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Combating increasing household costs and fuel poverty

The key role of the social housing sector

Strasbourg, 14 April 2016 | Published in Social

European Parliament Initiative Report on the antipoverty target in the light of increasing household costs mentioning housing more than 71 times was adopted at the plenary session in Strasbourg.

The non-binding resolution of MEP Tamas Meszerics (Greens, Hungary) was passed by 310 votes to 73, with 26 abstentions on Thursday, 14 April 2016.

Housing Europe was working in close cooperation with its Dutch member, Aedes to make sure that the views of our sector are taken into consideration during the preparation of the Report. We had a fruitful discussion with European Parliament representatives on the Initiative report and all the meeting parties agreed that housing associations are indeed an efficient factor to tackle the issue of energy poverty.

As a result of the advocacy work carried out by Housing Europe, "housing" is mentioned more than 71 times and social housing 11 times in the report.

More details about the relevant amendments:

Key Recommendations:

EU policies to meet the antipoverty target

14. Supports the Commission's intention to ensure a social triple A score for the Union by presenting new measures, in order to improve the effectiveness of social and employment policies, which includes a clear strategy for combating gendered aspects of social exclusion;

16. …stresses the importance of developing indicators and collecting data on household consumption and costs in relation to energy poverty in order to provide reliable information and allow for evidence based policy making and effective monitoring;

Resources and income of poor households

22.    Invites the Commission, in the context of the European Semester, to make recommendations to the Member States regarding the policies to be put in place and the reforms to be made in order to combat poverty and social exclusion effectively in view of promoting social convergence…

26.    Encourages the Member States and the Commission for a proactive policy-making in relation to adequate housing so as to ensure access to quality housing; calls on the Member States to apply reasonable rent policy where urgent social measures are required and highlights that it should be accompanied by long-term housing and community programmes to increase the housing stock for different socially disadvantaged target groups; stresses that effective measures are still needed throughout the EU to prevent further creation of housing bubbles such as effective consumer protection regulation in the mortgage market; encourages policies in this respect aiming to help households with financial hardships to stay in their primary residence;

27.    Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure the European citizens' fundamental right to housing assistance as a precondition of human dignity; calls for recognition of the importance of affordable rental accommodation as a means of facilitating access to housing for people on low income, and urges Member States to ensure a sufficient number of affordable homes;

29.    Calls on the Commission to address the problem of homelessness as an extreme form of poverty, in particular winter deaths amongst homeless people and those living in cold homes; calls on Member States to reassess their progress towards ending such extreme forms of poverty;

30.    Calls on the Commission and the Member States to urgently identify, implement and maintain policy measures that enable households to meet housing costs, including the provision of housing allowances…

Household expenditure of poor households

32.    ….; points out that reference budgets reflecting household cost could be used to design the support to be provided and to test its adequacy; considers such an instrument to be of crucial value to revive the Union's social cohesion, reduce inequalities and achieve the Europe 2020 poverty and social exclusion target; stresses that lowering household expenditure for poor households will impact positively on the concerned households as well as on the  economy, in particular the local economy, and on social cohesion;

34.    Stresses that there is so far no definition of energy poverty at Union level …; calls on the Commission to develop with stakeholders a common definition of energy poverty and to define the factors contributing to the vulnerability of households;

36.    Invites the Commission to present a communication on energy poverty in Europe accompanied by an action plan to support Member States in this respect… emphasises that energy must be affordable to all Union citizens;

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Targeting funding and policies towards tackling poverty and energy poverty

43.    Calls on the Member States and the EU to provide microcredits or loans free of interest or at low rates via (e.g. the EIB) to low-income households to support them in the upfront investment in renewables or energy efficiency, such as insulation, solar energy and energy efficient appliances;

49.    …calls on the Commission and the Member States to take the necessary steps to reduce the energy costs of poor families, for example by using revenue obtained from appropriate taxation;

54.    Recalls that tenants have limited access to energy efficiency funding as they are not the property owners; recalls that tenants may have a lower incentive to invest as they relocate more easily and frequently than homeowners;…; calls on the Commission, on the basis of the outcomes of this pilot project, to develop provisions for allowing EU funding for energy efficiency measures taken by tenants;

56.    Stresses the immediate relief and the improved living conditions for the most deprived households when those households are provided with small-scale low-cost renewable energy resources such as solar panels for houses not connected to the energy grid;

Linking social aims and energy policy

57.    Welcomes the fact that European energy policy legislation recognises social aims in energy efficiency policies, notably in Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency and Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings; finds regrettable that the relevant provisions of Directive 2012/27/EU to target households affected by energy poverty and social housing (Article 7(7)) are not used to their full potential by the Member States; calls on the Commission in its review and impact assessment of the energy efficiency package to evaluate the implementation and use of Articles 7(7) and 5(7); calls also on the Commission …to consider strengthening Article (7), in particular paragraph 7 thereof, so that Member States are encouraged to include social aims in their energy efficiency obligation schemes;

61.    Calls on the Commission and the Member States to provide access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, in line with the UN sustainable development goals;

Housing and poverty

62.    Calls on the Commission and the Member States to put forward decisive measures on social housing and enhance energy efficiency investment in social rental housing through European funds; recommends that the Member States expand the supply of quality social housing in order to guarantee access for all, and in particular for the most disadvantaged, to adequate housing; encourages the Member States to further use their opportunities to provide social housing with alternative legal constructions;…

64.    Notes that increasing energy efficiency, renovation, and renewable energy is key to tackling energy poverty; expresses concern that housing renovation policies often fail to target those who are most vulnerable; insists that housing renovation policies must target poor, economically excluded and vulnerable households first and foremost,…;

71.    …in the fight against poverty and social exclusion, targeted policies must be deployed to address the particular circumstances of vulnerable groups and marginalised communities facing specific forms of gender inequality and multiple discrimination; calls on the Commission and the Member States to continue to develop policies addressing the poverty and social exclusion…