The 7th meeting of the Housing partnership in Amsterdam took place in the frame of the International Social Housing Festival and showed important progress in the delivery of measures for more supply of affordable housing in Europe. Members had the opportunity to exchange with Alderman Laurens Ivens, responsible for housing in the City of Amsterdam. The meeting was generously hosted by two important social housing cooperatives whose CEOs, Mieke van de Berg (Eigen Haard) and Hester van Buren (Rochdale) gave insights into their daily work and challenges from practitioners´ side. As the City of Amsterdam coordinates another Urban Partnership on the Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees, the meeting also offered the occasion to exchange views on common points.
Housing Partnership to deliver Policy Toolkit for Affordable Housing in Cities
One of the core projects of the Housing Partnership is to provide decision makers on local, regional, national and EU level with a “Toolkit for Affordable Housing Policy in Cities”. A first outline was presented by Alice Pittini from Housing Europe, who have the developed the idea on a pro-bono basis and using open-source tools. The aim is to highlight around 30 projects as good practice examples for affordable housing policies in cities in the context of the respective governance system in order to enable mutual capacity building. Examples will therefore provide details on the legal and institutional (i.e. governance) context including the geographical level of implementation. The categories of the European Responsible Housing Award could be a blueprint for the further development of the toolkit. The summer will be used to liaise back with cities in order to secure that the tool is valuable for practitioners and legislators.
Innovative Funding for Affordable Housing in old and new Member States
The Dutch Government provided the EU Urban Partnerships with funding for consultancy and support. In the case of the Housing Partnership, this was used to undertake two research projects to explore innovative housing financing in the old and new member states. The Partnership meeting in Amsterdam was given reports on the first findings of these studies. The evidence review by Glasgow University for the old member states identified the main obstacles to affordable housing supply delivery such as: scarce mortgage finance, government financial austerity programmes, global financial crisis, state aid rules, and others. The main problems identified here were the price of land, a general reluctance to build social housing, the capacity of the building sector, a lack of government initiative to build affordable housing, a lack of rent regulation / rent control, depopulation in some areas, the costs of energy efficiency investment. In parallel, the Metropolitan Research Institute in Budapest delivered the first findings of their research on the situation in the new member states. Generally, the evidence shows that there has been little intervention in terms of funding, and historically, a large proportion of subsidies have gone to owner-occupiers and private tenants. In the discussion there was a focus on the use of cooperatives as a potential solution to issues of affordability. The final results of both studies will be presented at the next Partnership meeting in Glasgow in September.
Update on latest developments in the SGEI context
After the work on the “Guidance Paper on EU regulation and public support for housing” completed at the March meeting of the Partnership in Brussels, new developments were reported related to the SGEI issue. It was noted that interviews carried out for the Member States reports on Services of General Economic Interest (SGEI) showed again a lack of clarity on how SGEI should be applied to social housing at a local level. Furthermore, members took note of the response to a written question by MEP Agnes Jongerius (NL) on when the review of SGEI would take place. The European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, had answered that social mixity and social cohesion were acceptable public policy objectives for which State aid may be granted under the 2012 SGEI Decision. The Commissioner did not confirm when the revision of the SGEI definition of social housing was going to take place.