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Housing needs to be back on the political agenda

Housing Europe puts its mark at the European Habitat meeting

Prague, 21 March 2016 | Published in Urban
Housing Europe President, Marc Calon representing Housing Europe at the plenary session
Housing Europe President, Marc Calon representing Housing Europe at the plenary session

Housing Europe had a strong presence at the regional meeting of Habitat III that took place last week in Prague. With President, Marc Calon speaking at one of the plenary sessions and with speaking slots in numerous side events, our representatives made the case that the housing issue really needs to be back on the political agenda.

In the process towards a New Urban Agenda, Habitat III Europe Regional Meeting “European Habitat” discussed how to ensure access to decent, adequate, affordable and healthy housing for all, with due attention to reducing the impact of the housing sector on the environment. Final declaration from "European Habitat”, the so called "Prague Declaration" will be considered official input to the Habitat III process that aims to set the global urban agenda for the next 20 years. 

Housing Europe President, Marc Calon gave a statement at the plenary session on March 17th along with other key international stakeholders. Marc insisted on the fact that:

The market will deliver housing for rich people. For affordable housing we need the right rules and above all, responsible providers.

At the same time, Marc stressed the need to review excessive use of public money in support of home ownership, while highlighting the overall importance of pushing the housing issue up on the political agenda.

On the same day Housing Europe organised jointly with the International Union of Tenants (IUT) the side event "Affordable social and private rental housing-a necessity for Europe and beyond".

The session outlined the crucial role that private rental, social and public housing play in the UNECE region, in housing at least 100 million low-and middle income households.

Housing Europe Secretary General, Sorcha Edwards explained role of social housing in the UNECE region at a time when many countries are at a crossroads concerning their housing policies. 

SABO, the Swedish Association of Public Housing Companies presented the Kombohus scheme that makes construction of affordable homes a much easier and simpler case, saving providers up to 25%.

Aedes, the Dutch Federation of Social Housing Associations offered an overview of the Dutch social housing system, of the bigger sector at EU level.

At the side event "Energy efficient and affordable housing for low-income population" organised by the Albanian Housing Agency, a member of Housing Europe, the Chair of our Social Affairs Committee, Joao Carvalhosa and the Housing Europe Board Member, Marco Corradi provided with insights from the work carried out by member states at regional level (Reggio Emilia) as well as from international organisations such as Housing Europe on the topics of focus. The event served as a forum for policy makers and experts to discuss implementation of the National Energy Efficiency Action Plans (NEEAPs) as well other new initiatives, including new innovative financing schemes, main stakeholders and the role of housing associations, condominium associations, local authorities, private sector in promoting energy efficient affordable housing. 

In the afternoon Housing Europe Deputy Secretary General, Julien Dijol contributed to the side event "Addressing housing affordability issues in the UNECE Region in the context of economic, financial and migration crises: challenges and good practices" that was organised by UNECE, UN Habitat & UNHCR. Julien outlined the challenges while presenting at the same time numerous best practices regarding housing affordability issues within the crisis. 

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Director of Housing Europe member, The Building and Social Housing Foundation (BSHF), David Ireland alongside Co-operative Housing International Vice-President, Guido Schwarzendahl from the German Housing Cooperative Housing civic-public partnerships (Wohnungsgenossenschaft Leuna e.G.) contributed to the session dedicated to the promotion of community-led housing in Europe 'Civic-public partnership for a more sustainable and inclusive habitat' organised by Urbamonde. The promotion of diversity in housing markets is a key component of the work of Housing Europe.

Housing Europe was invited to join Member States and other stakeholders in tough negotiations to finalise the declaration. We submitted a number of amendments to stress the importance of adequate housing for liveable cities and the vital role of cooperative, public and social housing providers. The Prague declaration will be the main output of the conference and will contain key messages on housing to be forwarded to the Quito Habitat III conference. 

While the final document has not yet been published- we expect it very soon- one the action points in the draft document emphasises the importance of ‘Promoting dialogue between governments and relevant stakeholders using existing platforms such as the UNECE Committee on Housing and Land Management‘.

Housing Europe and the UNECE in partnership with ICA Cooperative Housing International with their joint Housing Policy Exchange Conference on 14th of September in Geneva will already act on this.