The much-awaited Action Plan for the implementation of the European Pillar for Social Rights – the ‘social rulebook’ of the EU that sets out 20 key principles with housing being one of them – has been launched today, 4th March. The European Commission admits that access to affordable housing is a growing concern in many Member States and yet, the Action Plan falls short of proposing a coherent approach on housing.
Social policy that helps Europeans to get back on their feet is essential during the ongoing health pandemic. As the forthcoming report on the ‘State of Housing in Europe’ will show on 26th March, the housing crisis has been exacerbated by the pandemic and that COVID-19 will affect significantly our societies for the years to come. Housing Europe members expect that the already high demand for social and affordable housing will inevitably increase.
Reacting to the Action Plan, the President of Housing Europe, Bent Madsen observed that “when launching today’s action plan, Commissioner Schmit rightly stressed the need for up-skilling and re-skilling to address pandemic induced unemployment and labour market trends, however, to tackle head-on these growing inequalities and exclusion, we will also need to add to this list the urgent need to increase our social and affordable housing stock and to adapt existing homes and neighbourhoods to changing realities. In this light, while the actions linked to our sector propose to address the most urgent shortcomings of our housing systems - low-quality housing linked with low energy performance via the Affordable Housing Initiative and the most extreme form of housing exclusion, homelessness via the homelessness platforms - additional actions will undoubtedly be needed to help meet the high and growing demands on our homes and our housing systems”
While 2021 kick-started with the call of the European Parliament for ‘access to decent and affordable housing for all’ and the adoption of the report of MEP Kim Van Sparrentak, very little of the proposals made have been taken into account in the Plan of the Social Pillar.
Speaking about the most vulnerable part of the society, the proposal to set up a ‘European Platform on Combating Homelessness’ is an important step to tackle an already existing problem but does not sufficiently address the structural cause – the lack of sufficient housing at a reasonable cost. What is more, solutions to homelessness, such as Housing First, are also in dire need of more social housing to be able to function properly.
The work plan of the European Commission had set the expectations high by saying that the European Pillar of Social Rights Action plan will be “the compass of Europe’s recovery and our best tool to ensuring no one is left behind.” The result of today’s publication certainly leaves room for improvement.
“Housing Europe will continue to advocate for supporting and acknowledging the primary role of Member States and local authorities while calling the EU to take its share in proposing a coherent approach to housing. We will in that spirit call for the constitution of a European Housing Alliance that could gather Housing Ministers and key stakeholders willing to improve the policies for better housing conditions in the EU,” the Secretary-General of Housing Europe, Sorcha Edwards stressed.
Ensuring access to social housing for those in need is a way to build a solid infrastructure of opportunity in our society and this must remain our guiding principle.