Housing is a precondition for achieving personal wellbeing, for social participation, for integrating into society and for contributing to a fair and inclusive society. It is a major element in our fight for a more social Europe: leaving no one behind also means leaving no one without a decent and affordable home! At the same time, it will be a key component of a truly European Green Deal through the upcoming Renovation Wave Strategy, which aims at scaling up the energy renovation of the building stock and at tackling energy poverty.
Local and regional politicians have experience in the provision of housing on a daily basis. They are also familiar with the difficulties coming from the lack of financing to actually build new dwellings or from conflicting EU legislations in policy areas linked to housing. These create obstacles for established schemes at local and regional level to support affordable and sustainable housing.
To tackle these challenges, progressive cities and regions have taken innovative actions and can inspire us with their initiatives. At the same time, through various initiatives, cities are partnering up. They are asking for Europe’s help in tackling the social, economic and sustainability aspects of the housing crisis, all of which have been exacerbated even more by the coronavirus pandemia.
As part of the European Week of Regions and Cities 2020, the PES Group workshop on A European Deal for Housing aimed to identify the obstacles met by local and regional politicians to finance affordable and sustainable housing through European funds (the cohesion funds, the recovery plan or InvestEU in particular) to identify progressive solutions and best practices, and to list core policy demands to European policy-makers that could feed into the European Parliament's report “Access to decent and affordable housing for all”.
A strong future cohesion policy and a European Deal for Housing need to go hand in hand!
The workshop was structured around two panels. It was moderated by Maria Freitas, Senior Policy Advisor for the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS).
This first panel brought together progressive politicians from different European cities presenting initiatives in their cities (also backed by EU funds) in order to tackle housing challenges like the structural shortage of affordable, public and social housing and the lack of public investments.
Alison Gilliland, Member of the Dublin City Council (Ireland) and PES Group member. She explained that the multiple challenges she is facing in Dublin is trying to have a more inclusive approach for housing, avoiding hence segregation so as to also meet the needs of those who fall outside the current eligibility criteria for housing aid.
Virginio Merola, Mayor of Bologna (Italy) and PES Group member. He mentioned inter alia how they are focussing on rent in Bologna, a problem that was already present but that has been worsened by the pandemic. A fund for supporting rent payments has been set up and focus is also being put on social mobility, sustainability and intergenerational cohousing living.
Peter Florianschütz, Member of the Vienna City Council (Austria), rapporteur of the European Committee of the Regions on “A European framework for regulatory responses to the collaborative economy”, and PES Group member. He detailed what Red Vienna stood for in a city where over 60 percent of citizens live in subsidised housing and how it is not seen as housing but rather as a basic right.
Jutta Steinruck, Lord mayor of Ludwigshafen (Germany). She explained that creating affordable housing was one of her main political priorities when she took office, more specifically providing enough housing at all different price levels and dealing with the problem of lack of space.
The second panel focused on what is demanded at European level in terms of housing, bringing together progressive politicians, experts and people who are in contact with the housing sector directly on the ground.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Milan Ftáčnik, co-author of the FEPS study on “Concrete actions for Social and Affordable Housing in the EU”. He informed participants about the study that presents best practises coming from six countries and makes recommendations at three levels: local, national and European, due to the important (and interlinked) role they all play in the process of creating better housing.
Estrella Durá Ferrandis, Member of the European Parliament (S&D/Spain) and shadow-rapporteur on “Access to decent and affordable housing for all”. She presented the main points of the EP draft report, focusing on the idea that we need at European level an integrated strategy for social public housing that is affordable and not segregated.
Michaela Kauer, Coordinator of the EU Urban Agenda Housing Partnership and Head of Brussels Office of the City of Vienna (Austria). She pointed to the rising regional disparities that need to be urgently addressed and to the 'woman's face' of the housing crisis.
Enrico Rossi, former President of Tuscany region (Italy) and rapporteur of the European Committee of the Regions on the “Renovation Wave”. He underlined how tackling the housing crisis is intrinsically linked with tackling the climate crisis and explained how the renovation wave can help us to 'build back better' and thereby make our cities more sustainable and inclusive.
Karin Zauner-Lohmeyer, affordable housing activist, "Housing for All". She summarized her contribution to the discussions into three fundamentals she identifies to reach a new deal for housing in Europe: listen to the people, have courage and endurance in your political commitment and go back to the roots as this sector is the result of a long a social democratic tradition.
Concluding the event, Christophe Rouillon, President of the PES Group in the CoR and Mayor of Coulaines (France), recalled that a political approach in the social housing sector is needed by taking it into account in the framework of the European Semester. Energy sustainability is also primordial and social ghettos must be eradicated. Progressive cities and regions will continue their fight for decent, affordable and sustainable housing for all and make sure that no one is left behind.
