Public intervention in housing is needed more than ever, whether that is to address homelessness, needs of an ageing population or youth excluded from the market, climate change, integration of migrants or simply supply not meeting demand. Housing needs vary greatly depending on the local context. Local actors need confidence that when investing public funds to meet those local needs they will not find that they are not in compliance with state aid rules.
The European Commission has responded to a question on this issue posed by a Dutch member of Parliament to reassure that state aid can be granted to ‘achieve social mixity and social cohesion’. The exchange reveals the need for more clarity on EU state aid rules and housing.
Housing Europe Statement
Social Housing, as a Service of General Economic Interest ( SGEI) , is a matter of strict competence of the Member States who enjoy, as recognized by the Treaty, a wide discretion in providing, implementing and organizing a supply of decent and affordable housing to meet the needs of European citizens (protocol 26 TFEU).
The disparities that may exist in terms of housing needs and users' preferences are also recognized in the Treaty due to different geographical, social and cultural situations within the Union and in the Member States themselves.
The explicit recognition by Commissioner Vestager of the objectives of social mix and social cohesion of social housing policies and the application of the provisions of the SGEI Decision of (2012/21 / EU) to State aid necessary for the implementation of these policies is a step in the right direction.
"Social mix and social cohesion are major challenges shared by European cities, to which the Union must give its support by promoting long-term investment in social infrastructure", says Cedric Van Styvandael, President of Housing Europe.
However, in order to ensure that the SGEI social housing framework allows the promotion of universal access to housing and the effective implementation of the right to decent and affordable housing, it must be able to provide a response tailored to all housing needs not satisfied by market forces alone, both in the areas of European metropolitan areas with tight markets and those which are shrinking. Social housing provision cannot be limited to a uniform target group established at European Union level by the European competition authority.
Housing Europe calls for a revision of Decision 2012/21/EU to this end.