The Housing Partnership was one of the first to be established within the framework of the Urban Agenda for the European Union. As stated in the Pact of Amsterdam, its ‘objectives are to have affordable housing of good quality. The focus will be on public affordable housing, state aid rules and general housing policy’. In taking up these issues, the Council acknowledged their relevance for the EU and its citizens, even though the EU does not have a direct mandate on housing. This made the work and outputs of the Housing Partnership special in many ways.
During an intense three-year work period from December 2015, the Housing Partnership analysed the challenges faced by Member States, regions, cities, and social and affordable housing providers throughout Europe, whether public, cooperative or private. The overall situation, 10 years after the world economy was hit by the Global Financial Crisis, is characterized by a continued lack of investment – both in new construction and in renovation of existing housing – and increasingly overheated and fragmented housing markets. The EU has more than 220 million households, and an alarming number 82 million citizens are overburdened by housing costs − many are even at risk of eviction. Cities, urban areas, regions and countries all over the EU are in need of a stable framework of conditions to ensure that their populations can find accessible and affordable housing. They are in search of solutions relating to the provision of new and for renewal of existing housing, finding building ground for affordable housing, developing inclusive neighbourhoods in partnership with citizens, and establishing housing schemes where none are yet available.
The EU can contribute to these efforts with legal and financial instruments and a sound monitoring of developments on all levels of government. We have seen that housing traditions vary greatly within the Union, and our partnership explored the variety of problems and solutions existing in the rich fabric of housing policies throughout EU cities, regions and countries, in order to identify the core issues for our work. Based on broad expertise and sound evidence, conclusions were drawn as how the EU can contribute to overcoming the housing crisis. A set of 13 substantial actions and recommendations by the Housing Partnership are described in the Action Plan of the Housing Partnership. We hope that it will also offer readers the chance to share the journey we undertook for three years to explore one of the most interesting fields of policy design for our citizens, as affordable, good quality housing is such a basic and fundamental precondition for a life in dignity and peace.