Wednesday

26th Sep 2018

Opinion

A social Europe needs better housing

  • Houses by artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser in Vienna. Around 60 percent of all households in the city live in subsidised apartments. (Photo: Pedro)

Local authorities play a central role in delivering social inclusion and welfare measures, as front-line providers of public services, such as housing support.

However, the global financial crisis exposed the existing inefficiencies of housing markets, namely an under-supply of social and affordable housing across the EU. This is one of the areas that the European Pillar of Social Rights tries to set out basic standards for.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

A lack of affordable housing poses a problem in Europe's large cities, where most residents argue that decent, affordable housing is a scarce resource.

Construction costs are also rising - EUROSTAT estimates that this increased by 24 percent between 2005 and 2016 - at a time when city budgets are being squeezed.

Meanwhile, public spending on housing, already relatively low across the EU at the beginning of the financial crisis (around 1 percent of GDP in 2009), had decreased to 0.6 percent by 2015.

Europe is facing a housing crisis. The 2016 Eurofound survey estimated the economic costs of inadequate housing in Europe, from direct costs such as healthcare and indirect costs such as lost productivity, to be around €194 billion per year.

In this context, we hope that the right to housing introduced via the European Pillar of Social Rights will help to reinforce investment in affordable housing across Europe.

Principles of the pillar

The underlying premise of the European Pillar of Social Rights is that member states should be investing more in social policies to improve the lives of all people. Principle 19 of the Pillar calls on member states to support vulnerable people to access housing.

According to European Commission data, finding good accommodation at a reasonable price was difficult in two out of three European cities in 2015.

Against this backdrop, publicly-supported housing is an important resource for fighting housing poverty and social exclusion in cities.

However, focusing exclusively on providing housing for the most vulnerable - for example, the lowest-income groups: single parents, young or elderly people - rather than providing affordable housing for all, can lead to the marginalisation of groups such as lower-middle income earners.

In Vienna, we support the principle of affordable housing for all. This includes lower and middle income earners who contribute to GDP, but who nonetheless cannot afford the private rental market.

Around 60 percent of all households in Vienna live in subsidised apartments, including 220,000 in council housing.

Our housing projects are mostly rentals, while a few are owner-occupied and they are built in all 23 Viennese districts to help encourage a greater social mix. Our goal is to provide comfortable and affordable housing in an attractive urban environment for all residents.

One of the ways we manage this is through development competitions. An upcoming project for winter 2018/19 in a new, low-traffic area of the city, will include several social facilities, green and open spaces and a mobility concept with a communal garage.

This model can be a source of inspiration to other cities that wish to address housing poverty in a way that does not leave low-income households disadvantaged. It is also relevant in the context of debates on the Social Pillar.

From local to EU level

With other members of Eurocities, the network of major European cities, we have asked for a European Council recommendation to reinforce the right to affordable housing for all.

The implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights cannot be effective without the involvement of local authorities.

City authorities work locally through integrated approaches to social problems, often combining different European funds and linking social provisions with appropriate activation measures to promote citizens' inclusion in society.

Given our experience in the urban partnership on affordable housing, we advocate for linking the Pillar to the Urban Agenda for the EU where a multi-level governance structure has already been established.

Including the local, urban perspective in the Social Pillar will help raise standards across Europe and deliver where past policy initiatives have failed.

A shared, common future for a social Europe begins with people affording their own homes.

Peter Florianschütz is a member of the Committee of the Regions, and Tanja Wehsely is chair of EUROCITIES' Economic Development Forum. Both are members of the city council, city of Vienna

EUROCITIES is the network of major European cities, with over 140 members, representing more than 130 million people.

Stakeholder

Cities united by love of good food

Cooperation between cities can build healthier communities and help kick-start the local economy. The URBACT programme enables EU cities to develop solutions through networking, capacity-building and knowledge-transfer activities.

EU agency relocation race starts with 23 cities

Cities from 21 countries have applied to host the two London-based EU agencies, which will have to be relocated after Brexit, with Luxembourg throwing its hat in for the banking authority.

Magazine

Car-sharing's promise of clean cities

What if all cars in a city were replaced by a new form of public transport? A think tank modelled what would happen in Lisbon.

Fighting for young people's social future

Young people in the gig economy in big cities need 'one-stop shops', as pioneered in Rotterdam, to help them access all their rights - but that requires funding.

News in Brief

  1. EU to have coordinated plan on AI by December
  2. No UK election before Brexit, says May
  3. Former French PM wants to be mayor of Barcelona
  4. Merkel's wingman in surprise defeat in internal party vote
  5. Orban sends thank-you letters to supportive MEPs
  6. UN chief: World suffering from 'trust deficit disorder'
  7. Stalemate in Sweden as parliament ousts prime minister
  8. Migrant rescue ship heading to French port

Will the centre-right stand up for EU values?

Time for Christian Democrats in the EP to show where they stand on Hungary and on the EU's founding principles, say Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in a joint text.

Europe needs more modern leadership

If Europe wants to be a global leader, our political leadership has to change dramatically. Power needs a new face in Europe, and it needs to get legitimacy from the people, argues liberal MEP Sophie in 't Veld.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. World upside down as EU and Russia unite against US
  2. EU court delivers transparency blow on MEP expenses
  3. Russian with Malta passport in money-laundering probe
  4. Cyprus: Russia's EU weak link?
  5. Missing signature gaffe for Azerbaijan gas pipeline
  6. Every major city in Europe is getting warmer
  7. No chance of meeting EU renewable goals if infrastructure neglected
  8. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us