A European Deal for Housing
The first panel brought together progressive politicians from different European cities presenting initiatives in their cities in order to tackle housing challenges.
Alison Gilliland, member of the Dublin City Council, explained that the multiple challenges she is facing in Dublin is trying to have a more inclusive approach for housing, avoiding segregation so as to also meet the needs of those who fall outside the eligibility criteria for housing aid.
Virginio Merola, Mayor of Bologna, mentioned how they are focussing on rent in Bologna, a problem that has been worsened by the pandemic. A fund for supporting rent payments has been set up and focus is also being put on social mobility, sustainability and intergenerational cohousing living.
Peter Florianschütz, Member of the Vienna City Council, detailed what Red Vienna stood for in a city where over 60% of citizens live in subsidised housing and how it is not seen as housing but rather as a basic right.
Jutta Steinruck, Lord Mayor of Ludwigshafen, explained that creating affordable housing was one of her main political priorities when she took office, more specifically providing enough housing at all different price levels and dealing with the problem of lack of space.
The second panel focused on what is demanded at European level in terms of housing.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Milan Ftáčnik, co-author of the FEPS study on "Concrete actions for Social and Affordable Housing in the EU", informed participants about the study that presents best practises coming from six countries and makes recommendations for the local, national and European level.
Estrella Durá Ferrandis, MEP (S&D) and shadow-rapporteur on "Access to decent and affordable housing for all", presented the main points of the EP draft report, focusing on the idea that, at European level, we need an integrated strategy for social public housing that is affordable.
Michaela Kauer, coordinator of the EU Urban Agenda Housing Partnership, pointed to the rising regional disparities that need to be urgently addressed and to the 'woman's face' of the housing crisis.
Enrico Rossi, former President of Tuscany region and the Committee's rapporteur on the "Renovation Wave", underlined how tackling the housing crisis is intrinsically linked with tackling the climate crisis and explained how the renovation wave can help us to 'build back better' and make our cities more sustainable and inclusive.
Karin Zauner-Lohmeyer, affordable housing activist, pointed to three fundamentals she identifies to reach a deal for housing in Europe: listen to the people, have courage and endurance in your political commitment and go back to the social democratic roots.
Concluding the event, Christophe Rouillon, President of the PES Group, underlined that progressive cities and regions will continue their fight for decent, affordable and sustainable housing for all.
Take away message
Against the backdrop of the financial, health and climate crisis, a growing number of citizens needs access to decent and affordable housing and we need to act urgently. Europe must give cities and regions actual means and funds to be able to change things on the ground through a tangible European Deal for housing. The Multiannual Financial Framework and the Recovery Plan must lay the foundations to build a new season of public investment to fix the housing crisis.
Estrella Durá Ferrandis, MEP (S&D, Spain):
The right to housing is a fundamental right and we would like the Commission and the Member States to ensure that housing is a cornerstone of European policy. The right to housing cannot mean access to social housing, we need a broader definition, like the UN's definition.
Virginio Merola, Mayor of Bologna (Italy) and PES Group member:
In my mandate this year, we have invested EUR 61 million in order to build social housing. That is a very important aspect because, when we talk about rent, we are talking about the most vulnerable people.
Peter Florianschütz, member of Vienna City Council (Austria) and PES Group member:
Supported homing is not just for people in a weaker economic position; it is a normal form of living. We do not see housing as part of a market but as a basic right for people.