Alison Gilliland has been a Labour Party Councillor on Dublin City Council where she represents a large and very socio-economic diverse suburban Dublin area since 2014. Alison is the Chairperson of Dublin City Council's Strategic Policy Committee on Housing. Under her leadership the Committee is striving to shift Dublin City Council housing policy to a more inclusive and sustainable public housing model that is less reliant on the private rental market as is currently the case for those middle income earners and those on social housing waiting lists. Alison has a background in teaching and works as a trade union official with responsibility for member professional development, union officer training and equality with the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO). She was awarded a doctorate qualification for her research into young teachers’ union activism and their concept of teacher professionalism. She has been a member of the European Committee of the Regions since January 2020.
Photo credits: flickr/The Irish Labour Party
Since 2007, Peter Florianschütz has been a member of the State Parliament and of the Local Council of Vienna. He has been a member of the European Committee of the Regions since 2016 and was rapporteur on a ‟European framework for regulatory responses to the collaborative economy”. Peter Florianschütz has been a member of the Vienna housing committee and was responsible for issues related to the management of public housing. From 2000 to 2007, he was a councillor in the district of Favoriten. He also works for the Austrian Trade Union Federation and the Chamber of Labor in Vienna. Florianschütz has studied legal studies, political science and human rights in Vienna and Krems.
Mayor of Bologna since 2011, Virginio Merola graduated in Philosophy from the University of Bologna. He first worked for “Società Autostrade” (a company responsible in particular for the management of Italian highways) and later served as a representative and manager within the transportation sector of the Italian trade union CGIL (“Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro” in Italian). In 1989, he became the Regional Secretary of “Lega delle Autonomie locali”, an association of Italian municipalities, provinces and regions that provides support to local governments. Merola's official political career began in 1995 when he was elected President of the “Quartiere Savena” (Savena district) in Bologna, serving two terms. In 2004, Merola became a member of the City Council in charge of Urban Planning, Spatial Planning and Housing. He has been a member of the European Committee of the Regions since 2019.
Christophe Rouillon is the Mayor of Coulaines, the Second Vice-President of the Le Mans Métropole (responsible for budget and European funds), the Vice-President of the Association of French Mayors (responsible for Europe) and, since October 2019, the President of the PES Group in the European Committee of the Regions. Member of the European Committee of the Regions since 2005, he was the Group's First Vice-President from 2017 to 2019. Rouillon studied Public Law and Political Science at the Universities of Sorbonne and Paris 2-Assas and holds a Degree in Public Law from the University of Maine Le Mans. He also completed the Aspen programme for young politicians and postgraduate studies in European studies at the National School of Administration. In 2001, at the age of 34, he was elected Mayor of Coulaines, and was reconfirmed in this position in the 2004, 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2020 local elections. As member of the European Committee of the Regions, Christophe Rouillon has been rapporteur on several key dossiers, including “Reconnecting Europe with its citizens: more and better communication at local level”, “Deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union” and “Towards a more efficient and democratic decision making in EU tax policy”. He is currently the rapporteur on the “Recovery and resilience facility”.
Maria Freitas works as a Senior Policy Advisor at the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), the only progressive think tank at the EU-level. She is responsible for the issues of democratic participation, extremism and new political movements. At FEPS, she also leads the Millennial Dialogue, a global youth engagement initiative that aims at creating a better understanding of the priorities and values of the Millennial generation and of their interactions with politics, political systems and institutions. Maria Freitas holds a law degree from the Lisbon University and a Master of Arts in European Political Studies from the College of Europe.
Enrico Rossi has been the president of the Tuscany region since 2010. He was born into a working-class family in 1958 and graduated with a degree in philosophy in 1982. In 1985, he was appointed as deputy mayor and council member of the municipality of Pontedera, and later served as mayor of Pontedera from 1990 to 1999. In 2000, Enrico Rossi was elected as a member of the Regional Council of Tuscany and served as the regional minister for health for ten years. As a member of the Partito Democratico since its inception in 2007, Enrico Rossi was elected as president of Tuscany in 2010, and re-elected in 2015. He has been a member of the European Committee of the Regions since 2015 and has been the rapporteur on the "European Union programme for social change and innovation", the "Youth Employment Package", and "A Council Recommendation for the integration of the long-term unemployed". He is currently the CoR rapporteur on the “Renovation Wave”.
