Providing adequate housing
The unprecedented economic and social crisis caused by COVID-19 poses a disproportionate threat to those deprived of dignified, adequate housing. This includes people facing homelessness, living in overcrowded housing, or risking eviction, victims of domestic violence, women and gender diverse people disproportionally impacted by loss of income during covid, and refugees and asylum seekers facing discrimination in access to housing.
Released in 2020, the 5th Overview of Housing Exclusion in Europe by FEANTSA and the Foundation Abbé Pierre reports at least 700 000 people sleeping rough or in emergency or temporary accommodation on any one night in the European Union, already before the pandemic, namely 70% more than a decade before. The Overview also shows that asylum seekers and people under international protection face higher levels of homelessness than other vulnerable groups because of the failing welcome system in Europe.
Financial inaccessibility, competitiveness and discrimination – characteristics of housing markets across the European Union – prevent many people from accessing adequate housing, with some having no choice than to turn to the black market, makeshift homes, or the streets.
Setting the scene
Inspiring case studies
These examples of cities looking for innovative strategies to ensure no-one is left behind are selected from UIA projects and URBACT networks, and from other experiences shared during the ‘Cities engaging in the right to housing’ initiative.
Aiming for zero homelessness and affordable housing for all
Ghent leads the URBACT ROOF network of nine EU cities working together to eradicate homelessness using the ‘Housing First’ model. Ghent is also active on migration inclusion, and its local project ‘Refugee Solidarity, ‘a pro-active approach for welcoming refugees, starting the integration process from day one’ has been labelled good practice by URBACT.
Last but not least, Ghent is active in UIA with the project ICCARus employing a revolving fund to provide affordable housing units to low-income groups.
From assistance to independent living
Through UIA, the City of Athens piloted an inclusion project called Curing the Limbo from 2018 to 2021, targeting refugees who had been granted asylum in Greece.
With the support of several actors, among which the Catholic Relief services responsible for housing, the project developed an affordable housing model to assist refugees in the transition from temporary emergency assistance solutions to independent living in Athens.
The goal was to create a sustainable housing model that fits the characteristics of the Athenian housing markets, encouraging landlords to join the project. For this purpose, the project created a housing facilitation unit based on a social rental agency which provides a range of services.
These include: access to a pool of available apartments; rental technical support helping tenants understand contract clauses, leases, electricity bills etc; conditional cash subsidies for a limited period; legal support to renters and owners; and more.
Housing towards empowerment
Lyon, a city active in the debate about adequate and affordable housing (hosting the International Social Housing Festival in 2019), has launched an ambitious, innovative ‘Housing toward empowerment’ project with UIA support.
Home Silk Road puts vulnerable groups at the centre of a project to renovate a historical building. It aims to create a hub for several cultural and economic activities, including housing and non housing-business partners.
Implementing Housing First since 2009
Odense, a city of less than 200 000 inhabitants, is also part of the URBACT ROOF network. It has experience in implementing Housing First since 2009, when it was selected as one of the eight cities to participate in Denmark’s national homeless strategy launched the same year. In 2019, the municipality of Odense, together with housing-related associations, issued a housing guarantee for homeless people, ensuring that any homeless citizen in Odense should not have to wait more than three months for a home.
Reflexions over the course of the URBACT-UIA ‘Cities engaging in the right to housing’ initiative explored the role of city administrations and the root-causes of housing exclusion.
As a result, key actions governments and other bodies can take to help ensure no-one is left behind are briefly summarised here: