Plea for Europe's billions
The European Parliament could be forced to release hundreds of billions of pounds for social housing, following a two-pronged attack from MEPs and local authorities across the continent.
The money would enable member states to regenerate housing estates and build new homes.Current rules strictly limit the use of the European structural funds – worth more than £200 billion over the next six years – to new member states for specific, mostly non-housing projects.
But Italian MEP Alfonso Andria is tabling an amendment to European Union laws calling for the funds to be open to all 27 member states. The money is needed to help tackle community cohesion problems, he argues.
An early draft translation of Mr Andria's amendment, seen by Inside Housing, says the funding should be opened up because housing need is ‘a critical factor for Europe as a whole'.‘[The funds] should be extended to all the countries in the union because the problems exist everywhere,' he told a social housing conference in Brussels last week.
‘There have been recent examples of the difficulties which have encouraged us to tackle this issue,' he added. ‘One of the most marked examples were the riots in Paris.'
And the Committee of the Regions, a European-wide umbrella group for local and regional authorities, is finalising a statement to go before the parliament aimed at pushing social housing up the EU agenda.
‘The EU cannot constantly ignore the concerns of EU citizens regarding housing as a major element in the growth and productivity agenda,' the draft document states.
Flo Clucas, a Liverpool councillor who is helping draw up the Committee of the Regions statement, said that in the long term structural funds would become available for social housing in all member states. ‘I think it will come to a point where there will be no choice in that,' she said.
‘A lot of states will face [housing] market failure, and many at the same time, and that will need funding.' ‘We have an opportunity to begin to shape the policies, not necessarily for today but for tomorrow,' she added.
Brian Rowntree, vice-president of European social housing lobby group CECODHAS and chair of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, said any European cash must be ring-fenced and used as additional, not replacement, funding. ‘Any intervention by the EU in terms of [funding] must be targeted to those areas in most need. [This will] add value to community enhancement projects by bringing social housing and its associated environment in line with economic and people development programmes.'