EU affordable housing policy essential for economic, environmental progress

eu affordable housing
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The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has called for immediate adoption across the EU of policies ensuring residents can access affordable housing.

The EESC hosted a public conference titled ‘Social housing: a service of general interest to guarantee decent, energy efficient and affordable accommodation for all?’ today, 4 December, in Brussels. Attendees at the event, which focused on the 19th pillar of the European Pillar of Social Rights – which states ‘access to social housing or housing assistance of good quality shall be provided for those in need’ – examined an array of current EU and Member State policies on social and affordable housing and expressed concern over the growing Europe-wide housing crisis; as well as the absence of a unified EU housing strategy.

Raymond Hencks, president of the EESC Temporary Study Group on Services of General Interest, said: “The right to housing is an international obligation of the Member States which the EU is bound to respect and is stated in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and in the Lisbon Treaty. It is the responsibility of the Union and the Member States to respect access to services of general economic interest, including the right to housing.”

Conference participants emphasised the need for a comprehensive joint European strategy to alleviate the housing crisis and highlighted the economic, environmental and social implications of subjecting increasing numbers of households to excessive housing costs. Affordable housing policy must not be restricted to particularly vulnerable communities and individuals, the conference said: with housing representing the single greatest household expense, action must be taken at a policy level to ensure the wider availability of housing which is affordable, high quality, energy efficient and suitable for family needs.

Pierre Jean Coulon, president of the EESC Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society (TEN), said: “There is no fight against climate change without the social dimension of housing. Better social housing is the guarantee of success in taking climate action: quality housing means a better life for citizens and this will bring about a successful climate transition.”

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