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The Affordable Housing Initiative Finance Summit puts forward concrete ideas for “available, affordable, adequate housing”

Bridging EU policy and innovative best practices

20 June 2023 | Published in Future of the EU & Housing

The European Affordable Housing Consortium, Housing Europe and l’Union social pour l’Habitat (USH) brought together social and affordable housing providers, policymakers, and financial actors to discuss hurdles faced by housing providers, municipalities and companies across the continent to access funding as they look to move the Renovation Wave and the New European Bauhaus forward.

The event was organised as part of the European Affordable Housing Consortium project, which is supported by the European Commission in the context of the Affordable Housing Initiative and the Single Market Programme. The initiative aims to support the renovation and construction of 100 lighthouse social and affordable housing districts by 2030.

The event also marked the launch of Housing Europe’s flagship report, the 2023 State of Housing which showed that the Renovation Wave needs to be contextualised in the broader challenges facing the housing sector.  Bent Madsen, President of Housing Europe stressed that the facts are worrying, the lack of sufficient finance and a secure financial outlook in the years is leaving them with no option but to delay and cancel projects, both new build and renovation. Meeting climate targets and addressing the urgent need for affordable housing is simply not achievable without a major renewal of the financial support to the sector.” He insisted that Housing Europe Members commit to decent, affordable, socially-just housing which ensures that the fair energy transition will be for all, and will have a very strong human factor. He also welcomed in the name of Housing Europe and its members this generalised re-activation of governments after some decades of withdrawal from the housing. ’We are ready to join forces with policy makers and citizens to try to find solutions to this housing challenge now impinging on all parts of our society from education to health, employment, mobility and climate. To offset potentially massive social consequences, it is time to join forces to govern housing for people and the planet’.

Emmanuelle Cosse, President of USH said that “the transition of social housing in France and in Europe requires massive investment in thermal renovation of the social housing stock, while maintaining a sustained rate of construction of new social housing to tackle the affordable housing crisis. Our European alliance of USH-CDC-IEB-CEB should help us to meet this new challenge of the transition to affordable housing in France. It must be developed in Europe.”

It was due to this urgent reality check that the Summit’s focus was on the financing aspect of fast-tracking innovation in the renovation of social and affordable housing districts to mitigate the negative social impact of rising prices. The panellists addressed possible responses to the current slowdown from reinforcing public funding for renovation and new construction to assistance in the identification of support mechanisms which could help to channel funding to the sector to sustainable business models that work for the people and communities.

Building on the Nice Declaration

The Summit follows up on the commitment of the 27 EU ministers responsible for housing who in March 2022, committed to invest in affordable and sustainable housing with the Nice Declaration. After long 13 years, housing ministers came together to  confirm that we had entered an era of renewed public action on housing, a new dynamic exemplified by our responsibility to address the social impact of the lack of affordable housing. The declaration stresses the importance to increase the stock of energy-efficient homes advancing towards the reduction of the environmental footprint of buildings, the alleviation of energy poverty and the economic recovery following the pandemic and the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine.

As per the commitment made by the 27 Ministers in Nice in March 2022, “the European Investment Bank Group, which is a major financier of social and affordable housing will continue to develop further its financing and advisory services for sustainable social and affordable housing, but without competing with or replacing national and regional support schemes.”

In his address, the EIB Vice-President, Ambroise Fayolle affirmed the role of European funding to complement national and regional support schemes in the social and affordable housing sector: “For over 25 years, the EIB Group has been providing substantial support to the Social and Affordable Housing Sector across the EU. Considering the challenge ahead of us, the EIB stands ready to step up its financial and advisory support to housing providers delivering affordable homes and the renovation rates that would enable the energy transition.”

In his opening address, the European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Affairs Nicolas Schmit pointed out: “The right to social housing and housing assistance is at the heart of the social Europe that we want to strengthen. The EU can play a pivotal role through financial support and policy initiatives. Our action is based on a triple-A approach – Available; Affordable; Adequate housing. These are essential elements that should drive investment in social housing and build more inclusive neighbourhoods.”

Also at European level, the evidence from the ground leaves no doubt that a step change is needed in housing. This is reflected in some of the current Commission’s funding and policy initiatives. The right to social housing and housing assistance is enshrined in the European Pillar of Social Rights. Many EU funding programmes can contribute to investments in the field of housing, such as the Recovery and Resilience Facility, the European Regional Development Fund and the InvestEU programme.

The European Affordable Housing Consortium is currently mapping the social housing funding landscape at the European level and developing a funding simulator to be published in the coming months. The team behind the capacity building programme is also working on blueprints for municipalities, social housing providers and/or companies to replicate integrated, innovative and inclusive examples of renovation at the district level. Expected to be published at the end of 2023, the blueprints include good practices of proven financial models intended to ensure the solutions are financially sound and sustainable in the long term.

‘Affordable housing is not always the kind of housing where people want to live in’, said Olivier Klein, the French Minister for Urban Affairs and Housing. He stressed that the choice of living in a suitable place should be available for everyone.

Ivan Bartos, the Czech Minister for Regional Development, believes that even though housing is often considered a national specific issue, we should approach it as an European matter.

‘We are here to talk about families and we are here to discuss about investment’, was the position of Marina Gonçalves, the Minister of Housing in Portugal. In her opinion, we need to split our focus for finding solutions in two: think about a strategy  for the medium and long term to produce more affordable housing, but also on the short term to find solutions for the families that are in need now.

‘Investing in the environmental tarnsiton is good not only for the environment, but also for the citizens’, affirmed Christophe Collignon, the Walloon Minister of Housing, Local Powers and the City. He also stressed that making affordable housing available for people is first and foremost the responsibility of the state.

The CEB Vice-Governor Sandrine Gaudin emphasised the importance of focusing the efforts on those most in need. In line with its social mandate, the CEB finances social and affordable housing, responding to the gaps in the market when it comes to the most vulnerable groups – the homeless persons, elderly in need of social care, persons with disabilities, students, or young workers. CEB’s approach to housing also recognises its vast potential for positive climate action, which must go hand in hand with social inclusion.

The CEB has been an active member of the European Alliance for Sustainable and Inclusive Social Housing in France, which was launched in September 2020 jointly with the USH, EIB and the CDC as a signal of commitment to working towards decent housing for all across Europe. This partnership has proved particularly effective in channelling funds and achieving tangible results with over €1 billion of investment allocated to around 180 operations.

Peter Surek, Head of Social Banking affirmed that Erste Group will provide support to the newly launched European Housing Finance Working Group to assist to

  • build capacity to facilitate access to financing for long-term investments in affordable, public, and cooperative housing infrastructure in CEE countries;
  • provide successful examples from the ground in order to help the implementation of integrated projects with a strong social component.

Housing Europe already started the work to help providers better access EU funding and financing and now is launching its European Housing Finance Working Group with an aim to organise capacity building to facilitate access to European funding; and facilitate the exchange of good practices, and policy tools to combine multiple topics, such ashousing, health, accessibility, building upon existing initiatives, such as the Housing Evolutions Hub, the Housing Solutions Platform, and the #Housing2030 initiative.

*Event organished through the Affordable Housing Initiative Consortium, SHAPE-EU. The European Affordable Housing Consortium, SHAPE-EU project has received funding from the European Union's Single Market Programme under Grant Agreement no. 101069909.