I was invited to PES Congress in Rome 28/2-1/3 as president of the International Union of Tenants (IUT). And I was disappointed at how the housing issue was addressed during the Congress and in the Manifesto. In spite of the fact that the EU Commission has had opinions about the housing policy in several countries and also in fact decided upon the housing policy in the Netherlands the Manfesto and the Right to Housing is one of the fundamental human rights the PES Congress just mentioned housing in one sentence. In spite of the fact that
”Housing finance policies based on credit for homeownership are inherently discriminatory against lower-income households and, at their best, promote affordable access for upper- and middle-income groups. Housing finance policies often ”redline” the poor, who are required to pay much higher prices for financial services, exposing them to financial risks and indebtedness. At the same time, housing finance policies tend to focus solely on access to a roof while failing to effectively and comprehensively address the various elements of the right to adequate housing: location, access to infrastructure and services, habitability, cultural adequacy and security of tenure. At the macro level, the disproportionate use of such policies has contributed to price volatility and to the ongoing housing affordability and availability crises.” Raquel Rolnik, UN Special Rapporteur on Housing, 2013
and the fact that the financial crises has it’s origin from large subsidies and subprime loans to house-owners together with an excessive and unregulated financial market, the Manifesto focused solely on the financial sector as such. The manifesto demanded that the financial sector should be put in the service of the citizens and the real economy. The rescue of the banks has cost 1, 6 trillion euro of taxpayers money, why the Manifesto rightly demanded regulation of the banking sector, curbing of financial speculation and implement adequate firewalls between Commercial and Investment Banking plus a Financial Transaction Tax. All that is okay with me. But why not mention the problems caused by huge subsidies to a market with free price setting?
Well, you might say that the housing policy is not anything for EU to decide upon. But the parties within PES should announce what one of the big financial and housing problems is today: the huge subsidies to house-owners and not some countries support to social and affordable housing. The EU Commission has so far only decided that the Netherlands should diminish the social housing sector and not decided that the same country should decrease the huge subsidies to house-owners which of course hampers the development of the private rented sector.
PES should have listened to the Mayors from 30 big cities within EU (except London and Stockholm):
”The European Union and all its players should therefore respect the responsibilities of the aforementioned political levels because it is indispensable for EU member states and their regional and local authorities to independently determine the criteria for social housing in line with the principle of subsidiarity. This is the only way to react to local requirements and needs in a flexible manner. The development in some European cities has shown that a strict regulation of access criteria to social housing jeopardises the housing supply for certain population groups.”
Why didn’t the PES Congress expressed support of the Resolution from these Mayors?