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Affordable housing for resilient neighbourhoods and cities

Housing Europe at the 7th Cohesion Forum

Brussels, 4 July 2017 | Published in Social

The Secretary General of Housing Europe, Sorcha Edwards was invited by European Commissioner, Corina Crețu to speak at the 7th Cohesion Forum organized by DG REGIO, a large scale political event held every three years, bringing together more than 700 people including high level representatives from European institutions, central governments, regional and local representatives, economic and social partners, NGOs and academics.

Feedback from our members on the draft recommendations was shared with the participants of the event, contributing to the discussion at EU level about the future of Cohesion Policy.

Sorcha participated in the panel of the Workshop on ‘creating resilience: social inclusion and innovation’ that was chaired by MEP Lambert Von Nisterooij (the Netherlans/EPP) along with the President of the EESC, George Dassis, the Regional Minister for coordination of European Policies for Growth, Patricio Bianchi and the Mayor of Gothenburg, Ann-Sofie Hermansson. Commissioner for Regional and Urban Policy, Corina Cretu opened the debate.

Sorcha started her intervention by highlighting the facts and figures on the state of play such as the growing waiting lists, the decline in investment in social housing and the increase of the homeless as well as of the people in the risk of poverty in the EU. She recalled that housing is very much a local issue impacting every single person and is linked closely to policies on social protection, accessibility, affordable energy, healthy ageing, mobility, digital innovation and refugee integration. More and more people are excluded from cities, young people stay at home longer due to affordability issues and the middle class seems also squeezed.

Sorcha highlighted the crucial contribution of affordable housing providers to resilient cities and neighbourhoods. She reminded that in order to create inclusive cities, we need to build closer partnerships to ensure the access to affordable services. Cities need a long-term vision which also means that preventative measures should be prioritised. Indeed, investing in people through education, construction of affordable housing is a long-term investment with high social impact.

Concerning the recommendations she emphasized the issue with deficit rules mentioning that the EU has a role to play in encouraging more investment in social infrastructure through the CSRs. Additionally, she stressed that we need to keep a balance between grants and financial instruments and that the latter does not fit all the operations.

Sorcha pointed out the need for a broader vision and the combination of different policies to tackle the segregation and the divide in our cities in order to achieve resilience. That is why Housing Europe welcomes the EU Urban Agenda Housing Partnership as a unique tool that allows to involve affordable housing providers into a discussion on EU policies and to work with other important stakeholders.

At the end of the workshop, Corina Cretu closed the debate and showed real interest in working more closely with Housing Europe on the topics of empty housing and energy efficiency among others. Housing Europe is going to follow up this discussion with the Commissioner.