Karin Zauner-Lohmeyer has been working for more than 18 years for the City Administration of Vienna and, since 2012, at „Wiener Wohnen“, the largest public housing provider in Europe. As the head of the "Social Management" department, she leads a team that deals with the tenants' needs, focussing on eviction prevention, social research and international knowledge-exchange. As an individual, she launched the European Citizens' Initiative "Housing for All” with friends in 2019. This initiative has succeeded in making the housing crisis visible at European level and in raising awareness for affordable and social housing within EU institutions. “Housing for All” has also established an EU-wide network of organizations fighting for the right to housing. Karin Zauner-Lohmeyer was born in the Austrian province of Styria and lives in Vienna. She has a PhD in Media Science and also acquired an education as a forester.
Photo credits: Daniel Shaked
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Milan Ftáčnik (Bratislava, Slovakia, 1956) is an associate professor at the Department of Applied informatics on Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Informatics in Comenius University, Bratislava, where he works since graduation in 1980 and where he got his PhD. in 1987. His teaching and research area is image processing and computer science. After the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 he jumped into national politics and served as Member of the National Council of Slovak Republic (the national parliament) from 1990 to 2002 active in the Committee for Education and Research and Committee for European Affairs. In the years 1998-2002 he served as the Minister of Education of Slovak Republic. In 2006 he entered local politics and was elected as the Mayor of Petržalka, the biggest city district of the capital Bratislava. In 2010 he was elected as the Lord Mayor of Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. He also served for 8 years as the Deputy of the City Council of Bratislava and 8 years as the Deputy of the Regional parliament of Bratislava-region. Since 2015 he is the President of the Slovak Society of Computer Science and member of the Board of Directors of the Council of European Professional Information Societies. Since 2019 he is the Chairman of the Council for smart solutions and innovations advocating the idea of smart cities and regions. In 2018 he served as an expert guarantee for the FES project “More affordable rental housing in Slovakia, how to achieve that?”
Michaela Kauer has a long work experience with the City of Vienna, where she occupied different posts throughout her career. Starting in 1992 as the Spokesperson of the City Councillor for Housing and Urban Renewal, she moved on to work for the cabinet of the City Councillor for Women's Rights, Integration and Consumer Protection for more than 10 years. In 2005, she was appointed as the Head of Cabinet of the City Councillor for Health and Social Affairs, a post she occupied until 2009 when she took on the post of director at the city´s EU Liaison Office in Brussels. The office has a leading role in Vienna´s EU affairs with a strong focus on urban policy, public services (especially in energy, mobility and housing) and long term public investments as well as governance related issues. Michaela Kauer represents Vienna in the Executive Committee of EUROCITIES and works closely with the European Committee of the Regions. She served as Coordinator of the EU Urban Partnership on Affordable Housing from 2015-2018 and is the Common qRepresentative of the Austrian provinces on the Urban Agenda for the EU. She has an academic background in international public management and regularly talks and publishes on public, urban, housing and gender policy. She teaches with great joy at the University of Applied Studies in Burgenland and in other institutions.
Photo credits: Sebastian Philipp
From 2009 – 2017, Jutta Steinruck was a member of the European Parliament and of its Employment and Social Affairs Committee (EMPL). Her work focuses on the labour market as well as on social policy and she is particularly committed to building a more social Europe. Since 2018, she has been the Lord Mayor of Ludwigshafen am Rhein, the second largest city in the Rhineland-Palatinate region.
Photo credits: Stadt Ludwigshafen
Estrella Durà Ferrandis is a Spanish member of the European Parliament (S&D Group). She is currently the shadow rapporteur for the report on “Access to decent and affordable housing for all”. She is also a Professor at the University of Valencia in the Department of Personality, Evaluation and Psychological Treatments. She is an expert in social policy programmes that aim at improving the quality of life and social welfare of vulnerable groups.
Panel moderated by Maria Freitas, Policy Advisor, Foundation for European Progressive Studies
Peter Florianschütz, Member of the Vienna City Council (Austria) and PES Group member
Alison Gilliland, Member of the Dublin City Council (Ireland) and PES Group member
Virginio Merola, Mayor of Bologna (Italy) and PES Group member
Jutta Steinruck, Lord mayor of Ludwigshafen (Germany)
Panel moderated by Maria Freitas, Policy Advisor, Foundation for European Progressive Studies
Estrella Durá Ferrandis, Member of the European Parliament (S&D/Spain) and shadow-rapporteur on “Access to decent and affordable housing for all”
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Milan Ftáčnik, co-author of the FEPS study on “Concrete actions for Social and Affordable Housing in the EU”
Michaela Kauer, Coordinator of the EU Urban Agenda Housing Partnership and Head of Brussels Office of the City of Vienna (Austria)
Enrico Rossi, Former President of Tuscany region (Italy) and rapporteur of the European Committee of the Regions on the “Renovation Wave”
Karin Zauner-Lohmeyer, affordable housing activist, "Housing for All"
Christophe Rouillon, President of the PES Group and Mayor of Coulaines (France)