Perspectives on lasting housing solutions for the homeless after covid-19
On 29th January 2021, the Housing Solutions Platform hosted a debate on housing perspective for lowest income groups in the context of the covid-19. The debate was hosted by Kim van Sparrentak, the European Parliament rapporteur on access to adequate and affordable housing.
The first panel presented an overview of housing market trends before and after the covid. Willem Adema, senior economist at the OECD, gave a global overview of housing market trends and explained some of the most commons governmental mechanisms to mitigate the impact of the covid crisis on the housing market for lowest income groups. He showed that, pre covid, more than half of low-income renters were spending over 40% of their disposable income on housing; homelessness rates were rising in many countries, while public investment in housing had decreased.
Cara Pacitti, from the UK Resolution Foundation presented an overview of housing trends and policy in the UK during the pandemic, highlighting the concerns for the future in terms of further income shocks, limitations to government support options and in future bleak perspectives for the employment market .
Chloé Serme-Morin (FEANTSA) and Sarah Coupechoux (Fondation Abbé Pierre) presnetation's focused on the European perspective, drawing from the "Fifth overview of housing exclusion report" (2020). They depicted the EU wide housing crisis and increasing housing inequalities (widening housing costs gap between poor & non-poor households). In the last 10 years in the EU, total housing costs have been rising by 21% for poor tenants. They also shared some good practices in housing solutions, such as social housing, self-restoration of unfit housing, use of vacant housing, etc. To finish with, they recalled the key elements of an integrated strategy to fight homelessness, starting with housing first.
The second panel went on to highlight solutions. It started with the input from Martine Chanal (metropole of Lyon) where he the housing situation was tensed, even before covid with 70 000 ongoing requests for social housing, 9 000 new allocation of social housing each year (this figure even decreased in 2020) and 5 000 social housing units built each year. Despite the rough situation, the metropole de Lyon opted for an ambitious strategy aiming to divide the number of homeless people by two within 5 years. Martine Chanal also explained how the covid created an opportunity to improve policy action to house the homeless, through the "zero return to the street" plan. The plan started with the emergency icrease of temporary urbanism solutions, the mobilisation of the private housing stock and support to households.
Natalia Rogaczewska, Chair of the Housing Europe Social Affairs Working Committee, spoke of the decisive role of Social housing providers in housing the most vulnerable groups, especially in the covid context, that should be a "wake-up call", warning that 2021 "can be a watershed moment for battling homelessness". She insisted also on prevention, as the best way to fight homelessness, highlighting how social and affordable housing companies offer housing to people who would otherwise be excluded from the private market.