“Brick by brick” funders discuss effective strategies for social housing in Europe

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The cost of housing in most European countries has become simply unaffordable for many. With over 120 million people in the European Union at risk of poverty and social exclusion, a housing emergency in dire need of solutions is growing. Funders are increasingly looking to respond to the escalating demand for investment in solutions for people who are “locked out” of decent, affordable housing in Europe.

To explore these issues, the EFC hosted an informal expert conversation about social housing on 22 April that gathered together a number of funders involved in the development of housing strategies that not only focus on affordable housing but also provide sustainable and inclusive housing solutions that support the resilience of rural and urban communities.

Alice Pittini, Research Coordinator, European Federation of Public, Cooperative & Social Housing shared the key trends and highlights from the 2021 State of Housing in Europe report. Some key findings refer to the fact that in many European countries, 1 in 10 Europeans spend more than 40% of their income on housing. In urban areas, many people find themselves in extremely difficult situations, including very low-quality housing, living in overcrowded and overpriced places, and basically being unable to pay the bills. Covid-19 has made the importance of housing clearer than ever and has highlighted the scale housing inequality and the need for a long-term vision for  social housing.

Freek Spinnewijn, Director, European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA) talked about the housing first approach (as opposed to solving integration problems and then providing housing), gave a sharper picture of the homelessness issue in Europe, pointing out that poverty has remained fairly stable but homelessness has been increasing in the last 10 years. He explained why the social housing sector should have a deliberate focus on homeless people and collaboration opportunities, and introduced the Housing Solutions Platform, a joint initiative of FEANTSA, Fondation Abbé Pierre, Friends of Europe and Housing Europe that promotes innovative solutions for affordable housing in Europe.

The current state of the housing sector reflects an overall increase in homelessness around the EU; an increase in homelessness among young people and women; and the fact that the majority of EU countries do not deal well with homelessness. Among the best practices to tackle homelessness and other issues in the housing sector is the understanding that preventative measures should be implemented at the same time as measures that address already existing issues. The impact of Covid-19 on the sector encompasses among other things the fact that it led to the labelling of homelessness as a public health issue.

Speakers and participants underlined the fact that partnership is needed across a variety of sectors to increase availability of affordable housing and increase social cohesion and sustainability in local communities. The world of foundations is very diverse and so are the roles they can play. In some countries foundations are part of “registered” social housing providers (e.g. UK, NL, DE); support local initiatives by public or not-for-profit housing providers with donations or loans (e.g. the King Baudouin Foundation supporting Community Land Trusts – CLTs – in Brussels); go the “extra mile” in social housing neighbourhoods (e.g. role of banking foundations in Italy, supportive co-housing project by Fondazione Compagnia di San Paolo and ATC (the public body responsible for social and public housing in the area of Turin); and support research/knowledge and exchange of good practices (e.g. World Habitat Foundation).

There is a special momentum at the European level considering a number of flagship initiatives, such as the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Green Deal, but also the New European Bauhaus. Consequently, regardless of the approach they adopt, all relevant stakeholders at the European level should partner up and try to effect change together.

Read the full meeting report.

For more information contact Sevda Kilicalp.

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