017: Nordic Cities – Connecting the Urban and the Rural

How do we create stronger linkages between the urban and the rural parts of our regions? How can smaller cities take the lead in sustainable development? What makes them attractive? How can cities in the Nordic countries benefit from Nordic collaboration and export promotion?

Nordregio Forum 2017 examined these questions from the perspective of small and medium-sized Nordic cities.

This Forum is also an arena for discussion and networking during parallel sessions and roundtables. The results feed directly into the new Thematic Group on Sustainable Cities and Urban Development, established by the Nordic Council of Ministers as part of the Nordic co-operation programme within the regional sector – and contribute to the new initiative “Attractive Nordic cities”, part of the Norwegian chairmanship programme of the Nordic Council of Ministers for 2017.

Small and medium-sized cities in the Nordic and Arctic regions

While researchers and policy-makers have mainly been interested in larger cities and urban regions, smaller cities have received considerably less attention. With this background in mind, this project focuses on small and medium-sized cities in the Nordic and Arctic contexts.

The first part of the project has addressed different ways of defining and approaching small and medium-sized Nordic cities. One reason why small and medium-sized cities have been largely neglected by both scholars and policy-makers is a lack of comparative data. Therefore, the coming stages of the project will address this challenge and particularly explore how these types of cities can be studied with grid level statistical data.

More specifically, the project will investigate the possibilities of using grid-level statistical data for comparatively studying small and medium-sized cities in the Nordic and Arctic regions and thereby to develop a deeper and more nuanced understanding of these types of cities.

The compact city of the North – functions, challenges and planning strategies

Today, the city center is supposed to be an attractive and inclusive public space, an attractive location for commercial and public services, and an attractive location to live in. To fully achieve all these ambitions can be difficult. But learning more about possible strategies is useful for Nordic planning practice.

The aim of this project is to increase the knowledge of city center development strategies in the Nordics and especially concerning small and medium-sized cities. To investigate the relation between discourse and practice when it comes to urbanization through planning is also one of the project´s goals. This means approaching themes such as small-scale inner-city shopping versus external shopping centers, types of new housing being developed and contemporary urban design of public spaces.