EU and housing – a contradictory attitude

While housing is not an EU competence threre are a number of areas where EU policies impact directly upon housing provision revealing in some cases insufficient consideration of the diversity of local consumer needs in the field of housing. And further more the EU Commission has with the so called Semesters issued recommendations to some countries to change their housing policy. These recommendations reveals  a troubling lack of knowledge of the social reality in these countries. You get the impression that the Commission just repeats the views of organisations of property owners and/or is supporting some political ideas within the governments. But you have never heard the Commission to advocate tenure neutrality or, expressed differently, to critize the uneven support from the state in many countries to home ownership compared to the rental sector, which hurts the competition between these tenure forms. For instance in Sweden homeownership is heavily subsidized while the rental sector on the contrary has no subsidies and only provide revenue to the state.

A stakeholder group which brings together expertise that know the social realities to contribute to an impact assessment of planned EU policies would help to avoid mistakes. You cannot leave the housing policy to economists and property owners, but must take into account the social realities. Housing policy is a socialeconomic issue.

And the situation in many countries is alarming. Housing costs could take 50-60 percent of the budgets of low income households. There are rising evictions. A half million in Spain since 2008. Big part of the housing buildings in many countries are energy ineffective and need renovation, but many household can not afford much higher rents. A shortage of good quality, decent and safe housing at affordable prices/rents and/or the inability of residents to afford the costs of maintanance contributes to social exclusion.

The housing policy is certainly not the competence of EU, but EU must take in to account the effects of the policy decisions. The experience so far underline the need of a more balanced approach and a better understanding of the social issues from the Commission.

 

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