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Housing in the European Pillar of Social Rights

A critical review

Brussels, 27 April 2017 | Published in Social

On April 26th, the European Commission officially presented the long awaited European Pillar of Social Rights. The Pillar sets out 20 key principles and rights to support fair and well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems. What is in there for the housing sector? Check out our evaluation below along with the reactions of the European Parliament and of the social NGOs in Brussels.

It is definitely positive that the European Commission considers that access to social housing is part of the Social Pillar. Which suggests that it considers that a good social policy should promote access to social housing.

More in detail, the Commission recognises the importance of:

  • Access to social housing or housing assistance of good quality shall be provided for those in need.
  • Vulnerable people having the right to appropriate assistance and protection against forced eviction.
  • Adequate shelter and services shall be provided to the homeless in order to promote their social inclusion

On the other hand, it is rather disappointing that no indicator in the Social Pillar Scoreboard refers to housing. So, there is no way for the Commission to follow whether Member States are making progress on it, for instance on housing affordability, a crucial indicator that needs to be taken into consideration.

The European Parliament agrees, while calling for “more ambition”

The “European Pillar of Social Rights”, should be pegged at the highest level and not lead to a “race to the bottom”, MEPs stressed in a debate on Wednesday. MEPs mostly agreed with the proposals, although several speakers called for more ambitious legislation at EU level. They also felt that more needed to be done to fight poverty and youth unemployment. Others pointed out that social security systems, which are costly, are the responsibility of national governments, and therefore opposed shifting more powers to EU level.

The Social Platform welcomed the Pillar “as a promising step torwards a strong social Europe”

The European Union’s largest network of rights and value-based civil society organisations- Housing Europe is a member- acknowledged the positive elements of the Pillar, calling on decision-makers to clarify how the Pillar will be implemented. Social Platform invited the European Parliament and the European Council to strengthen the Pillar in the following ways:

1. Jobs alone are not enough. Too little attention is paid to promoting social policies and investment that address those who are furthest from the labour market or are not of working age.

2. Promoting social progress on minimum income schemes and improving social investment is an important development, but it is still unclear how the EU will secure implementation across Member States without more clarity on the incentives and potential sanctions.

3. Civil society are referenced as important stakeholders in policy-making. They play a key role in strengthening the direct involvement of those people receiving benefits and social care so they are empowered to be involved in decisions affecting them.