HSP Debates: How to finance prevention of homelessness through European funds?
Homelessness is a growing reality in Europe, with more and more people experiencing extreme vulnerability and struggling to find affordable housing. In response to this crisis, MEP Kim van Sparrentak hosted an event at the European Parliament on March 27, 2023, to discuss how European funds could be used to prevent and address homelessness. The session was attended by housing experts and policy makers, who called for better access to EU financing for grassroots associations and cities in combatting homelessness and housing exclusion.
Successful initiatives of local projects from various countries were discussed during the session. For example, the Housing First initiative in Austria and Denmark's housing advisors have both been successful in providing integrated support to those in need of affordable housing. Housing Europe's project of 1300 affordable houses in Poland was guaranteed by the Juncker Plan with the European Investment Bank, and the Czech Republic has implemented Housing First with European funds (ESF+). In Germany, the IBWA provides legal rental contracts and all-in-one housing options that address chronic health issues, offering a solution for the homeless.
Alison Harvey, representing the Irish Heritage Council, mentioned data gaps and systemic problems in acquiring funding, as key challenges in the mobilisation of vacant building for affordable housing. She referred to the Collaborative Town Centre Health Check (CTCHC) Programme she set up in 2016, to raise awareness, understanding and appreciation of the critical role that historic town centres play. Alice Pittini, for the Housing Europe Observatory, called on policymakers to understand the reasons behind vacant homes and adapt the tools to deal with them in the local context. This involves ensuring that the definition of vacant homes is fit for purpose and looking at clusters and district renovation.
The greater Lyon was represented by Renaud Payre, who presented how municipality contacted owners to buy and renovate vacant houses to rent them out as affordable housing. It is a long-term investment strategy, and Lyon and other cities are calling for mobilisation for the transformation of vacant housing, drawing on funds from the ESF+ instrument. However, the problem of identifying vacant properties persists due to data protection issues. These have been addressed by specific authorisations as the French pilot programme “Zéro logement vacant” digital tool that enables access to national tax and property data, or the Greek Thessaloniki example that used data from the electricity disconnection of the Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network Operator.
Overall, it is essential to tailor funding to local realities, including smaller municipalities. Sarah Coupechoux from Fondation Abbé Pierre concluded that European funds could be decisive to support local action in providing social and affordable housing. The critical role that European funds play in addressing homelessness and housing exclusion must be recognised and further developed. With collaboration, perseverance, and personal networks, successful projects can be implemented, leading to better access to housing and improved quality of life for those in need.
Access the presentations below