We met the new president of CECODHAS Housing Europe, a few moments after his election during the General Assembly in Versailles.
He loves the land and he has always had a connection with it, even if he had to find alternative ways to combine things that theoretically wouldn’t match. Born in Flanders, he studied Agricultural Engineering in Wageningen and then worked as a teacher and director in agricultural organizations. Then, it was time for the political scene. In 1995 he was elected a member of the Provincial Council of Groningen, while between 1999 and 2009 he served on the Provincial Executive for Groningen. Over the last couple of years he has been the chairman of Aedes, the umbrella organisation of housing corporations in the Netherlands.
Marc Calon is the new president of CECODHAS Housing Europe, succeeding Kurt Eliasson, and charters the path the organisation should follow through the major future challenges, following the structural reform process successfully led by Eliasson and approved by the General Assembly in Versailles. A few minutes after his official election at the helm of the European Federation of Public, Cooperative and Social Housing, we have asked him to share with us his vision as well as to allow us a sneak peek in his agenda of priorities…
What are the major challenges for the affordable housing sector at EU level that CECODHAS Housing Europe will need to tackle within the next couple of years?
Through housing and accompanying services - the hardware and the software – we can ensure stable and affordable housing markets; we can drive the energy transition in the housing sector; we can fight social segregation in urban and rural regions.
Demographic changes – and its impact on health services - will pose major challenges in many regions. Further urbanization of Europe must be beneficial to all households, also lower incomes.
Social, public and cooperative housing providers must be seen as part of the economic strength and welfare of the EU. It will be essential EU policies and regulation to recognize these forces and ensure suitable financial schemes are available in member states.Read More
What should be the role for social and affordable housing providers in the European cities of the future?
I see three major challenges for us:
- Guarantee cities which are accessible and affordable for all;
- More sustainable, efficient and decentralised energy;
- And neighbourhoods where people feel secure and where they can reach their full potential.
In these rather transformative times for Europe what are your expectations from the newly shaped EU institutions?
EU institutions have felt the discontent or, worse, the indifference of vast groups of EU’s population. It would be a mistake to continue on the same road and remain deaf to this. EU decision making is still too remote for the average EU citizen. That is why I would expect that they open themselves to the needs of people and shorten the distance to EU institutions. Organizations such as Housing Europe have an important role to facilitate this as connector between local needs and EU policies.
After five years as chair of Aedes, the umbrella organisation of housing corporations in the Netherlands, you will now be leading the European Federation. What would someone see on the top of your priority list if he/she was allowed a sneak peek into your agenda?
The role of social and affordable housing providers are essential to reach the Europe 2020 objectives and for our societies to withstand future socio-economic challenges. The crisis impacts heavily on the provision of social and affordable housing all over Europe. But the housing providers represented by Housing Europe are institutions that form an important part of the social fabric.
The many current reforms must recognize the social impact of the daily work and investments of the Housing Europe members. By providing social and affordable housing, intervening in precarious neighbourhoods and working with people and local partners they are crucial actors at the local level.
According to your experience at national level, what do members expect from a European organisation like CECODHAS Housing Europe? How does this role evolve as Europe keeps changing over the last years?
We must be a key partner for European policy makers. Our sector can help them achieve their goals and provide innovative ideas. So we must know about proposed EU policies and have informed discussions within our federation.
Next to monitoring and advocacy efforts, Housing Europe will also facilitate the exchange of knowledge and of best practices to strengthen the sectors in the different parts of Europe. Participation in EU projects can help accelerate this and help achieve Europe 2020 goals by the social and affordable housing sector.
The year 2020 is around the corner and the EU must deliver on its promises, it (we) cannot afford to lower ambitions. I also believe our sector can translate national and EU policies to the challenges which exist on the local level.
To be able to do this we will need less blackboard ideology, more pragmatism and more room for social and technical innovations.