Universal access to housing that is decent, sustainable and affordable over the long term

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EESC opinion: Universal access to housing that is decent, sustainable and affordable over the long term

Key points:

  • The health, economic and social crisis of COVID-19 has intensified the severity of the affordable housing crisis that Member States have been facing for years. Although housing policy remains the competence of the Member States, the shortage of decent and affordable housing in the EU requires a European action plan on housing that includes a comprehensive set of measures, which are easy for people to understand, to help Member States, regions and cities in Europe to sustainably boost the supply of social and affordable housing.
  • The EU must, first of all, ensure that a real universal right to housing is enshrined, particularly acting by means of a sector-specific regulation under the ordinary legislative procedure, to establish the principles and set the conditions for providing, commissioning and funding affordable and decent housing, in accordance with Article 14 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.
  • In this regard, the EESC welcomes the Commission's initiative to establish a link between the European Pillar of Social Rights and the European Semester, which, in the area of housing policy, should lead to better monitoring of social housing reform, of the accessibility and affordability of housing and of the effectiveness of housing benefits.
  • The creation of a "European fund for investment in affordable, decent and suitable housing", aimed at creating and maintaining low-cost housing, would enable the EU to make its actions and policies clearer and more consistent for Europeans, particularly in the context of the buildings plan to be rolled out under the Green Deal, and the future European Pillar of Social Rights action plan.
  • The European Commission will have to carry out a review of the Decision on Services of General Economic Interest regarding the target group for social housing as soon as possible, and specify that housing policy must not be restricted to assisting people at risk of poverty, but must ensure decent housing that is accessible and affordable over the long term for everyone. In this context, the Commission should propose a common definition of excessive housing costs, a harmonised method for assessing those costs, a statutory regulation against speculative hoarding of empty dwellings and residential land and a framework for the practice of converting affordable housing into short-term tourist accommodation.
  • Finally, the EESC calls on the Commission to organise an annual EU summit on affordable housing bringing together all those involved in implementing and monitoring this European action plan on affordable housing, based on an annual report on the state of housing in the EU.