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European Commission's Green Deal clearly recognises role of social, cooperative and public housing providers in making the "renovation wave" happen while acknowledging obstacles and financial needs.

Brussels, 11 December 2019 | Published in Energy

European Commission's Green Deal clearly recognises the role of social, cooperative and public housing providers in making the « renovation wave » happen while acknowledging obstacles and financial needs.

Today the European Commission presented its long-awaited proposal for a European Green Deal which, among other objectives, aims at making the continent C02 neutral by 2050.

Among the various announced initiatives (which have still to be detailed and adopted by the European Parliament), the European Commission proposes to work with stakeholders on a new renovation initiative in 2020, whose aim would be to organise renovation efforts, lifting national regulatory barriers to renovation, and focusing in particular on social housing. Furthermore, the European Commission wants the member states to engage into a renovation wave, using the long-term renovation strategies provided for by the Energy Performance of Building Directive as the appropriate policy framework.

Housing Europe welcomes the recognition of the role of social, cooperative and public housing providers in making the renovation wave happen while recognising the obstacles and needs and making sure that the EU is embarking onto a fair societal transition. Housing Europe President, Cédric Van Styvendael, said :

« The Green Deal needs to be about values, about resilient communities, turning no-go areas into places people are proud to live in. Restoring dignity to those living in fuel poverty. Providing decent affordable homes in places where people can reach their full potential. This is what we do and this is why we welcome the EC's recognition of our crucial role in a project which will determine our common future ».

Housing Europe has addressed a list of recommendations to Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of the EU Green deal, on how to make the renovation initiative work (see below) and we will continue to cooperate with other sectors to deliver a fair transition for Europe.

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Carbon neutrality and sustainable living will require better support from the EU

Social, cooperative and public housing providers can be at the heart of the green new deal and the systemic transition of the European economy if the EU provides for the following elements:

  • Public investment for a fair energy transition: The EIB will have to increase significantly its lending activities in the field of energy efficient and sustainable homes (in particular for the existing stock); we, therefore, call for a doubling of the EIB investment in social and affordable housing (in particular by increasing the EIB co financing rate);  Ensure InvestEU programme will be used to help projects promoters, in particular in the social infrastructures field, which struggle to provide the public guarantee and/or private investors because of the essentially low ROI yielded in those types of activities. Subsidies through ERDF are also a vital support in some Member States however more work is needed on governance to improve absorption rates; We, therefore, call for a dedicated fund for social and affordable housing which brings more clarity to the complex array of finance and funding opportunities. 
  • A stable and focussed regulatory field: In order to carry out long term renovation strategies, while respecting affordability-level for our tenants, we need stability from the regulatory field. For us, this means stability in the calculation of energy labels, and refraining from drafting compulsory renovation rates and supplementary regulation (such as individual metering and loading infrastructure for electric vehicles).
  • Prioritization of what truly reduces GHG emissions: energy efficiency measures and a transition to renewable energy;
  • Facilitating the transition to district heating: The transition to renewable energy will in many member states be a transition to district heating.  The European Commission can facilitate this by de-risking the initial investment required and facilitating knowledge exchange;
  • Mainstream sustainable finance: private financial institutions should be incentivized to invest in sustainable infrastructure, i.e social infrastructure such as social, cooperative and public housing with high energy efficiency
  • Circular economy approach: Social, Cooperative and Public Housing need incentives to better take into account global environmental impacts of buildings; for instance, by promoting the use of appropriate procurement tools (environment clauses, framework agreements);
  • Modern methods of construction: the construction sector need to develop new methods of construction that will allow to build quicker and in an affordable way, while complying with the ambition to mitigate and adapt to climate change (this will also require procurement rules that support collaboration and learning by doing with the view to decrease cost of construction and renovation);
  • Innovation for systemic efficiency: an approach to systemic efficiency (i.e. combining building, mobility, energy systems) should be promoted; more support for technical assistance (market development teams, one stop shops) is needed.