Housing Europe, the European Federation of Public, Cooperative & Social Housing, has published the first comprehensive evidence-based analysis of the COVID-19 impact on housing in Europe. Being rich in facts, figures and timely information, the State of Housing in Europe 2021 Report provides its readers with insightful overview of the housing situation and its evolution across 21 countries during the Coronavirus pandemic. In this blog we aim to share some of the key messages of the Report with our readers while also highlighting one of the country profiles representing CEE Region – Armenia.
ABOUT THE PUBLICATION
The State of Housing in Europe 2021 is a comprehensive analysis of the current state of housing in Europe which explores the link between housing and health, examines the impact of COVID-19 on public, cooperative and social housing, maps out the recent developments in national and EU housing policies and analyzes the situation of 21 country profiles. It also synthetizes and reviews a growing body of literature, data and other useful evidence from (see below or Chapter 2 in the Report).
The Report has been done in collaboration with the Housing Europe Observatory, which is the research branch of Housing Europe responsible for identifying research needs and analyzing the key trends in the field of housing at the European level. This report is published on a bi-annual basis and serves as a great reference document in the housing sector.
The Report was launched online at the event organized by the Housing Europe where high-level experts from different EU institutions discussed the most pressing issues pertaining the housing sector at the moment. Moderated by Housing Europe Secretary General, Sorcha Edwards, the roundtable discussion hosted Kim Van Sparrentak (MEP and Rapporteur), Pedro Nuno Santos (Portuguese Minister for Infrastructure and Housing), Lucie Devoine (Deputy Head of Unit DG Employment, EC), Declan Costello (Deputy Director-General, DG ECFIN, EC) and Alessandro Rancati (from the Design for Policy at the New European Bauhaus, Joint Research Centre).
KEY MESSAGES OF THE REPORT
Critical Role of Housing: More Explicit Than Ever
The world at the juncture of the global health crisis required us to inevitably stay at our homes. Long-lasting housing crisis, however, has not made this possible for so many of us. As Laurent Ghekiere, Chair of Housing Europe Observatory, says
“#StayAtHome has been easier said than done for a very large part of the EU population”
Poor living conditions in the households or lack of housing have not only increased affected people´s chances of getting the virus but have also directly increased the risks of them dying. The inadequate housing has demonstrably impacted people´s well-being, mental health, school and work performance. The pandemic has thus reinforced the importance of adequate and affordable housing for all and the need for addressing the rising inequalities as soon as possible.
Public, Cooperative and Social Housing: In the Loop
In addition to exploring the link between housing and health, including both physical and mental one, the Report observes the development of the housing sector with a special focus on the public, cooperative and social housing before and after the pandemic. The Housing Europe President, Bent Madsen, says that the mission of public, cooperative and social housing is to “factor in climate without pricing out people”. One of the findings positively reveals how public, social, and cooperative housing providers mobilized to support their tenants and communities so that they do not lose their homes. Nevertheless, there remain to persist many unfavorable realities caused by the long-lasting housing crisis that require more attention of the competent stakeholders.
The Key Issues Pertaining Housing Sector:
- Rising Homelessness
- Housing Prices
- Demand for Social Housing
- Efficient Energy Performance of the Buildings
One of the most pressing ones, as the Report points out, is rising homelessness in the EU. Combined with trends of increasing housing prices and financialization penetrating the housing sector, this remains to be a great challenge. Collected evidence from a number of countries further suggests increasing demand for social housing – phenomenon expected only to increase in the near future. The energy performance of building and digitalization of housing sector have also become an issue.
Country profile of Armenia
Substantial part of the Housing Europe´s Report is dedicated to the selected 21 countries profiles. Among these, 3 chapters are dedicated to countries in Central and Eastern Europe: Czechia, Estonia, Slovenia and one chapter is dedicated to Armenia.
The impact of the pandemic in Armenia could be felt mostly in the construction and maintenance of the housing sector. As the Report points out, the overall construction activities in Armenia decreased by around 10 percentage points. What is more, out of this overall construction sector, provision of social housing constitutes only a very small share, although it belongs to one of the priorities of the National Social Housing Agency (ASBA). This fact can be explained by the specificity of the whole CEE region where majority of the residential building stock is co-owned by individual flat-owners.
Despite of high rates of housing availability, the need for housing in Armenia remains to be apparent, as the high rates can be easily explained by decreasing population, large share of empty dwellings, and persisting homelessness. Furthermore, there is significant group of people who are in need of better housing as their current one is in informal settlements or is simply unfit for human occupation.
With regards to the need for improving the existing housing stock´s conditions, the Housing Europe´s Report refers to HFHI´s findings about the inefficient energy insulations used in the collective residential housing units in Armenia which resulted in huge energy losses and made many low and middle-income families in Armenia spend 25 to 50% of their incomes only on utilities.
Sadly, the pandemic impact on Armenian households has been furthermore worsened by heightened political tensions and period of military hostilities, leaving many households exposed to significant challenges.
WHAT IS NEXT?
Against the immediate consequences and given the projections of the medium to long-term COVID-19 impact, the investment in social and affordable housing must clearly become a key priority for public policies and must constitute “a central pillar of economic recovery efforts”, claim the authors of the Report. Fiscal and monetary policies implemented by the EU to accommodate the COVID-19 impact together with its mandate to implement social rights, especially the right to access to social housing, should help favorable development of social and affordable housing in Europe.
 Supporting evidence reveals a 50% higher risk of coronavirus incidence and 42% higher risk of COVID-19 mortality with 5% increase of households with poor housing conditions.
Find the recording from the launch event here.
Find the full report here.
Find Housing Europe press release here.