During its 119th plenary session held in Brussels on October 10th, 11th and 12th the Committee of the Regions (CoR) published its opinion on ‘State Aid and Services of General Economic Interest’. We highlight the key points that are relevant to housing.
1. Simplification of the current State Aid framework
The European Commission is urged to “to tighten up the multiplicity of secondary legislation and "soft law" texts relating to aid (regulations, communications, guidelines, etc.) and, where appropriate, collate these” (point 6, p.4)
2. As far as local services are concerned the main points can be summarized in:
- The clarification by the Commission “that a local service does not pose a threat to trade”; and also that “the burden of proof is on the complainant and/or the European Commission to demonstrate that a real or potential threat exists to intra-Community trade” (point 15, p.6)
- The possibility for local and regional authorities to be able to make decisions as to when they can promote aid in the future. (point 16, p. 6)
3. When it comes to Services of General Economic Interest (SGEI) the CoR:
- highlights that “The thresholds for assessing the admissibility of aid for SGEIs should be set at EUR 1 million per case per three tax years.” (point 38, p.10)
- claims that “the extension of the normal duration of entrustment acts to more than ten years so as to better allow for the cost of entrustment and recouping of investment by entities entrusted with SGEI provision” would be a favourable measure
- advocates for “widening the definition of social housing contained in the Commission Decision of 20 December 2011: to give the Member States more discretion in planning, delivering, financing and organising the construction of social housing and guarantee the democratic right to choose, the restriction of social housing to "disadvantaged citizens or socially less advantaged groups" should be removed. The right to adequate and affordable accommodation should be given more priority, because the inability of the housing market to meet everybody’s accommodation needs affects not just people who have no access to housing at all, but also the occupants of housing that is hazardous to health, inadequate or overcrowded, as well as people who are paying most of their income on rent or their monthly mortgage payments;” (point 41, p.10)
- supports the “reduction of the limitation period for repayments to five years”. (point 44, p. 11)
Opinions of the CoR play only an advisory role, but they can be taken into account by the European Commission in the further revision of the State Aid framework, the so-called ‘Almunia package’.