Housing Europe attended the 2015 FEANTSA Policy Conference that took place in Paris on 18-20 June. More than 300 practitioners and policy makers across Europe discussed good practice and explored the role of Europe in fighting homelessness. The key question addressed was how to connect different levels - local, regional, national and European – in order to make a decisive impact on homelessness.
The two day event that was hosted in the Paris City Hall unfolded in two plenary sessions and 12 workshops. Key themes included: free movement and homelessness; national homelessness strategies; making use of the EU’s structural and investment funds; public financing models; international legal instruments; youth homelessness; domestic violence; data; housing markets; rough sleeping; healthcare and Housing First.
The opening session brought together representatives from local and national authorities as well as from the civil society who agreed that it’s just unacceptable to leave people sleeping rough, while Christophe Robert of Fondation Abbe Pierre highlighted the need to build social homes. Greece was a big part of the discussion as it was presented as a major challenge for the EU social strategy as a whole. Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, Marianne Thyssen intervened though a video message repeating once again that “a triple A social rating is a very clear priority for the European Commission”.
Housing Europe participated in the workshop on housing markets where Brian Kenny from the Department for Environment and Local Government presented the new Irish Social Housing Strategy. Mr Kenny stated that social housing is a major employer, stabilizer and generally a major factor for the future. According to the Homelessness Action Plan and the Social Housing Strategy 10% of all new housing must be social. The main pillars of the new strategy can be summarized in three points:
- New units- 35.000 additional units delivered by local authorities and housing associations
- Support in private rental-approx. 75.000 households (directly to the landlord)
- Reform- 90.000 people in waiting lists, rent framework
During the same workshop Fondation Abbe Pierre presented the key finding of its latest research project, making the case for the key elements towards inclusive housing markets. Manuel Domergue said that the real estate market in France has lost its balance and the country is in need of 350.000 new homes over the next years. According to the updated figures around 3.5 million people are badly housed while more than 10 million are facing a fragile housing situation. Regarding the ways forward to turn the housing market in the benefit of those in bad housing quality Mr Domergue tabled a series of ideas, including a suggestion for a kind of “Housing Tobin tax”, meaning a tax in real estate transactions.
In the final plenary on Friday, June 19th, the Paris Social Affairs Councilor, Dominique Versini called for joint solutions and better collaboration between cities, governments and the civil society, underlining that the Parisian authorities are convinced that only through intense coordination sustainable solutions can be found. At the same time it’s worth mentioning that Paris stated it’s ready to host a meeting to promote cooperation to combat homelessness.
Finally, the Minister of Family & Integration of Luxembourg, Corinne Cahen said at her statement that “the social triple A rating will be part of the Luxembourgian Presidency Agenda that will also include homelessness among its priorities”.
On the final day of the event, on Saturday, Housing Europe has also participated in a working session on “Communicating Homelessnessness” where participants exchanged views on the challenges they face in everyday communication activities at local level as well as new ideas around tools they help them overcome all kinds of barriers and stereotypes.