“Social and affordable housing” should be Europe’s “priority”

#HousingForAll event took place in Portimão, at the invitation of Isilda Gomes, member of the PSE Group and president of the local Chamber

“Affordable housing needs Europe – Europe needs affordable housing” is the title of the declaration adopted on Friday, April 5th, in Portimão, by the Group of the European Socialist Party (PSE) in the Committee on European Regions.

The document, called «Declaration of Portimão», calls for decisive action by the European Union (EU) to make the right to housing a reality for everyone.

It also proposes 20 concrete measures on different aspects of housing policy, including making social and affordable housing a fundamental right for all, increasing European investment in housing, fully implementing the European Platform to Combat Homelessness, take more account of the gender dimension of housing policies, develop a European plan to solve the student accommodation crisis and create an EU housing transparency register to combat speculation.

Prepared at the meeting outside the headquarters of the PSE Group, which took place at the Portimão Museum, at the invitation of Isilda Gomes, member of the PSE Group and president of the Chamber of Portimão, which focused on the theme «Housing for all: progressive municipalities and regions build the future of housing policy", the statement was presented to Nicolas Schmit, head of the list of the European Socialist Party (PSE) in the European elections next June.



At a press conference for Portuguese journalists, in which the Sul Informação participated, Nicolas Schmit, who is the current Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs at the European Commission, highlighted that «we are dealing with one of the issues that concerns millions of Europeans: the issue of housing».

He added, “the housing issue is not just a problem in Portugal, it is also a problem in the other 26 Member States. And it is penetrating deeply into people's lives, because everyone needs an affordable place to live and a quality place to live».

The topic, he also said, “is important for families, it is important for young people, it is also important for the elderly. This is really an issue that has taken on a European dimension. Although it is the mayors' task to deal with it, building houses, the dimension has become European».

«Probably [the case of] Lisbon is even different from Portimão, and different from Munich, and different from Paris. But we have to try to find the right European solutions to promote a comprehensive housing policy that makes housing affordable. But accessible for everyone», stressed Schmit.

«To face the housing crisis in Europe, the time has come to present European and progressive solutions that reduce housing costs. For us, socialists and social democrats, housing is not a market good, but rather a human right», highlighted Schmit.

«As head of the list of our political family, I firmly support the 20 measures of the Portimão Declaration, which will help Member States, regions and municipalities to face the current housing crisis, namely by investing more in social and affordable housing and limiting the excesses of short-term rentals. It is essential to help young people, who are among those most affected by the housing crisis and are the group to which we most need to listen and respond when they communicate their concerns to us».



For her part, Klara Geywitz, vice-president of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and German Minister for Housing, highlighted that “today's discussion showed us perfectly clearly that, even if we have such a committed local government like this [the Câmara de Portimão], there is no possibility of solving the housing crisis in isolation, because we need the support of the national government and we also need the support of the European government».

«We deeply believe that housing is not just an investment, but has to do with the house, people's home. Therefore, we firmly believe that we have to change some specific European rules, such as the question of how it is possible to invest money in social housing», added the German minister.

But it is “social housing that is not just for a minority, but also for the middle class, and that offers a wide variety of homes for students, for families and, of course, for people on low incomes, so that not only can work in the city, as well as live in the city», said Klara.

«A big question that is being faced in so many beautiful places in Europe, like here, in Portimão, is how to deal with short-term rentals or Airbnb», local accommodation, which are in fact providing strong competition to the rental market. lease to local inhabitants. To resolve this issue, the German Minister for Housing said that it is necessary to consider “the possibility of local authorities making regulations appropriate to their special demands”.

“There may be 27 property markets, but housing is a problem for almost all Europeans. Too many citizens struggle to find good quality homes and even those who do have housing find it increasingly unaffordable to heat their homes. It's time for solid public investment in social housing, so that there are homes accessible to everyone», he stressed.

Christophe Rouillon, President of the PSE Group in the European Parliament, noted that “currently, 160 million Europeans are burdened with housing costs”.

Rouillon even defended, in his statements to Portuguese journalists, that, after the Green Deal (Ecological Pact), which addresses environmental concerns at various levels, Europe must now also have a «White Deal», a White Pact , in an allusion to the predominant color of the houses.

