The Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for the Energy Union, Maroš Šefčovič made a field visit in Genk to the newest Housing Europe member organisation, VVH- the Association of Flemish Social Housing Companies. Mr. Šefčovič had the chance to visit a housing project that is a concrete example of energy efficient refurbishment in the social housing neighbourhood of Zwartberg but also to have an exchange with Housing Europe Secretary General, Sorcha Edwards around the overall contribution of public, cooperative and social housing providers towards fair, green energy transition.
The visit was hosted by the VVH member, Nieuw Dak that ran the pilot project “proeftuin Mutatie+”. The aim was- and the project succeeded- to reduce the energy use to ‘almost energy neutral’ (BEN in Dutch, meaning <E30, which will be mandatory for new housing in 2021 in Flanders). Also improving accessibility was one of the targets that has been accomplished with the house now being full accessible. All this in less than three weeks’ time. The overall investment of around 105.000 Euros is expected to generate savings of 1.800 Euros per year for residents through their reduced energy bills.
VVH Director, Björn Mallants also highlighted the dark reality in the region: “at this moment about a third of the social housing stock in Flanders has either no double, or no roof insulation or no (modern) central heating. The funds are limited; the average monthly rent is 280 euro. It is a huge challenge to get these problems taken care of before 2020 (it is called ERP – EnergieRenovatieProgramma – which is a result of Directive 012/27/EU on energy performance efficiency.” This is why this pilot project in the neighbourhood of Zwartberg has an important added value, because it showcases indeed how ‘in the field’ a more standard type of refurbishment in social housing in Flanders is being developed, he added.
After watching a video that presented all the steps of refurbishment, Vice-President Šefčovič acknowledged the value of the efforts taken by the Flemish social housing associations, encouraging them to move faster towards business models that will offer greater incentives to the investing associations. Mr. Šefčovič invited VVH and its members to follow the example of Energies POSIT'IF in France to receive a EUR 100 million loan from the European Investment Bank as part of the Investment Plan for Europe to support its innovative solution to tackle energy efficiency in condominiums, which is a challenging segment of the housing market.
Housing Europe Secretary General, Sorcha Edwards presented briefly our sector, our actions on this topic and some central points from the organisation’s position on the review of the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) based on feedback from members throughout the EU. Sorcha also presented a copy of the policy briefing “Warm Homes for All” that was issued within the framework of the Housing for All campaign and handed to the Vice-President of the European Commission a copy of the sector’s contribution for the implementation of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21).