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Collective housing transformations that can generate longer term wins

A thoughtful debate about emergency accommodation with the scope of the Housing Solutions Platform

Online, 11 October 2021 | Published in Social

Emergency accommodation often turns out to be a reactive and disorganised response to homelessness. Instead, solving the homelessness problem requires long-term affordable housing, sometimes integrated with support services.

Where is long-term affordable housing going to come from and how can it be made available quickly and at-scale whilst ensuring adequacy? These were the questions that the Housing Solutions Platform - Housing Europe's joint initiative with FEANTSA and Fondation Abbé Pierre - put on the table for discussion on 11th October

Our member, Donal McManus from the Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH) said that social housing providers in Ireland have been repurposing commercial buildings, such as cinemas, B&Bs, even a bank into housing for the homeless for years. Work, however, has often been ad-hoc, making it hard to replicate and leaving room for improvement. Speaking about financing, Donal also added that the EU Cohesion Fund could support the repurposing of public and commercial buildings into long-term affordable housing. 

Given the shortage of affordable housing, Michelle Norris who is the Chair of Irish Housing Finance Agency and the writer of the finance chapter of the #Housing2030 report, highlighted that the re-use and conversion of buildings into homes is an environmentally-friendly solution. To her, hotels are the easiest to convert into apartments as they already have the necessary facilities. “The main challenges don’t come from the number of regulations, but from the administrative burden of trying to manage all the different regulations simultaneously”. One idea to combat this could be a "one-stop shop" for local authorities and organisations to help them with the administrative burden.

We also heard from Jarmo Linden, the Director of ARA, the Housing Finance and Development Centre in Finland who called for cooperation between municipalities and housing agencies; coherence between national and local actors, as well as subsidies and grants in addition to financing provided by banks.

Finally, our Secretary General, Sorcha Edwards stressed that the recovery funds need to take the re-use of surrounding areas into account. "However, we must always remember that such housing solutions are a tiny bit that has to be integrated into a real housing policy," she concluded. Read more on the topic here.


The next Housing Solutions debate will zoom in on the New European Bauhaus

Save the date for the next Housing Solutions Platform webinar which will take place online on 13th November from 13:00 to 15:00 CET. The debate will focus on the inclusive dimension of the New European Bauhaus and what it can achieve in terms “prioritising the places and people that need it the most”. Can the initiative support the identification, development and scaling-up of solutions to homelessness and housing exclusion? Register and join the discussion.