Hicham Imane, Member of the Charleroi Municipal Council (Belgium) and European Committee of the Regions (CoR) Rapporteur on a "European agenda on housing", responded to the intervention of Margrethe Vestager, the EU Commissioner for Competition, in the CoR plenary debate in relation to the annual EU competition report.
"Many aspects of the competition policy have a great influence on the daily lives of European citizens. It is therefore important that regional and local authorities can rely on clear, simple and transparent EU rules", Imane told the Commissioner. Referring to a previous CoR opinion , he urged the Commissioner to involve regional and local authorities in the reform of the state aid rules applying to Services of General Economic Interest.
Regarding housing policies, he emphasized that "The competition policy should not limit social housing to the poorest or less advantaged social groups. Cities and regions should be free to plan, deliver and finance their social housing in order to also help those who live in substandard housing or who have to spend most of their income to be able to afford decent housing. We must ensure that housing policies work as a tool to promote a social mix in our cities and a decent living standard for all".
Key requests of his opinion on a European agenda on housing include:
- the proper involvement of the European Parliament and consultations with local and regional authorities prior to adopting country-specific recommendations of the European Semester in the area of housing policy;
- a further way for investments in social infrastructure at local and regional levels within the Stability and Growth Pact;
- the inclusion of regional data on year-on-year changes in house prices as a trigger point in the macro-economic imbalances scoreboard so as to warrant close monitoring;
- a more effective use of the EU's funding instruments in addressing the housing crisis and a housing investment which is eligible under the future cohesion policy in order to better respond to the diversity of local needs.
Guaranteeing affordable and accessible housing for all is a major CoR political priority. The PES' position on this topic has already been developed in the following three CoR opinions: 'Towards a European agenda on housing' (rapporteur: Alain Hutchinson, PES/Belgium), 'State Aid for Services of general Economic Interest' (rapporteur: Markus Töns, PES/Germany) and the 'European Pillar of Social Rights' (rapporteur: Heijo Höfer, PES/Germany).