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.
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
National Recovery & Resilience Plans – What is at stake for local and regional authorities?
The last event of the URBAN Intergroup, which took place on May 21st, was dedicated to the National Recovery & Resilience Plans. In his introductory remarks, Jan Olbrycht, President of the URBAN Intergroup, underlined that the idea of this meeting was to discuss what is at stake for local and regional authorities in the preparation and implementation of those plans.
Anna Lisa Boni, Secretary General of EUROCITIES, presented an idea of having a structural dialogue with local and regional authorities and the European Commission especially in the monitoring face of the Recovery and Resilience Instrument. This dialogue would allow to check how investments go in line with EU priorities, partnership and subsidiarity principles. Moreover, in the context of mid-term review of NRR Plans, an idea to establish a city driven pan European project with strong added value was mentioned.
Fréderic Vallier, Secretary General of CEMR, welcomed the idea of having a structured dialogue. He pointed out that national recovery will be efficient if local and regional authorities are involved in the design and the implementation of recovery plans. He presented as well the outcome of a join study made with the Committee of the Regions which shows that consultation process was not organised correctly in all Member States and the involvement of local and regional governments was sufficient.
Eleni Marianou, Secretary General of CPMR, called as well to associate representatives of local and regional authorities to the ongoing structural dialogue between the Commission and the European Parliament. She pointed out that the need of complementarity between different instruments and funds willing to boost investment and recovery. The lack of strategic articulation between the investments to be founded via the RRF and cohesion policy funds 21-27 could jeopardize the capacity for regional authorities to best programme cohesion policy and contribute to investment priorities.
Online event on the urban dimension of cohesion policy 2021-2027
The last online seminar organised by the URBAN Intergroup on Friday 26 February was dedicated to the Urban dimension of cohesion policy 2021-2027. In her welcoming speech, Fabienne Keller, Vice-President of the URBAN Intergroup, underlined that the European Parliament played a central role in fighting for the urban dimension of cohesion policy.
Jan Olbrycht, President of the URBAN Intergroup, recalled that MEPs were struggling for years to get the urban dimension of different EU policies recognised, as urban issues are cross-sectorial. He stressed that “urban” is only one of the numerous dimensions of European policies.
The core of the seminar was shaped around the presentation given by a representative of the European Commission on the Urban dimension in the legal framework of cohesion policy for 2021-2027. In the Common Provisions Regulation (CPR), this dimension is mentioned explicitly at the level of 3 specific objectives (protection of nature, biodiversity, and green infrastructure, including in urban areas; urban mobility as well as security in urban areas).
The 5th policy objective, “A Europe closer to citizens”, has been specifically mentioned as it refers to sustainable and integrated development of all types of territories and local initiatives.
European towns and cities are waiting for the EU long-term budget
The URBAN Intergroup held an online seminar on the “Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 and Next Generation EU – State of play. What is at stake for local and regional authorities?” on Friday November 27th between 9:00 and 11:00.
Fabienne Keller, Vice-President of the URBAN Intergroup, welcomed all the participants by reminding that the MFF negotiations is a crucial moment because we define the EU budget for the next seven years. Currently it is even more crucial due to the crises that we are facing and an unprecedent Recovery Fund that should help European economies to recover. “Communities and cities in Europe expect a lot from European solidarity. We are aware that for example difficult neighbourhoods in our cities are particularly affected by the health crises. Pre-existed precariousness had exacerbated, such as difficulties in access to employment, housing or education. We must assure that local authorities, cities will benefit from European solidarity through the EU budget and recovery plan!” – she added.
Andreas Schieder, Vice-President of the URBAN Intergroup, in his introductory remarks underlined some elements of the MFF and Recover package. He highlighted the importance of the Recover and Resilience Facility, which aim is to give the answer to social and economic consequences of the COVID crises. He mentioned as well the rule of law mechanism, which is currently the most discussed issue, and the idea on new own resources of the EU budget.
“We all know that urban areas are in a specific situation. Economic and social crises are particularly effecting urban areas and local economies. Therefore, the EU funding is extremely important to support cities in facing all the challenges. Today, cultural industry or truism are strongly effected by lockdown and that is why Recovery and Resilience funding is so needed” he insisted.
High level policy session on urbanization and development
URBAN Intergroup held a high-level policy session on 11 November 2019 to explore reasons why sustainable urbanization was critical for development. It was co-organized by the European Commission and UN-Habitat.
The event brought together Members of the European Parliament, European Union Member State representatives, European Commission staff, UN agencies, development partners, think tanks and prominent thought leaders in global academia to discuss practicable recommendations and tools in using sustainable urbanization as driver of development.
Mr. Jan Olbrycht, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) set the stage by introducing the background to this policy session as originating from the pilote project “Supporting the Urban Dimension of Development Cooperation: Increasing financial capacities of cities from developing countries to deliver productive and sustainable urban development”. This project was requested by the European Parliament, financed by the European Union and implemented by UN-Habitat. He highlighted the urgent need to take the SDGs seriously instead of allowing the word sustainable become meaningless terminology.
This notion was re-emphasized by Mr. Felix Fernandez-Shaw, Director, Policy, Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development of the European Commission (DG DEVCO), who reminded the audience that the urban dimension is relevant to all of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, not only the dedicated goal SDG 11. Similarly, the priorities of the new European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen (Green Deal, Digital Technologies, Sustainable Growth and Jobs, Migration, Governance, Peace and Security) were all closely linked to developments in cities. He explained that the policy session event took place at an important moment, as the European Union is currently programming its next budget in the Multi-Annual Financial Framework 2021-27, and DG DEVCO prioritises geographical regional and country-level programmes, where sustainable urbanisation features as an important driver.
With special reference to Africa, key note speaker Sir Paul Professor Collier, CBE Fellow of the British Academy, University of Oxford, emphasized the need for effective investment in urbanization as a crucial driver for development and economic growth. “A good city puts in place physical and institutional infrastructure to attract firms,” he said, emphasizing that harnessing urbanization is the key prerequisite for African cities to become engines for productivity and livability. He underlined the urgency of investing in cities as Africa undergoes a surge of population growth and urbanization, and the need for investment is already enormous, hence if not undertaken now it will become completely unaffordable due to much higher costs of retrofitting the physical infrastructure to urban areas.