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Social Housing and the Recovery Plans – pathways to solutions

How much progress have Member States made one year after the majority of countries have adopted their plans for recovery?

Lisbon, Portugal, 15 November 2022 | Published in Future of the EU & Housing
Edit Lakatos, Senior Policy Officer at Housing Europe presenting in Lisbon
Edit Lakatos, Senior Policy Officer at Housing Europe presenting in Lisbon

In their Recovery and Resilience plans, multiple European Member States recognised the urgent need for decent, affordable housing that could lift people and communities. We saw this recognition taking different forms – through energy-efficiency renovation, support for social services, boosting the Housing First model, introducing digitalised or circular models that could make our homes fit for the challenges of this century. Our Senior Policy Officer, Edit Lakatos travelled to Lisbon to join the international conference of our Portuguese member, Gebalis, and to present the main findings from Housing Europe’s ‘Impact of the Recovery Plans on the Social and Affordable Housing Sector’ report which was launched exactly a year ago.

In the city of Lisbon, where the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment costs more than 100% of the reported average net salary, urgent actions are needed. The capital has the ambition to build 3,400 homes in only 3 years which definitely proves to be a challenge, Lisbon’s City stressed.

An increased price of construction, lack of materials and workers, as well as the insufficient number of construction companies that are available, are some of the main difficulties that the city has to overcome, our member João Carvalhosa from Gebalis said.

Annika Breidthardt, an Economic Advisor at European Commission's Representation in Lisbon, also highlighted that as soon as Europe realised that it would need to diversify its energy supplies, produce clean energy and save resources, Member States were requested to add a REPowerEU chapter to their plans, which meant a new component with additional funding. For Portugal, that resulted in another EUR1.6 billion, Annika Breidthardt said. To address the rising materials in a moment when we should be riding a real Renovation Wave, she said that the EU is foreseeing to look at the set milestones in 2026 and negotiate whether reconsideration is necessary or not.

We also heard from our Spanish member, AVS where for projects to take shape, housing providers and sub-contractors need to pay attention to the different national housing measures. The Director of AVS, María Montes also reported a heavy bureaucracy that is slowing down the pace of the projects, and similarly to its neighbour, Portugal stressed the lack of skilled construction workers and the increasing costs.

In France, Union Sociale pour l’Habitat (USH) repeated the challenge of the increasing inflation but explained that the administrative burden has not been as present as in other countries.

Still in the south, our Greek member, the Major Development Agency Thessaloniki (MDAT) said that programmes must be targeting tenants’ inclusion more and that the existing instruments are still not reaching out to the most vulnerable. Chrysoula Kopra, in charge of the Social Rental Agency Coordination, said that a recent programme worth 1 million that will create 70 homes in Athens and another 30 in Thessaloniki is still a start.

Going west to Ireland, the National Housing Agency confirmed that it is looking at a reform of the planning system and how to deliver homes quicker on state-owned land. In parallel, the key players there are also working on increasing the construction sector’s capacity.

Roman Matoušek, head of social policy design at the Czech Ministry for Regional Development, welcomed the Nice declaration that committed to building and investing in affordable and sustainable housing and was signed by housing ministers during the EU French Presidency. During the mandate of the Czech Republic, Matoušek said that he will focus on the demand for affordable housing and exchange of practices, speeding up public investments in the sector, looking at possibilities to combine public and private capital, as well as applying tried and tested working methods when it comes to welcoming refugees. The government has introduced a new component of affordable housing in its Recovery Plan that has been based on four pillars: a new law for social housing, the regional centres of social housing policy support, the Housing Investment Advisory Hub, and a reform of the public housing instrument structure.

How is your country making the best of the Recovery Plans and does address housing affordability or home improvement? Get in touch with our Senior Policy Officer, Edit Lakatos at