A European housing body has warned that homelessness and exclusion from housing has reached crisis point in the majority of countries in the EU. European Union.
Feantsa, the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless, has released its second report on housing exclusion in Europe, in conjunction with French housing charity Fondation Abbé Pierre. The report highlights “alarming evidence of rising homelessness” and calls for EU member states to put eliminating homelessness at the core of their social policy agendas.
The report says homelessness is rising in all European countries except Finland, and singles out cities such as London, Paris, Brussels, Dublin, Vienna, Athens, Warsaw and Barcelona as places where the housing system is particularly under strain. In London, the number of families in temporary accommodation has increased by 50% since 2010, and in Copenhagen, youth homelessness has increased by 75% since 2009. Warsaw saw an increase of 37% of people sleeping rough or in emergency shelters since 2013, and one in 70 people in Athens are now homeless, most have become so since 2011.
The UK and the Netherlands are among those whose situation has worsened since the organisations’ first report in 2015, but almost all countries have serious flaws and problems in their housing systems.
The UK now ranks 20th out of 28 countries, with “a broken housing market out of reach for poor and middle-class people”. In Germany, 16% of people spend more than 40% of their income on housing (known as housing cost overburden) – a situation second only to Greece. In Romania, 50% of people live in overcrowded conditions and in Greece 95% of poor Greeks are experiencing housing cost overburden.
In all EU countries, young people are more vulnerable to prohibitive housing costs, overcrowding and severe housing deprivation than the rest of the population. For poor young people across Europe, the situation is becoming increasingly prevalent, with 65% in Germany, 78% in Denmark and 58% in the UK spending more than 40% of their disposable income on housing. The average in the EU is 48%. In general, people living below the poverty threshold are “increasingly marginalised by a private rental market than feeds off a systemic lack of affordable housing,” according to the report.
Feantsa argues that the tools required to deal with the challenges of housing exclusion and homelessness in Europe already exist. At European level, networks bringing together various entities – local, regional, and national governments, NGOs, civil society collectives and European financial institutions – are actively committed to partnerships aiming to promote accessible housing for all. Instruments established by the European commission, such as the urban agenda for the EU or the European pillar of social rights, can act as protectors for the implementation of the right to housing.
In Finland, long term programmes for reducing homelessness over the past 20 years have proven their value, by focusing on the provision of permanent, affordable housing, and providing specialised support for the most vulnerable people such as the Housing First scheme, which gives homeless people stable accommodation to end homelessness rather than just managing it. While other member states have committed to this path, Feantsa says clear European incentives are needed to give greater momentum to these proven solutions to homelessness and housing issues.
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