The current situation
The state of housing in the EU has not improved noticeably in recent years. Housing remains a critical issue and by far the largest expenditure for many Europeans. Housing costs amount up to 42% of all disposable income for numerous citizens, leaving limited resources for other basic needs, such as food and health. However, no country has fully managed to provide a structural solution to meeting affordable housing demands. Housing has therefore gained a strong presence on the EU agenda.
As traditionally the case, the main problem continues being the number of houses available and the constant shortage. Additional aggravation is observed, because new social housing production has decreased in most countries. Another very worrying phenomenon is the high level of debt linked to housing.
Other matters concern a specific group only. Young people for example are confronted with more difficulties to start their housing path. Various elements such as stricter conditions for mortgage lending, little availability of rental housing and youth unemployment push this group into markets with the least affordable housing available.
New trends stimulating affordable housing
A number of countries characterised by a small social housing sector have started developing new social housing programmes. Elsewhere private property is mobilised for social use: rental agencies act as an intermediary between private landlords and low-income households.
We have seen an increase in housing allowances in virtually all Member States. The few that did not have this type of subsidy have introduced one.
In early 2014 the European Parliament adopted a Resolution on a EU homelessness strategy.
Housing challenges becoming opportunities
The authors conclude that housing is not merely part of a problem the EU is facing; it also offers many possibilities for solutions.
A recommendation concerns social, public and cooperative housing providers, who must be seen as part of the economic strength and welfare of the EU.
Housing offers high job creation and growth potential. The EU is aiming to seize opportunities by providing new instruments for investment.