Tackling the urgent housing crisis will help the Single Market

Speaking on 4-5 March 2024 at the European Conference of Housing Ministers, CoR Rapporteur on housing, Andres Jaadla from Rakvere, Estonia proposed solutions to the European housing crisis. The Conference was part of the Belgian presidency of the Council of the European Union in Liège, Belgium.

In recent years, Europe has found itself grappling with an increasingly dire housing crisis, leaving a growing number of citizens feeling abandoned and unheard. As local communities reflect on the Europe they want to build for the future, more and more families find themselves priced out of decent accommodation and forced into cramped living conditions. At the same time, the gap between wages and housing costs widens, whereas the dream of homeownership becomes increasingly unattainable for vast segments of the population. Local leader from Rakvere, Andres Jaadla, underlines that the European housing policy has been neglected in Europe for decades and has now reached a point so grave that it is starting to inhibit free movement within the EU Single market and access to education. We have reached a point where the scarcity of housing is hindering students’ ability to relocate to pursue university degrees and acquire the necessary skills for future employment. At the same time, this creates a challenge for employers in finding suitable skilled workers who are also unable to relocate for job opportunities. His report on smart, sustainable and affordable housing seeks to illuminate the severity of the crisis. Drawing upon Estonia’s successful reconstruction efforts, Jaadla emphasizes the urgency of implementing European-wide initiatives aimed at ensuring smart housing for all citizens.

“We need affordable and sustainable housing, but we also need to be smart about it. In my report, when I use the term smart, I don’t just mean that we need high-tech digital solutions to optimize energy use and such. What I mean is that we need to be smart about deploying the right solutions, being innovative and finding solutions for smart renovations, which can be done with limited costs, fast and without disturbing the citizens.” – says CoR Rapporteur, Andres Jaadla

In order to make housing accessible for everyone, Jaadla advocates for the establishment of a Housing Agenda for the European Union. According to his draft report on housing, municipal authorities bear primary responsibility for meeting housing demands and managing substantial stocks of local public infrastructure. Highlighting the pivotal role of municipalities in planning and financing, Jaadla proposes a cohesive approach to address housing challenges across Europe. Such an approach would entail coordinated policies, funding mechanisms, and housing models, empowering local authorities to make substantial investments in housing initiatives. In support of his argument, Jaadla cites Estonia as a model undergoing a significant renovation wave aimed at enhancing both affordability and sustainability in housing. Since 2020, approximately 1400 buildings have undergone renovations, focusing on improvements in insulation, heating, and ventilation systems. This effort has not only expanded available accommodation but also achieved a remarkable 50% reduction in energy consumption.

At the European Conference of Housing Ministers, Jaadla underlined that rising housing costs, coupled with a continuous uptick in rents and property values affect almost all cities and regions. It is not an isolated phenomenon in capital cities and metropolitan regions targeted by tourists. Furthermore, the cost of housing is placing a growing burden now not only on low-income households but also middle-income households. Gentrification and the influx of tourism are driving prices higher, while approximately 34 million Europeans struggle with energy poverty, increasing the risk of exposure to evictions and homelessness. Jaadla therefore emphasizes a series of additional measures in his draft report, such as an increase in social housing initiatives, the optimization of existing EU regulations, which could fund new housing projects, alongside investments in bolstering the workforce’s skill set for renovation initiatives.

The draft CoR Opinion “Smart, sustainable and affordable housing as a tool for local authorities to face multiple challenges” was adopted on 9 February 2024 at the COR COTER Commission meeting held in Brussels, Belgium and is up for final adoption at the 17-18 April 2024 CoR Plenary Session.

To read the full draft CoR Opinion, click here.

To find out more about the renovation wave in Estonia, click here.

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