A green and social recovery for Europe.

What is the contribution of public, cooperative and social housing in the post-pandemic recovery?

Housing Exchanges is the webinar miniseries we, Housing Europe, organise for our members to raise burning issues and challenges concerning social and affordable housing providers across Europe. It is meeting point to exchange knowledge, best practices and ideas and bring about inspiration and transformation among peers.

In this June edition we focused on he expectations of the European Commission from the sector and what can be used from the EU as added value from Housing Europe members. But also, to identify any potential economic gaps and whether the existing financial tools are going to help in covering those gaps: renovation of social housing through the Structural Funds, InvestEU, Recovery and Resilience Facility and the Just Transition Fund.

The European Commission is putting together a plan to help the EU economy recover from the COVID-19 crisis, preparing to invest least € 1 trillion into a broad stimulus programme expected to be presented on 27th May. With the recovery plan, the Commission now wants to achieve “faster and deeper renovation” of buildings, saying it is “a must for a net climate neutral EU and a clear win-win investment priority for a green, digital and fair recovery”. Priority will go first to public sector buildings, especially hospitals and schools as well as social housing and other forms of low-income dwellings.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, social, cooperative and public housing providers intended to spend yearly € 35 bn for new buildings and € 23 bn for renovation and maintenance, thus

renovating about 400 000 housing units every year.

In order to renovate the entire public, cooperative and social housing stock in Europe by 2050 at average level B (60 to 120 kwh/m²/year) or A (below 50kwh/m²/year), thus contributing to the decarbonisation of the building stock and a CO2 neutral Europe, we would need to increase this number by at least 200 000 per year. This would require an extra € 10 bn yearly until 2050.

Housing federations across Europe shared the challenges and opportunities of reaching the EU Green Deal renovation objectives for public and social housing providers in their countries.

AEDES, the Association of Housing Corporations in the Netherlands, has the ambition to realise a just transition by achieving a carbon neutral building stock by 2050 while providing affordable housing. This just transition, however, has to be tied to a cost neutrality principle for the tenants so to avoid situations of energy poverty. In practice, this means that housing providers may increase the rent as a consequence of the energy upgrade, but this increase must never be higher than the energy bill savings.

AEDES stressed that large part of the energy performance investments is eventually translated into costs for the Dutch housing providers who are engaged in a challenging

balancing act between affordability, availability and sustainability in their work, which in the medium-long term will likely cross the financial boundaries of the sector.

According to L’Union Sociale pour l’Habitat (USH), in France the social housing bodies account for a portfolio of around 4.6 million housing units. They build on average 75,000 housing units per year and they refurbish around 120,000 units per year. Having long been committed to the goal of high energy performance, they have significantly accelerated the number of thermal renovations that they have performed over the past 10 years, thanks to a specific type of loan provided by Banque des Territories, backing from local authorities, and subsidies from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

For the USH, setting up a fund dedicated to the low-emission refurbishment of housing and mobilising the various European Funds to back up large-scale renovation projects will be essential. Coupled with this, fostering shared corporate accountability among all the stakeholders ensuring users’ acceptance and satisfaction of the renovation process as well as a raise in tenants’ disposable incomes as a result

of the increased energy performance.

Silvia Rezessy, Policy Officer at DG Energy joined us on this occassion on behalf of the European Commission to introduce the proposal for Recovery Plan for Europe recently presented by Commission and listening to the needs of the Housing Europe members towards renovation targets implied in the proposal.

Some of the key recommendations taken by the European Commission from Housing Europe members in view of future work in energy efficiency and renovation in buildings are:

  • Clustering of stakeholders and partnerships in the construction sector.

  • One Stop Shops as an important enabler of district/neighbourhood renovation.

  • Industrialisation of renovation.

The European Commission will count on Housing Europe’ support for the public consultation and for a true mobilisation at national, regional and local lave to make the

renovation wave happen but also in the preparation of the Member States long-term renovation strategies as a key stepping stone for the recovery and for decarbonising the

building stock.

The Recovery and Resilience Facility of the Recovery Package will work through the European Semester and the national Energy and Climate Plans that encompass the long-term renovation strategies.

Essentially, Member states will receive the funds from the Recovery and Resilience Facility if they have submitted the long-term renovation strategies.

It is crucial for Housing Europe members to push their national governments to have the best long-term renovation strategies possible because this will set the basis for the recovery after against the impact of the COVID19 pandemic.

remarked Sorcha Edwards, Secretary General at Housing Europe.