And he added that, meeting in Portimão, socialist local and regional leaders from all over Europe, “prepared 20 concrete proposals to successfully face the social and environmental challenges related to housing, defending, among other things, a new investment plan mass in housing, resolute measures to combat speculation and the phenomenon of homelessness, as well as the need to recognize and combat gender inequalities in housing. These are essential measures to make social and affordable housing an enforceable fundamental right for everyone. Only through a fair Ecological Pact will we be able to restore trust in Europe and defeat extremism».



Portimão mayor Isilda Gomes, who is also President of the Natural Resources Committee of the Committee of the Regions, argued that «in Portugal, the right to housing was one of the achievements of April, and, in the month in which the 50th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution is celebrated, the symbolism of this topic is a starting point for a debate on European scale, which highlights its importance and relevance for all European cities and regions».

«The clear definition of a housing strategy, on a European scale, is of paramount importance for cities to be able to increase equal opportunities, give more hope to our young people and strengthen our ability to attract senior management. I believe that a transversal solution, respecting the diversity of countries, will be a fundamental element for the success of the future of housing policies», added the Algarve socialist mayor.

Isilda Gomes also highlighted the investment that her own Municipality is making, in «construction, acquisition and remodeling» of houses, which amounts to 86 million euros, candidates for the Recovery and Resilience Plan (PRR), after the approval of the Municipal Strategy of Housing.

And this is not, he stressed, just about social housing for the most disadvantaged, there is also a focus on «housing at controlled costs, for the middle class». “We will only be a completely democratic society when this first right, housing, is guaranteed,” she concluded.

Taking into account that the issue of housing, although already recognized as a problem at European level, is far from generating consensus among the different political groups represented in the European Parliament, there is an important issue that will have to be defined, that of money to invest in resolving the problem.

«At European level there is a setback in terms of investment in housing of more than 50 billion», said Nicolas Schmit. There are «50 billion, which should be invested in housing to align demand and supply. Therefore, we have to mobilize more capital, more money. It can be private money, no problem, but it also has to be public money».

Therefore, he argued, “we should also mobilize European funds. We have cohesion funds, which should be more easily allocated to the construction of houses».

On the other hand, Schmit added, “public banks should be able to invest more in housing. And the first public bank is the European Investment Bank, which should expand its capacity to invest in social services, but also in housing».

«We have to combine different measures to launch a true European strategy [on housing], together, obviously, with the Member States and together with local authorities, because we know that, in the end, everything will have to be decided locally» .



Pedro Nuno Santos, secretary general of the PS, also participated in the meeting in Portimão, but did not speak to journalists about the issue of housing.

In a statement released by the organization, Pedro Nuno Santos highlighted that «this meeting is not just a simple conference; is a clear call to action for all of us in the progressive family, ahead of the European elections.”

For the general secretary of the Portuguese socialists, «local and regional socialist leaders – mayors, councilors and regional presidents – play an indispensable role in mobilizing communities and defining policies that reflect our common values ​​of solidarity, equity and sustainability. As we approach the European elections, the exchange of ideas and commitments we have established here in Portimão will be the basis of our vision of a more social and progressive Europe. This is the Europe we are fighting for, and it is the local and regional socialists who are on the front line».

The #HousingForAll event was organized at the invitation of Isilda Gomes, member of the PSE Group and president of Portimão City Council, in cooperation with the S&D Group in the European Parliament, the European Socialist Party (PSE), the Foundation of European Policy Studies (FEPS), the Young European Socialists (YES) and PSE Mulheres.

On the afternoon of Friday, the 5th, there was also a study visit to the Pontal social housing neighborhood, in whose requalification the Chamber is investing, located a short distance from the Portimão Museum, where the European socialists event took place.

The meeting in the Algarve was attended by members of the Group of the European Socialist Party (PSE) in the European Committee of the Regions, many of them mayors in different countries of the European Union, as well as European deputies from Portugal and elsewhere, among other political leaders.


Click here to see the “Declaration of Portimão” in full (PDF)



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