Monday 18 January 2016

Europe"s escalating housing crises lonf overdue report.

We hear much about the UK homes crises, but almost nothing from the Global perspective, this report opens up the debate, and will be deated on Mine and pippa " Talk Radio Europe " Show on Friday 5th February 12-2 you can tune in or download .Be part of the debate. Highly recommend you join doinmg amazing stuff on housing as part of its political policy agenda.

Damning report exposes Europe's escalating housing crisis

Experts recommend modern building technologies to reduce energy costs and housing policies to aid social integration

Terraced street in London
 London was found to have the worst house price to income ratio of eight European capitals. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Europe is experiencing a “silent emergency” for housing, with the number of young adults living with their parents now at an all-time high, according to a study.
Research conducted by Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit NGO dedicated to promoting affordable housing around the world, found that the 2008 housing crisis triggered by the global financial crash is by no means over in Europe.
Experts warn that continuing problems, such as exploding costs and the numbers of young adults forced to live at home, are likely to have a major economic and social impact across the region.
According to the report, released on Thursday:
  • More than 10% of Europeans shoulder housing costs – including rent and heating – in excess of half their household’s income. In central and eastern Europe, households spend between 30 and 50% of their income solely on winter heating, and rising household costs are contributing to poverty levels and raising the likelihood of people losing their homes.
  • The numbers of young adults aged between 18 and 34 who are living with their parents is now at an all-time high. The situation is worst in Slovenia, where 74% still live at home, in Italy it’s 66% and in Portugal it’s 55%.
  • Construction of new homes has plummeted by between 70 and 90% in recent years, and the amount of social housing does not even cover 10% of people’s needs.
The study’s authors also stress the rise of a ‘housing poverty’ reality, which has been created by the growing gap between poverty and affluence in economically vibrant urban centres, and that forces skilled and highly trained professionals tomove outside of cities because they they have been priced out of them.

It says European policymakers urgently need to find ways to develop and provide housing for everyone. It recommends innovative funding and lending options, better use of modern building technologies that would help reduce energy costs and make buildings more resilient, as well as new housing policies that would help encourage social integration.

“Europe needs to look at better ways of developing and providing housing that helps people, regardless of class or income, to have a decent place to live,” according to Greg Foster, the Europe, Middle East and Africa manager of Habitat for Humanity.
“And the trends and threats to Europe’s middle- and low-income neighbourhoods need to be analysed and solutions developed, to ensure the region’s cities remain liveable for everyone”.
The NGO is calling on European policymakers to prioritise the provision of affordable, sustainable and liveable housing for all.
The report’s publication is timed to coincide with the European Housing Forum, which is meeting for the third time in the Berlin this week. It will bring togetherhousing experts from around the world who will discuss whether at a time of growing economic pressures, which has made housing in particular, extremely costly for many, Europeans can still afford to live in Europe.
The conference is expected to focus on the impact the refugee crisis will also have on Europe’s housing challenges. In Germany alone homes will have to be found for one million refugees in the next few months, at a time when social housing construction – even without the newcomers – is at a dismally inadequate level almost everywhere. The refugees’ integration into the housing market will be one of the most crucial challenges of coming years, the authors insist.

Housing in Croydon
 Habitat for Humanity wants policymakers to prioritise affordable, sustainable and liveable housing for all. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

The authors say households are suffering from a housing cost overburden throughout Europe, with costs such as rent, heating and maintenance eating up to 40% of disposable household income in low-income groups – that is those whose income is below 60% of the average national income – and showing no signs of letting up. The impact is felt both in cities and rural areas and increases the poorer a family is.

While access to affordable housing is becoming increasingly difficult across the continent – it is seen to be worst in Paris, Helsinki, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, London and Brussels. Comparing the purchasing power in eight European capitals, the study shows that London fares worst when it comes to price to income ratios.
Across the EU, 17% of people are living in overcrowded conditions. The highest rate is in Romania, where it is 52%. The authors said the high number of young adults living at home had led to much of the overcrowding.
At the same time, there are plenty of slow economic regions in Europe that have huge vacancy rates – largely driven by the financial meltdown, such as Portugal, Greece, Spain and many parts of eastern Europe.
The report also highlights the problem of spatial segregation. In parts of Europe, ethnic enclaves and ghettos have formed to house the Roma and Sinticommunities – mainly southern and eastern Europe – and migrant communities. They say that of any group, Roma and Sinti face by far the worst overall housing conditions in Europe.
Much of the blame for Europe’s housing problems can be put down to the fact that housing across Europe, including the former communist countries, has increasingly been seen as consumer goods.

Houses in Aveiro, Portugal
 Houses in Aveiro, Portugal. The country has the third highest proportion of 18-34-year-olds still living with their parents in Europe. Photograph: Alamy

“Housing becomes less affordable as market demand becomes heavily influenced by investment motives, which is illustrated by the evolution of house prices compared with GDP growth in most European countries,” according to report authors József Hegedüs and Vera Horvath.
They highlight the dangerous extremes in the UK housing market that have had a hugely distorting effect on housing affordability, concluding: “Individual households have suffered greatly as a result of this imbalance,” not least because “their ability to adapt to intense market changes is limited”.
The impact of housing privatisation across Europe – including the selling off of much social housing – has generated a large number of what the report recognises as “poor owners” – people who own their homes, but cannot afford to look after their properties. The report warns that the deteriorating state of much privatised housing “will become a heavy public liability” for much of Europe in the coming years.
While acknowledging that private ownership had its positive aspects, such as keeping housing costs low and stable and giving people a sense of empowerment, Wolfgang Amman, one of the report’s authors, said it had been a mistake to think that responsibility for housing provision for the poor could be renounced. “Leaving unwilling owners in collapsing structures is no political option ... housing for those in need will always be a public service obligation,” he said.
Drawing on lessons learnt from the Balkan crisis of the early 90s, the report also stresses the important role housing plays in enabling people to stay in regions that have been ravaged by war and thus in helping prevent mass migration.
It recommends giving priority to rebuilding housing in war-torn regions “as an effective way to prevent people from migrating”. It said housing is “a shock absorber in times of peace, but even more so in times of post-conflict”.

 Rent, heating and maintenance accounts for up to 40% of disposable household finance for low-income groups. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

In recommendations that will resonate in many parts of Europe, the report said that the large decreases in construction was also having a massive impact on Europe’s housing pressures.
In looking for ways to increase housing affordability, the Housing Forum will study schemes like that in Georgias capital Tbilisi, which offers financing schemes to specific target groups such as young families and key workers, which have helped to dampen market prices and keep housing affordable.
In Kharkiv, Ukraine, another project seeks to offer small but affordable units by keeping planning costs and construction materials as low as possible.
And in Berlin, a policy to be introduced on 1 January will ensure that many low-income residents of housing projects will see their rent cut so that it takes up less than a third of their income. Policymakers will be urged to see whether such projects can be copied elsewhere.

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