Collaborating with European Cities to Fund and Deliver Affordable Housing

January 31st 2017

At a time when the British public’s attention is very much focused on Brexit, it may surprise some to learn, that in some policy areas, Scotland’s engagement with the European Union is, for the moment at least, very much alive and kicking. All of Scotland's cities and the Scottish Government via the Alliance partnership was accepted into membership of the European Housing Partnership (EHP) in 2015 with the inaugural meeting of the EHP taking place in December of that year.

European Housing Partnership meeting hosted by Vienna in December 2016

The EHP is comprised of a mixture of European nation states, cities and representative bodies. The Alliance is the only UK representative on the partnership, the key objectives of which are to ensure that housing plays a key part in the emerging EU Urban Agenda. The EHP is especially concerned to promote the importance of affordable housing in achieving social and economic objectives throughout Europe, and to promote an increase in the supply of affordable housing through the identification and removal of key systemic blockages in areas of funding or legislation.

The partnership is working towards the development of an Action Plan which will aim to identify systemic challenges to increasing affordable housing supply throughout the EU, and make recommendations for improvement. The EHP has identified four specific workstreams to be undertaken by sub groups, including for example, the examination of current EU State Aid Rules, in particular any discernible negative impacts of these rules on affordable housing supply, and making recommendations for improvement.

The Alliance is leading one such group looking at funding issues, particularly any funding “blockages” which may be constraining the output of affordable housing. Further to this, the Alliance has secured funding from the EHP to work in partnership with Professor Ken Gibb at the University of Glasgow to undertake research in this area. The study will be conducted over the next six months or so, and will examine housing system characteristics of six major western European cities, before reaching some conclusions about what works in these cities, the challenges they face and crucially, what lessons may be learned for members of the partnership. A similar research study is also being undertaken looking at affordable housing issues in the cities of six newer EU members, typically in eastern Europe.

It is hoped that the research will be concluded in June of this year, before being disseminated to EHP stakeholders. Further to this, the Alliance has been asked to organise and host a meeting of the EHP in Glasgow in September, at which the key findings of the research will be reported. The Alliance plans to use this event to highlight Scotland’s housing policy and investment agenda, and some of the good work underway to deliver high quality affordable homes in Scotland's cities.Unsurprisingly, the EHP partners are particularly keen to identify areas of significant knowledge and learning transfer from the Scottish cities.

In the context of Brexit, the coming months are likely to be of huge significance for the UK’s relationship with the rest of Europe. However, as the Alliance's experience in our year long membership of the European Housing partnership shows, there remains a strong desire among our European colleagues to continue working in partnership, with the aim of sharing knowledge and experience to improve the housing conditions of European citizens.

For more information on the Alliance's role on the European Housing Partnership, please contact Jim Hayton at jim.hayton@scottishcities.org.uk

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