On 21st January, members of the European Parliament gave a clear signal that the on-going housing crisis must be taken seriously. A solid majority of EU policymakers coming from different party groups voted on the own-initiative report that calls for “Access to decent and affordable housing for all’ by Dutch MEP Kim van Sparrentak from the Greens and adopted a resolution that calls the European Commission and the 27 EU Member States to put forward a coherent response to the housing problem that is now, even more, exacerbated due to the global health pandemic.
"Far too many people in Europe are living in overcrowded, damp, poorly insulated or otherwise unhealthy houses, with unaffordable utility bills. We can’t just be bystanders. This housing crisis is affecting people from all demographics," MEP Kim Van Sparrentak stressed in the Parliament Hemicycle. In the past months, Housing Europe has been guiding you through the main takeaways for public, cooperative and social housing. And now, when the dossier is about to leave the plenary and land on the desks of the authorities responsible for the pieces of legislation that are strongly tied to the housing world, we would like to share why the report is a symbol of progress on the EU political arena.
In her initial comments on the report Sorcha Edwards, Secretary-General of Housing Europe noted that this report can be added to the growing recognition of the fact that EU’s stated goals on inclusion and a fair green transition cannot be achieved without addressing Europe’s housing crisis or without supporting social, cooperative and public housing providers. It will be another useful instrument to help pave the way for an increase in construction and renovation through increased finance and a more coherent policy approach at EU level.
Another key step forward has been the consensus to provide more EU funding to meet supply and demand for social, affordable housing and to build more new homes through forward-looking recommendations set in the European Semester. The report highlights that Member States should also be allowed to invest more in affordable housing under the EU’s fiscal rules and that funding for social, affordable, and energy-efficient housing should be provided through the EU budget, as well as the long-term multiannual financial framework for 2021-2027. As the Recovery Plan for Europe has already been agreed by the European Union, public, cooperative and social housing providers have the opportunity to play a key role in the ambition to renovate the housing stock as part of the Renovation Wave Strategy. The Housing Europe team has carefully analysed the possibilities ahead of the sector and has prepared a set of tools to ensure that EU funding reaches construction and renovation projects on the ground.
Increasing regulation of housing markets
MEP Kim Van Sparrentak has also had a strong say on the need to regulate housing markets to avoid speculative investments. She has been actively advocating on the need to tighten EU digital rules - to increase transparency, require registration numbers, and data sharing that is in line with GDPR rules - in order to boost housing affordability. “When you have these new phenomenons like Airbnb, you are putting more pressure on the private rental market, which in turn puts more pressure on social housing providers,” our member, Virginie Toussain from l'Union Sociale pour l'Habitat (USH) in France said during the latest webinar organised on the effect of short-term rentals.
Better governance and regulation to support affordability in housing has been also one of the 4 pillars of the Housing 2030 report which will be launched in October this year. To decode the housing reality, the joint initiative of Housing Europe, UN-Habitat and UNECE has been tirelessly researching policies on land, environment, finance and governance, as well as their relation to affordability.
Eradicating homelessness by 2030
While some would describe the proposal to end homelessness in less than 10 years from now as bold, the report proposes a strategy on how that is possible – by implementing the well-known Principle 19 in the European Pillar for Social Rights and calling on the European Commission to propose an EU Framework for National Homelessness Strategies. In December, during the joint webinar organised by Housing Europe and FEANTSA, the Presidents of both organisations – Bent Madsen and Kjell Larsson - exchanged ideas on how policymakers can play a steering role and shared inspiring experiences that have helped for the prevention of homelessness.
Housing policy fair to everyone
“Access to decent and affordable housing for all’ is a call to ensure equal treatment for all people in their search of a home. For this reason, the report insists on making housing policies more inclusive, gender-sensitive and open also to disadvantaged groups such as Roma communities so that everyone can have access to housing programmes
In these challenging times, the adoption of the resolution can become a turning point for housing policies and housing providers. The rebuilding of our European societies after the COVID outbreak needs a solid foundation which is future-proofed both socially and environmentally, a combination which can be delivered with a strong social housing sector, so today can be seen as a win for the sector and the beginning of a path to a more social approach to housing from the EU.