The IUT has always claimed that social housing is not only about providing people with “a roof over their head”, but it should encompass a set of responsible practices in order to effectively achieve the social inclusion of residents. This means several things to tenants: involvement in decisions, proximity to services and jobs, provision of relevant information and training opportunities, etc. Following this vision, the IUT joined a European partnership working on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) consisting of Housing Europe and DELPHIS, a French network of social housing providers. In April 2013 the three partners kick-started the European Responsible Housing Initiative – ERHIN – a project co-financed by European Commission’s DG Enterprise.
ERHIN aimes at promoting social responsibility in the housing sector through the creation of a voluntary framework at European level. The main idea behind responsible housing is to improve tenants’ conditions through fair relations and structured dialogue between landlords and their stakeholders, including tenants associations. The first step in the project was the creation of a European stakeholder forum which consisted of representatives of national tenants associations, housing providers, chartered surveyors, family associations, investment banks, civil society and public employer organizations, and local authorities. Barbara Steenbergen, Head of IUT liaison office to the EU, chaired the stakeholder forum.
The first ERHIN “stakeholder forum” was convened at the EU Representation of the City of Vienna, 7 November 2013. Tenants’ view was voiced by several IUT members i.e. CNL, DMB, and Woonbond, which promoted several ideas: “co-determination” in the rental sector i.e. tenants having a role in the management of housing companies (Zuhse, DMB); the need of social housing estates “close to services and jobs” (Eddie Jacquemart, la CNL); and last but not least, the proposal of “minimum energy standards in the rental sector” (Ronald Paping, Woonbond). The first meeting led to the definition of “responsible housing”, and for the definition of assessment criteria for the first European CSR Awards in the sector. The ERHIN stakeholder forum has also drafted the Responsible Housing Declaration and CSR Code of Conduct.
The IUT continued the promotion of EHRIN after the formal project end (EC financing ended in November 2014). An important result achieved in 2015 was North Rhine Westphalia’s signature of the European Declaration by its housing Minister Michael Groschek20. NRW is a German Land counting 18 million inhabitants. North Rhine Westphalia was followed by EURHONET, a European network gathering housing providers from 6 different countries (France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden and UK), a further step towards responsible and affordable housing in Europe. The project partners agreed to go on with a second edition of the Responsible Housing Awards in 2016.