On Tuesday 19 February 2019, the Housing Solutions Platform (HSP), the International Union or Property Owners (UIPI) and MEP Jan Olbrycht (EPP) hosted a debate at the European Parliament, in the framework of the EP URBAN Intergroup. Starting from the FEANTSA-Fondation Abbé Pierre report Ethical renting: mobilising the private rental market to provide social solutions in Europe, the event focused on social rental agencies as intermediaries between landlords and low-income tenants.
More than 118 million people in the EU, around 23.5% of the total European population, live in households at risk of poverty or social exclusion. The increasingly pressing housing crisis across Europe is urging interventions at local and national level that explore different measures to develop affordable housing.
Social rental agency schemes are a form of public or non-profit social intermediation between landlords and new low-income-tenants, which aim to tackle the housing crisis. The scheme provides guarantees to private landlords in exchange for renting their properties at a reduced price to households in difficulty.
Despite its clear advantages, this method also presents certain challenges: risk of caseload, risk of reduced funding for social housing, limited interest from landlords due to difficulties in lining-up social and commercial goals, reduced sustainability of the social impact, etc.
Whilst Björn Mallants, Housing Europe, pointed out that the model is “a good solution for those in urgent needs.”, UIPI President Stratos Paradias stated “We have to keep in mind that landlords have to bear certain costs”. The speakers - cross-sectoral experts and practitioners- questioned the durability of the initiative: on the one hand, the intermediaries (public entities and housing associations) need a guarantee that private landlords will continue their commitment in the long term, and on the other hand, landlords need to benefit from more fiscal flexibility.
Ruth Owen of FEANTSA, summarised that “given the needs – rising homelessness and housing exclusion – we desperately need additional housing solutions. Is rental mediation one? Yes. Its added value is that its quick and can activate untapped parts of the market through renovation, mobilizing vacant stock, cleaning up black markets etc. The devil is in the detail though and we need to ensure affordability, accessibility, sustainability and quality.”
- Pascal De Decker – Associate Professor, KU Leuven
- Bjorn Mallants – Director, of the Flemish Federation of Social Housing Providers & Housing Europe Board Member
- MEP Jan Olbrycht (EPP) – President of the Urban Intergroup & Standing Rapporteur on the MFF
- Stratos Paradias – President, UIPI
- Chloé Serme Morin – Project Officer, FEANTSA, author of the report
- Muriel Van der Ghinst – Director, Logement pour Tous ASBL