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Housing crisis in Europe: the way forward?

Better access to decent and affordable housing, improving the housing situation of people in Europe, simplifying and making funding systems more coherent and simpler

Brussels, Belgium, 21 February 2024 | Published in Social, Future of the EU & Housing

On the World Day for Social Justice, Housing Europe and public, cooperative, and social housing providers from our network discussed the way out of the housing crisis with the European Commission, Belgian EU Presidency, European Parliament, EU's Climate Bank, EIB and social development bank, CEB, but also with key housing rights defenders.

The words of the European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit still echo in our heads: “the housing problem divides our societies and it may be a risk for our democracies.” He went on to reminding that health pandemics were also not in the power of the EU, but we had the moral obligation to find solutions. When combatting the housing crisis, we need to follow the same logic.

The conference of the European Economic and Social Committee put the housing emergency at the centre and truly looked at how the EU Green Deal is impacting the access to decent and affordable housing, how young Europeans can improve their housing situation, and addressed the elephant in the room - how to simplify and make funding systems more coherent and simpler so that they can better reach community-led housing actors. EESC's President, Oliver Röpke said he would like to see the European Investment Bank (EIB) which has been labelled as EU’s Climate Bank also be a Social Housing Bank.
“Every day, we hear about inspiring examples working against the housing crisis trend. Europe works best when it absorbs good ideas and at European level, we can send the right signals, provide funding, show affordable housing where people flourish,” our Secretary-General, Sorcha Edwards pointed out. Referring back to the division of our society, she stressed that the dire need for decent homes that people can afford cannot become an ideological discussion because it is an evidence-based phenomenon we must act upon. Today, housing ministers are again sitting around the same table to exchange knowledge and we can accelerate this by being open about tested policies on land, funding, sustainability, or governance initiatives that benefit the society.

For instance, housing cooperatives in Italy work to provide young people with affordable, fluid, and temporary housing that allows mobility or change and that is decent, the President of Legacoop Abitanti - a member of Housing Europe - Rossana Zaccaria said.

CEB Vice-Governor, Johannes Boehmer and EIB’s Senior Economist, Andrea Colantonio both emphasised how important it is to have aggregators or financial intermediaries to help funding institutions reach smaller public, municipal, and social housing providers.

Housing Europe's member, L'Union sociale pour l'habitat (USH) has found an answer to this challenge. Our Observatory Chair, Laurent Ghekiere explained how USH in France managed to set up the European Alliance for sustainable and inclusive social housing that made long-term investment from several banks easier and simpler.