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What was in the last State of the European Union speech for our sector?

Our reflection on #SOTEU2023

Brussels, 13 September 2023 | Published in Future of the EU & Housing

If you have been following Housing Europe's main channels, you would have noticed a recurrent call for better access to the job market and simplification of the EU funding process to reduce the administrative burden so that programmes are channelled in the best way possible. On these fronts, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen has proposed concrete actions in her annual speech, the State of the European Union (SOTEU), the last one in her five-year mandate.

The Commission President stressed that "social partners must be at the heart of the future", and that a new Social Partner Summit co-organised with the EU Belgian Presidency will discuss the labour market challenges. We have seen an extensive focus on employment and skills, fair competition, and improving the supply chain - all cornerstones of better, decent housing. However, there has been an important gap in the tools that can improve the social fabric of the European Union. 

As a result of the hard-to-operate administration of EU funds, Housing Europe's network has been informing us about massively underused funding from the Recovery Plans and we hope the Commission's commitment to reduce reporting obligations for SMEs by 25% will deliver. 

The EU chief was also clear that support for Ukraine will endure, offering €50 bn for the next four years to fund investments and reforms. To ensure that the rebuilding of the country does not benefit opportunistic players, public and affordable housing players have remained committed to support with technical assistance, examples, and rebuilding housing approaches that are not top-down.

And yet, in times of layers of crises - post-pandemic, energy, inflation hardships - the European Commission could have given more focus to how we can invest in people and ensure that they are back on their feet, benefitting from major human rights, including housing.

A much-needed voice in the SOTEU was the President of the Greens, Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts who reminded that finance regulation remains an EU competence which we must act on. "There are limits to what the planet can take but the same goes for our societies. [...] Like nature, common goods, or energy, housing can be a simple financial asset," he said.