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"Social Housing must be seen as an important public good"

Housing Europe President discusses Public Services & Stability and Growth Pact at high level summit

Brussels, 5 July 2017 | Published in Economy, Social, Future of the EU & Housing

Housing Europe President Cédric Van Styvendael was among the speakers of the European Public Services Summit (PSS) that took place in Brussels on 28 June 2017. The high-level event that brings together a diverse range of stakeholders who shape Public Services in Europe and Cédric joined European Commissioners Dombrovskis, Thyssen and the Secretary General of the European Parliament, Klaus Welle among others.

This third edition of the PSS was an opportunity to further discuss and exchange on the Future of Europe and of public services, and to assess the state of play of social dialogue, the provision and of services of general interest, democracy and the accountability of EU decision-makers. Housing Europe President set the tone right from the beginning of his intervention, saying that "if the EU is indeed our common destiny, social housing must be an important public good recognised by the EU". Cédric warned of severe drops in public spending on social housing and of the ever-growing waiting lists in many countries, while he welcomed the signals from Commissioner for Competition, Margarethe Vestager recognising need for a broad EU approach to housing reflecting growing needs. 

The Stability Growth Pact has direct and major impact on the public services in the Member States. Since social housing activities are in many cases supported by public funds, whatever the form of this support is (soft loans, subsidies, guarantees), governments that have already reached the limits imposed by the Stability and Growth Pact might be reluctant to invest in social, cooperative or public housing.

However, being aware of the importance of maintaining a sufficient level of social investment, the EU institutions have introduced rules that allow temporary deviations from the deficit reduction objectives. These clauses (p.45 onwards) could be invoked by governments when stressing the counter cyclical role of investment in affordable housing and agreeing on increasing the level of public spending for affordable housing.

According to the investment clause, “The deviation allowed must be linked to the national expenditure on projects co-funded by the EU under the Structural and Investment Funds, Trans-European-Network (TEN) and Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) and to national co-financing of investment projects also co-financed by the EFSI, with positive, direct and verifiable long-term budgetary effects. Moreover, co-financed expenditure should not substitute for nationally financed investments, so that total public investments are not decreased”.

According to the structural reform clause: not predefined list of reforms but “The reforms must be major. While, there are some individual reforms with a major positive impact on growth and the long-term sustainability of public finances, such as pension reforms well designed and comprehensive packages of reforms addressing structural weaknesses may also have a major positive impact”.

Housing Europe will continue to work with relevant Commission's department to seek more flexibility in the use of the SGP clauses in order to improve the funding for Social, Cooperative and Public Housing in particular in countries whose public finances have been hit most by the crisis.