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What would make young Europeans independent?

Two-day debate with 100 young people on all things affordable housing, fair job conditions, stable mental health

Thessaloniki, 25 October 2023 | Published in Social

The 2023 Congress of Young Europeans organised by Heinrich Böll Foundation in Thessaloniki, Greece was defined by the struggle of youth to build a life for themselves, independently. This includes the ability to afford living on your own, but also securing fair job conditions, and being mentally healthy.

Our Communications Director, Diana Yordanova joined a workshop dedicated to housing during which the reality check provided by youngsters from Greece, Luxembourg, Portugal, Latvia, Romania, Cyprus, Ireland, Germany, Azerbaijan, and Georgia was harsh but also affirmative of the fact that we can house young generations better.

Maintenance of youth housing in Greece has been falling behind and even once securing a salary as a professor at the university, half of the academic salary of one of the participants still goes for housing. A 19-year-old first-year university student shared that a couple of his Portuguese classmates coming to study to Lisbon found themselves in the situation of living at hostels in the first two months of the academic year because finding affordable housing is a hard task to accomplish. A Romanian participant who has spent half of her life in Denmark drew the differences between privatised housing with limited means to be maintained versus a welfare system where 21% of all dwellings are social housing. 

On the second day, Diana Yordanova joined a panel discussion with MEP Nicolae Ștefănuță from the Greens, Sotiris Sideris, a journalist involved in the "Cities for rent" investigation of corporate landlords, and a tenant law Professor Hanna Smit who has also been a resident of the Dutch social housing project, Startblok. Commenting on the way-out of this dire situation, Diana pointed out there is an urgent need to tame housing markets and realise that deregulation cannot be the way to go and persistently, regularly invest in affordable housing, which can help to deal with shortages that disproportionally impact young people, especially in high-demand urban areas. She also added that as home ownership becomes more difficult for young people to achieve, cooperative housing, Community Land Trusts and other collaborative initiatives can provide a good step on the ‘housing ladder’ that is both affordable and collectively owned and managed. On the private market, quality of the homes and security of tenure should be guaranteed, as well as ensuring that greening of homes does not result in an even bigger push out of the city of communities relying on tight incomes.