IUT and the EU
The European Union is an important arena for IUT. Even if housing is not part of the direct competences of the union, there are many EU policies that affect the housing sector.
In 2008 IUT opened its liaison office to the EU in Brussels, and throughout the years IUT’s lobby work in Brussels has made IUT a well-known actor in the EU capital. IUT serves as expert in the relevant committees and working groups of the EU institutions and is formal member of the EU Urban Agenda Housing Partnership, a high level stakeholder group set up in 2016-2019 by the EU commission and the EU member states to review EU legislation for better funding, better knowledge and capacity building in the field of affordable and social housing. The Committee of the Regions issued a paper Towards a European Agenda and highlights the increasing impact of EU policies and rules on the conditions under which Member State and regional and local authority housing policies are put into practice.
Although housing as such is not an EU competence, and it is up to the EU member states, regions and cities to decide and create laws, a number of EU topics have great influence on national housing policies, such as state aid regulations for social housing, the EU stability pact, and energy policy.
Therefore IUT is a partner in the Urban Intergroup which is a cross-parties and cross-committees grouping with a horizontal approach to discussing urban-related issues. They bring together over 89 MEPs representing most EU Member States, all the political groups at the European Parliament, and working in all the parliamentary committees. They work with 118 partners from the local, regional, national and European level that represent the interests of Europe’s town and cities or work in the domain relevant for urban development.
IUT’s vision of Europe is one where all citizens have a home that they can easily afford. Housing constitutes a fundamental right for all to participate in our society. Secure, affordable and healthy housing is a precondition to access education, employment, and genuine social security.
The social and affordable housing sector contributes actively to the Europe 2020 goals as it has the capacity to create growth and jobs, and thereby contribute to sustainable local economies, combat poverty and social exclusion and work against climate change and energy poverty. EU legislation affecting housing policies, therefore, has a direct effect on the lives of European households. IUT continues to advocate the principle of subsidiarity and for member states to make their own decisions concerning housing policy.
IUT plans to continue its activities in raising awareness on the increasing housing costs for tenants, which has a negative influence on the entire economy.
“Ensure affordability and lower housing costs” will be the central message towards EU decision makers. Increasing public financing from EU funds and a favourable legislative framework for affordable housing will contribute to the provision of more affordable and social housing in the member states. IUT will support social and affordable housing projects, urban regeneration and investment in deprived communities. Tenants’ empowerment and structured tenant participation in decision making concerning their living environment are key to create inclusive and strong neighbourhoods.
The European Commission is the Executive of the European Union. It has 53 departments and executive agencies. IUT follows the work of the departments which may have an influence on housing issues, including:
- DG Regio (Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy)
- DG Comp (Competition)
- DG Empl (Employment, social affairs and inclusion)
- DG Ener (Energy)
- DG Eurostat (European statistics)
- DG Home (Migration and Home Affairs)
The forthcoming consultations by the European Commission are listed here. For our members, the IUT provides in depth and exclusive information about the ongoing and upcoming legislation.
The main EU policy areas for the IUT are (see the respective page for further description):
- Energy policy
- EU Urban Agenda and EU Housing Partnership
- European Responsible Housing Initiative (ERHIN) and ERHIN awards
- European Pillar of social rights
- European Semester, and Country Specific Recommendations, EU stability pact
- Social Housing and state aid
- EU funding for Housing (structural funds)
Background about the EU and Housing Policy
A non-EU competence
The European housing policy is not formally on the political agenda of the European Union.
The responsibility for the aims and practical means in housing policy rests with the individual Member States themselves. This policy is referred to as the principle of subsidiarity.
Nevertheless, according to the Amsterdam Treaty, Article 136, the Community and the Member States shall have as their objectives, for example, the promotion of improved living and working conditions, and the combating of exclusion.The principle of subsidiarity cover important areas as;
- New constructions, and subsidies
- Reconstruction, and subsidies
- Fiscal policies
- Rent Act
- City planning
- Building permits
But, in reality, the work of The European Union does include areas which are of major interest and significance for urban areas and for housing;
- homelessness and social exclusion, building control and standardisation
- the demand for non-restriction of competition
- rules which facilitate the flexibility of households
- rules that ensure everyone’s right to settle down within the EU
- legal provisions for banks and mortgage institutes – to assure equal conditions
- research and scientific programmes on sustainable urban planning
Regional Policy is the EU’s main investment policy
Regional Policy targets all regions and cities in the European Union in order to support job creation, business competitiveness, economic growth, sustainable development, and improve citizens’ quality of life.
In order to reach these goals and address the diverse development needs in all EU regions, € 351.8 billion – almost a third of the total EU budget – has been set aside for Cohesion Policy for 2014-2020.
How funding is delivered in the EU
Together with the European Social Fund (ESF), the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), they make up the European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds.
Further information is available here.
Charter of Fundamental Rights
One important legislation for the IUTs work in the EU is the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Charter was proclaimed in 2000, and became legally binding in December 2009, when the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force. This can be seen as one step to start to formalise the rights to housing. “The right to housing” is however not directly included in the document, but it is partly covered in Article 34 of the Charter, where the Union states; “In order to combat social exclusion and poverty, the Union recognises and respects the right to social and housing assistance so as to ensure a decent existence for all those who lack sufficient resources, in accordance with the rules laid down by Union law and national laws and practices.”
IUTs’ definition of Social Housing
“Social housing is sustainable housing with non-profit rents, and/or rents according to the self-cost principle and/or where the access is controlled by the existence of allocation rules favouring households that have difficulties in finding accommodation on the market.“ (adopted by the IUT Board May 4, 2005)