For some weeks now, social housing has been discussed at EU level as another important aspect of services of general interest. Both the European Economic and Social Committee and the European Parliament are currently in the process of preparing a relevant text of a resolution. Now MEP Karima Delli has presented a draft report on social housing, which indeed put forward a number of positive approaches in respect of a European social housing policy. However, whether EU parlamentarians, and above all the EU Commission, will agree with Delli, remains to be seen.
As the Green MEP Delli pointed out in the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, the European Commission does not have any direct competition in matters of housing policy; however, the EU authority would be able to promote good practices. Hence, it would be a good idea to link it to the targets of “Europe 2020”, which include among other the fight against poverty and unemployment.

Many citizens in the European Union would find it impossible to afford adequate living space. In 2010, about 6 percent of the population did not have any housing space and further 18 percent lived in overcrowded or inferior accommodation. Hence, there would be a social urgency for investments in social housing. 120 million people living in the EU were poor or at risk of poverty and the private housing market was increasingly less able to meet the requirements of this large group. According to Delli, both rents and energy prices were rising strongly.

It would therefore be necessary to put measures in place to create affordable housing. Investments in housing would also make a vital contribution to overcoming the financial and economic crisis. The funding required could be made available by the EU Structural Funds or raised via loans provided by the European Investment Bank. However, the aspect of energy poverty also had to be taken into account and it was of vital importance to carry out thermal renovations. Finally, the Green MEP also suggested setting up a European Housing Observatory, which shall report on the housing situation at EU level. Such an authority could also assist in developing a European strategy for the housing sector.

Csaba Sógor of the European People's Party pointed out that everyone had a right to housing. However, it was also a problem that many people had to spend 50 or 60 percent of their income on accommodation. The Social Democrat MEP Alejandro Cercas emphasised that next to the right of work, the right to housing would be one of the most important issues. According to his knowledge, 150 million EU citizens were faced with housing problems. Many Member States would not even have a housing policy. In agreement with the rapporteur, the Liberal MEP Phil Bennion regards both energy efficiency as well as social aspects as key requirements. So far, unfortunately, the European Commission has not commented on the draft report.

The Members of the European Parliament now have the opportunity to put forward amendments on the draft report. The Committee on Employment and Social Affairs plans to vote on the report in April, whilst the plenum of the European Parliament will cast its vote in June.