At a time when the housing crisis is in full swing in Europe, the Métropole de Lyon, the URBAN Intergroup of the European Parliament, Housing Europe, Eurocities, and FEANTSA organised a special event at the European Parliament in Brussels on 19 September to put the issues of housing, indecent housing, and homelessness at the heart of the priorities of the European institutions.
As the mandates of the current European Parliament and European Commission come to an end and 2024 will see the development of new political priorities for the European Union, our first objective was to take stock of what has been achieved since 2019 and what remains to be done to ensure that all European citizens have access to affordable and decent housing. This was also an opportunity to give political impetus to the 2024-2029 mandates of the European Commission and the European Parliament.
We brought together cities active in the field of housing and homelessness - including Dublin, Bratislava, Milan, Lyon, Barcelona, Paris, and Bologna - members of the European Parliament from various political parties, organisations active in the field of housing and the fight against homelessness, and representatives of the Spanish and Belgian Presidencies of the Council of the European Union to discuss three different aspects of the housing crisis: the difficulty for low-income 'frontline' workers to find affordable housing, homelessness, and substandard housing, and the issue of the financialisation of housing and its impact in cities.
MEP Jan Olbrycht said it loud and clear - housing is a European problem. If we are going to a proper discussion, he insisted that we must decide which housing model we should reinforce without dismissing the others, always starting from the fact that housing is a human right. Dublin's City Councillor, Alison Gillilan wished that for the next EU cycle, Europe should reach a critical mass of public and social housing to be resilient. She also brought up the question of vacant housing which often appears to be a preferred option by investors in comparison to renting them out to workers. The burning need to tackle vacant housing emerged multiple times during the debate. It is a vast issue but as Housing Europe's Observatory brief shows, tools to deal with it exist.
Housing Europe President, Bent Madsen stressed that if we are to tackle the commodification of housing, we would need better regulation to disincentivise financialisation, massively invest in housing, including a reform of the Stability & Growth Pact, and lastly, support localised cost-benefit solutions.
Renaud Payre, Vice President of Lyon Métropole emphasises that the next EU mandate must set the goal to eradicate homelessness high on the agenda, specifically underlining it is a collective challenge that needs funding and investment.
Bratislava, the second most unaffordable capital when it comes to housing is suffering due to underfunding, and its Deputy Mayor Lenka Plavuchovà called for a better and stronger strategy to fight the housing crisis.
This is how the declaration of cities and organisations on housing, poor housing and homelessness, co-carried by Lyon Metropole, the City of Barcelona, FEANTSA, Housing Europe and the URBAN Intergroup came to life in Brussels.
Initially launched at the 4th International Social Housing Festival in Barcelona in June 2023, the Declaration, calls on the European Union to take action in 4 specific areas:
• by promoting an increased supply of affordable social housing as one of the most effective way to ensure sustainable, inclusive urban development, address the cost of living crisis & prevent housing exclusion & homelessness
• by enabling the regulation of private investors in housing and the avoidance of speculation
• by putting together a “Next Housing EU plan” to maximise investment in affordable social housing providers throughout Europe and for the operating needs to provide support services to people.
• by promoting the only way to eradicate homelessness: the provision of self-contained housing and adequate support services, regardless of people's circumstances.