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Interview with Claire Roumet

Housing Europe turns 30

Brussels, 6 June 2018 | Published in Social

Claire Roumet was appointed as the CECODHAS face in the capital of Europe in 2000, being thus the Secretary General for 14 years in a row. She is now Executive Director of Energy Cities.


What does Housing Europe mean to you?

I think that the word that comes to mind is concrete in the sense that what I really liked when I was working at Housing Europe is the fact that members are actually doing stuff. They are doers. They have very strong roots in their work.

What is your most vivid memory from your time at Housing Europe, if you can pick one?

Well, it's always difficult to pick just one... But definitely I would mention the first big debate, outside the strict housing scope, with Richard Wilkinson.

He gave an inspiring speech about how inequalities are inefficient in society. It's been a great exchange with a key thinker. That would be my first thought.

But I would also mention a roundtable at the European Committee of the Regions to which we had been invited, with Jeremy Rifkin and the Vice-President of the European Commission at that time, Günther Oettinger.

We talked about the Third Industrial Revolution and how important is to completely involve the housing sector that should be 100% carbon neutral.

So, I think it was really important to be seen as an industrial partner at such an extremely high-level event. I remember being the only young woman among numerous older men (laughs).

What has been the most significant achievement of the organisation during your time?

I think this is quite easy and probably most people would answer the same... It was the moment when we made the European Commission change its view, making it possible to use the Structural Funds in housing.

Before that, the Structural Funds could be used to support everything but nuclear production and housing. And it was thanks to the Eastern European members, since the enlargement created a new momentum, supporting our long-standing request.

What is, in your view, the added value that Housing Europe brings to its members, to policy makers and to the academic world?

To the academic world is quite obvious for me, it helps the connection with reality on the ground. It provides aggregate figures thanks to its nature as a federation. So, this offers a valuable hub to get the data and to get a real grasp of what's going on.

To its members, it's a tank for innovation. But it also brings them the unique possibility to have a collective voice. And this gives power, it adds weight which none of the members would have otherwise. And it creates a community, too. I think that's really something I still miss. I miss not being part of the Housing Europe community.

Because it's a community of interest in fighting for the right to housing and for a cohesive society.

To the policy makers, Housing Europe is a key platform because there is no other federation with the knowledge and the outreach capacity to its members on housing. Everything else is extremely fragmented. So, in short, Housing Europe brings housing to the policymakers.


How do you estimate that the role of the organisation will change in the course of the next 30 years?

I suppose it will change a lot. Not so much the role itself but mainly the way this is translated into action. So, the role will still be to fight for the right to housing, to make sure that the general policy landscape, the policy context is adequate, not promoting housing as a commodity but as a vital part of the future energy systems. Housing Europe should keep making sure that housing is seen as an economic stabilizer.

But the nature of the work will change, as I see it also in Energy Cities with the role of the local authorities changing a lot... New ways of making policy, new implementation mechanisms, pushing forward partnerships between the Public sector and the citizens. This is what Housing Europe needs to look at, namely how to ensure that there is kind of public-citizens partnership in delivering housing solutions. And that the policy and the legal landscape leave in this end as many possibilities as possible open.

It's a different scheme, it's about granting money to one actor, it's about supporting very diverse forms of partnerships. So, the future may be more complex but there is also a lot more potential.