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Housing in Ireland: Challenges and Opportunities

An exchange with an Irish delegation in Brussels

Brussels, 2 June 2016 | Published in Economy

Edit Lakatos, our Policy Assistant was invited to participate in an exchange with an Irish delegation, consisting of 25 representatives from housing NGO's, charities as well as local government councillors in the European Parliament around the housing situation in Ireland and potential EU funding opportunities. The visit and the gathering have been an initiative by Lynn Boylan Sinn Féin MEP.

The event on 1 June was an opportunity for the Irish delegates to meet with Representatives from the European Commission Directorate General for Employment and Social Affairs, the Spanish political party Podemos, the Icelandic Left Green Movement, the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA), the German Left (Die Linke) and Housing Europe.

Edit presented the available EU programmes that the housing sector can benefit from and shared some inspirational good practices. The funding options include not only the Structural and Investment Funds with their energy efficiency and social inclusion priorities but also the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) as well as the Horizon 2020 innovation programme which aims the innovative constructions. Furthermore, the EIB supports housing through its Juncker Plan that offers an opportunity to finance quick and cost-effective construction of new dwellings by long-term investment schemes. Finally, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Council of European Development Bank also support financially sustainable & affordable housing in and beyond Europe.

In her intervention, Andrea Mészaros (DG EMPL) highlighted the growing number of single households, the problem of family homelessness in Ireland (888 families according to European Commission data, April 2016) as well as a 10 % increase of evictions in the country since 2009. Furthermore, she presented a new study on evictions in Europe, published in May 2016. The study shows that in most of the cases there is a direct link between evictions and homelessness. Especially in Eastern Europe, poverty is the main cause of evictions. 

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Enrique Maestu (Podemos) provided with some background information on the housing crisis in Spain, pointing out that between 2008 and 2014, more than 600.000 people were evicted. Due to the economic crisis those who bought a home on mortgage found themselves losing it within two years. The situation has improved in Spain since then thanks to the rent regulation which prevents speculation quite significantly.

Elin Oddny Siguroardottir (Icelandic Left Green Movement) presented the latest National Housing Policy package (2010-2020) that identifies housing as a human right, regulates the increase of long-term affordable rent and includes the allocation of 20 % of new housing for social inclusion purposes.

Robbie Stakelum (FEANTSA) focused on rent certainty in the EU that primarily raises the issue of lack of harmonized data at EU level. As in most cases even the vulnerable groups are forced to the private rental market, rent certainty would be crucial to assure. Regarding Ireland, while there is not enough new construction in the country (in 2015, 30 new homes were built), the demand is increasing with more than 20.000 people on the waiting lists.

Knut Under (Die Linke) presented the rent control practice in Germany, detailing the different control schemes implemented after the war. Right now a reduced rent increase is under negotiation as well as the obligation of landlords for regulated maintenance services, he said.