Cédric Van Styvendael, President of Housing Europe, writes in response to Frans Timmermans' commitment concerning a 'big European Social Housing Programme', calling for immediate action and explaining why the time to deliver this plan is now.
Listening to Frans Timmermans, one of the Spitzenkandidaten for the European Commission Presidency saying in public that “If I become the new Commission President, I will launch a big European social housing programme!” makes my mind go back to 1988, when Jacques Delors in his capacity as President of the European Commission took the initiative to address Europe’s housing challenge calling for the establishment of a European body that would deal with boosting the provision affordable housing.
Since then, Housing Europe and its members, more than 43,000 public, cooperative and social housing providers across the continent have been working closely with each other, with the European Institutions and a number of other key stakeholders, including the European Investment Bank, to make sure that both the legal and the financial framework facilitates the daily operation of the affordable housing providers in the EU Member States.
At the same time, listening to this open commitment by the current European Commission Vice-President I can help but asking ‘why not now’? As the countdown to the European Elections has well started, Frans, we- Europe’s public, cooperative and social housing providers- are ready for a big European Social Housing programme. This is anyway our mission and our raison d’etre and we would like to invite you witness this at the 2nd International Social Housing Festival this June in Lyon. We would warmly welcome the European Commission as a partner in addressing Europe’s housing challenge, but we have no time to waste. Such a programme can already be put on track now.
Today, Europe is confronted again with a major housing challenge. The Prodi Committee’s report estimates current investment in social infrastructure in the EU at approximately €170 billion per annum and identifies a gap of at least €100-150bn. Out of this gap, €57bn is missing investment in affordable housing, including also measures to tackle fuel poverty. More than 11% of the Europeans are struggling to keep their homes adequately warm according to the data provided by the European Commission’s EU Energy Poverty Observatory. Inadequate housing costs the public purse around 200 bn Euros on annual basis as Eurofound estimates.
For all the above reasons we launched our campaign for the European Elections ‘Our homes are where Europe’s future starts’, because we see today as clearly as ever before that both Member States and Cities echo their citizens’ demands for access to affordable, quality homes for all. Many countries are in transition with regards to their housing systems aiming to address the changing needs related to Climate change, Demographic change, Household composition change, Migration and Urbanisation. At the same time, an increasing number of cities pledge to invest in affordable housing through their representative body, EUROCITIES.
All stakeholders, public, cooperative and social housing providers, governments and local authorities have already started their own fight against Europe’s housing crisis. We are ready, Frans, to welcome the European Commission on board, too. Now is the time.