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Tools to deal with vacant housing

New Housing Europe Observatory brief tackles one of the hottest topics of today

Brussels, 6 September 2023 | Published in Future of the EU & Housing

At a time when so many households in Europe are unable to find decent and affordable housing, and when European nations are taking their responsibility for finding suitable accommodation for Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s war of aggression, the prevalence of long-term vacant dwellings is simply not something that society should be willing to accept.

From the perspective of Housing Europe there are three main reasons why vacant housing is of interest to us and our members. 

Firstly, as mentioned above, long-term vacant housing is simply not compatible with the values of our sector, which seeks to promote access to housing for all. 

Secondly, it is clear that when housing is scarce, it is those who are least able to pay higher prices who are the most heavily impacted. At present, we see that low-income and younger households are particularly impacted by the lack of available housing; not to mention those who are experiencing homelessness. Vacant housing can increase the demand for interventions from our members, which is too often not recognised by policymakers in the form of increased public support for affordable housing provision. 

Finally, as is highlighted in this briefing, public, cooperative and social housing providers can be an important part of dealing with long-term vacant housing. Our sector provides a reliable partner for policymakers, be it through the renovation and management of formerly vacant units, or cooperatives that unify households to take collective action on vacancy in their local area. As is also highlighted, our members are often best placed in terms of local connections and project management experience to work on the revitalisation of abandoned or derelict buildings. 

That is why Housing Europe has decided to develop this briefing.  

Vacant housing is a complex and multi-faceted topic, but the experience of our partners shows that solutions are available. However, careful consideration of local drivers of vacancy is required in order to find the right tools to deal with the issue.  

Given the existing acute and unmet need for housing in Europe, the public, cooperative, and social housing providers we represent will be there to play their role and to better ensure that the goal of decent and affordable housing for all is met. Making sure that we can better make use of the resources we already have at our disposal will be key to achieving this ambition in a timely, and more environmentally sustainable manner.  

Read and download the brief below.