Before the pandemic, Europe was already experiencing a housing affordability crisis.
With over 70% of Europeans living in urban areas, there is a high demand for access to affordable housing across several cities due to the inequalities in living conditions. There is also a direct link to wellbeing as well as physical and mental health.
But despite the awareness around the importance of this issue, the introduction of policies has differed across countries. Many of them introduced temporary measures to support lost income and avoid evictions and rental increases. However, many of these programs have already been phased out.
Some European countries have begun leading the way for longer-term strategies, while others have chosen to upgrade existing homes instead of addressing supply issues. So, how does this impact eligibility for affordable housing? Let’s explore the current state of the situation.
What are the Current Affordable Housing Eligibility Policies?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a universal rule when it comes to eligibility for affordable or social housing. It differs from country and to country. Here are some examples of the policies that currently exist.
The guiding principle for social housing in Italy is focused on reducing issues for disadvantaged people and families who can’t access somewhere to live in the open market. The eligibility criteria centres around the income of the applicants, their current address, and their nationality. Priorities are made for those living in dangerous circumstances and families with multiple children.
Access to accommodation in the Netherlands was one of the best in the world as it was eligible to anyone regardless of income. It was eventually reviewed and changed significantly. Today, the allocation and criteria for social housing in the Netherlands can slightly vary according to the individual regions. However, there are some consistencies. Eligibility is primarily determined by income, but also according to individuals who are disadvantaged and fit a specific category of employment.
Anyone over the age of 15 has access to social housing in Denmark. But there is a waiting list. Even though there are no income requirements, there are rules around the size of the dwelling that’s allocated. There are also priorities given. First off of the waiting list include families with children, disabled individuals, refugees, the elderly, students, and divorcees. Consideration is also provided to those who need a place closer to work as well as those considered role models such as certain workers or students.
There is an income rule to access social housing in France. However, the ceiling is high enough that it encapsulates a significant portion of the population. There is also a category requirement. Individuals need to either be at risk of eviction with little chance of finding a new place, in temporary accommodation, in unsafe dwellings, have children and live in an overcrowded home or are disabled.
Social housing is available to everyone in Sweden. The country’s goal is for anyone who lives there to have access to a roof over their head. There is no evidence of individuals taking advantage of public housing. Records indicate those using the program are on lower incomes, are generally unemployed, and receive welfare benefits. They are also predominantly single or single parents and immigrants from other parts of Europe.
You’ll find a few different programs related to affordable housing in Portugal that are dependent on criteria and eligibility. For those living in dangerous homes in metropolitan areas, there is the PER Rehousing Programme. For lower-income earners, PROHABITA provides support for accommodation. There is also Porta Jovem for younger people to have access to rental properties.
Social housing units are allocated yearly in Romania. The average monthly income per person must be below the overall national monthly average net income on the total economy to be eligible. You also need to have either been evacuated from your home, under the age of 35, disabled, retired, a veteran or widow of war.
How are These Policies Determined?
All of the social and affordable housing policies are determined at a government level in their respective countries. As to how they decide who should be eligible for a home and who shouldn’t, this is reviewed regularly in accordance with categories of people who require it.
For example, the pandemic has significantly impacted younger people who work in stores and hospitality. They were already suffering prior to 2020, with many reports showing that more than half of their household’s income was spent on rent. As incomes have fallen and hours cut, the youth are struggling even more to make ends meet. As the road to recovery continues, governments are being encouraged to ensure that no one gets left behind, and policies are updated to capture everyone who has been impacted by the pandemic. There are also recommendations to increase the supply of affordable housing rather than focusing on upgrade existing dwellings that are already occupied.
What is the Next Step?
One promising initiative is the funding from the Next Generation EU package. It looks to provide a way to not only invest in social housing programs but also upgrade public infrastructure. The belief is that it will support growth in multiple areas, such as job creation across numerous metropolitan locations.
While this is a good start, more can still be done. The Europe Housing Forum is looking to strengthen the foundations for the future of affordable accommodation by bringing together key decision-makers and industry stakeholders. The goal is to learn from one another, share ideas, and demonstrate how the issue can be a crucial driver for sustainable cities and economic growth.
Are you interested in contributing to the conversation? Register for the Europe Housing Forum today to join the debate about the future of housing and connect with your peers.