Recent years have seen a boom in the housing industry. For millions across the European Union this has given them the opportunity to own, for the very first time in their lives, a piece of property and their very own house. Many however have not been able to share in this housing boom and remain homeless. This issue is a major challenge for the EU and a new Europe-wide project aims to improve monitoring and policies on this issue.
Homelessness is one of the key societal problems facing the countries of the European Union. The priority is such that it has been targeted as part of the EU's social protection and social inclusion strategy. As a result, over EUR 665 000 have been granted to researchers in Town and Regional Planning at the University of Dundee. They will spearhead a major project to improve monitoring of homelessness and homeless policies across the EU.
The MPHASIS project stands for 'Mutual Progress on Homelessness through Advancing and Strengthening Information Systems'. This two-year project will be coordinated by Bill Edgar and Barbara Illsley of the University of Dundee and involves 20 countries. 'Homelessness and housing exclusion is a problem seen right across the European Union and we need to develop strategies to help combat it across all the differing cultures and societies we see across the Continent; but these strategies need to be evidence based,' said Bill Edgar, who is based in Town and Regional Planning at the University.
MPHASIS will serve to facilitate discussions by providing a European perspective as well as information on homelessness measurement methods used in different EU countries. 'To fully tackle the problem, you need to have a grasp of how many people are homeless or at risk of housing exclusion and understand their social profile,' continued Edgar. 'The main focus of this project is to promote mutual learning and knowledge transfer and to build the capacity of countries to collect reliable information on the nature of the problem, the groups affected and the trends involved. Only in this way can sensible strategies be developed.'The project follows on from earlier homelessness projects carried out by Bill Edgar and colleagues in Town and Regional Planning and will be funded by the office of the EU’s Directorate-General for Employment and Social Affairs.
Edgar also commented that existing systems that are aimed to tackle homelessness and housing shortages vary across the continent. 'The southern European countries are still playing catch-up in terms of developed housing policy and homelessness strategies,' he said. 'There is also a lot of poor housing in some of the former Eastern Bloc countries. A UN study in Romania, for example, showed that without immediate investment something like 40% of their housing stock won’t be fit for habitation by 2015.'