Last event on the EU´s Affordable Housing Initiative
The URBAN Intergroup had a pleasure to co-organise with the Housing Partnership of the Urban Agenda for the EU an online seminar on “the Affordable Housing Initiative – Co-creation of liveable neighbourhoods with cities and citizens” on Friday, September 17th.
In his introductory speech, Andreas Schieder, Vice-president of the URBAN Intergroup, underlined that affordable housing has become a pressing issue. More and more people are searching for an affordable place to live and accommodation is more and more expensive: that is why the EU, national and local policies can contribute to find solutions to tackle holistically housing issues. Exchanging new solutions and ideas is key.
As former coordinator of the Housing Partnership, Michaela Kauer, Director of the Brussels Office of the City of Vienna, set the scene of housing in Europe and presented findings of the UAEU Partnership, which was conducted between 2015 and 2018. She highlighted that the support of the European Parliament and the URBAN Intergroup was key to set up the whole EU Urban Agenda process. Moreover, she reminded how partners advocated since 2019 the promotion and implementation of the Partnership’s policy recommendations for better regulation, better funding and better knowledge.
Elena Szolgayová, former coordinator of the Partnership from the Slovak Ministry for Construction and Co-Chair of the Housing 2030 project, presented the joint initiative of UNECE (The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe), UN-Habitat and Housing Europe with a focus on affordable and social housing and housing finances. “Housing 2030” works in 4 fields such as housing governance and regulation (including measuring housing affordability), access to finance and funding, access and availability of land for housing construction and climate-neutral housing construction and renovation. She summarised findings of “Housing 2030” project and announced upcoming launch of the final report.
The keynote speech delivered by Anna Athanasopoulou, Head of Unit from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, focused on state of play of the Affordable Housing Initiative. She reminded participants that this initiative was launched in October 2020 as part of the Renovation Wave Strategy of the European Commission. It will pilot the renovation of 100 lighthouse social and affordable housing districts following an integrated approach. The first step of the initiative will focus on the creation of an EU-level partnership between representatives of the construction sector, the social housing sector, cultural associations, public authorities, financial institutions, investors and inhabitants.
The second part of the webinar focused on best practices on how cities and citizens co-create liveable neighbourhoods. The Public Housing Fund of the Municipality of Ljubljana was presented by its Director, Saso Rink, who pointed out that the governance context was important to enable social and affordable housing production. Linda Schneider than shared the example of the city of Vienna on the upscaling of a successful EU-funded neighbourhood development project, “Smarter Together” to “WieNeu+”. Barbara Steenbergen, Director of the Brussels Office of the International Union of Tenants, highlighted the importance of corporate social responsibility in housing by presenting the European Responsible Housing Initiative. This initiative was a project implemented by DELPHIS, Housing Europe and International Union of Tenants between 2013 and 2014, and co-funded by the European Commission (DG Enterprise). The Initiative developed a code of conduct as an agreement between the social and affordable housing industry and tenants and residents signed at the European level in order to guide and commit responsible housing providers to integrate corporate social responsibility principles into their business strategy and translate them into concrete practices. The European Responsible Housing Awards are way to implement the code of conduct and reward its application. This prize identifies the most social, progressive, fair and responsible housing projects all over Europe.
The event has been concluded by an presentation of Andrea Colantonio from the European Investment Bank on its approach to housing financing in the context of urban development. During the debate, participants acknowledged different loans possibilities. They however underlined the necessity for more direct subsidies for cities to provide more social and affordable housing.
Jan Olbrycht, President of the URBAN Intergroup, reminded participants at the end of the seminar that the debate on housing has a long history inside the EU institutions: a repetitive question is whether this is only a national issue due to subsidiarity or not. He paid tribute to the UAEU Housing Partnership and all its partners, as well as to organisations dealing with housing issues for their extremely good work delivered during years. He underlined that consequences of the UAEU Partnership can be seen in flourishing of other forms of “partnerships” which are developing at EU level to tackle different aspects of housing issues.
Housing challenges in the EU – Presentation of Michaela Kauer, coordinators of the UAEU Housing Partnership 2015-2018, and Elena Szolgayová, Co-Chair of the Housing 2030 project
The European Responsible Housing Initiative – Presentation of Barbara Steenbergen, Director of Brussels Office of the International Union of Tenants