Monday

28th May 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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny

Most refugee-related services are outsourced to the private sector and NGOs, which are not adequately monitored and evaluated. When governments and EU institutions provide funding for refugee projects, they should scrutinise the NGOs and private players they work with.

News in Brief

  1. Italy set to pick eurosceptic finance minister
  2. UK foreign minister fooled by Russian pranksters
  3. Rajoy ally gets 33 years in jail for corruption
  4. Close race as polls open in Irish abortion referendum
  5. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  6. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  7. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  8. UK households hit with Brexit income loss

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman requests more lending transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  11. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  12. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations