Brussels “available to support EU member States in creating affordable housing”

But says it is up to individual States to assess their own situations

A source for the European Commission has said today it is “available to support” EU member states in creating affordable housing, but has not responded to the specific request, sent by the Portuguese government, for new measures across the bloc.

“This is a very important issue and the European Commission is available to support member States in their efforts to provide affordable housing, through various initiatives and financing instruments,” the EU executive’s spokeswoman for economic and financial affairs, Veerle Nuyts, was responding to questions from Lusa news agency at the institution’s daily press conference in Brussels.

Among initiatives listed by Nuyts is the Affordable Housing Initiative, with technical support to move forward with renovations to greener buildings, to which is added “a wide range of Community funding“, such as funds from the Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP), under which there are projects “for affordable student accommodation, for example, at the Portuguese level“, she said, as well as cohesion funds.

This response was not meant to be taken as a reply to the letter, sent by the Socialist government last week – and gratuitously criticsed by opposition parties as a sign that the government’s ‘homegrown’ efforts, in the form of the unpopular Mais Habitação programme, have been “an enormous failure”.

As Lusa stressed, the spokesman in charge of the Competition portfolio, Daniel Ferrie, declined to comment on the letter sent by Portugal, pointing out that “in general, it is up to member States to assess whether a specific measure involves public aid”.

“If a measure constitutes State aid, it will have to be notified by the member states to the Commission for prior assessment,” he said,.

Johannes Bahrke, spokesman for the digital economy, equally refused to “speculate” on the Portuguese request, arguing that Brussels must now analyse the letter.

These positions come after the Portuguese government sent a letter to the European Commission with its priorities for 2024, in which it defended a “European affordable housing initiative”, given the current economic context marked by high inflation, “especially (felt) by young people.

“The lack of housing supply is a problem in many cities and housing costs have been rising, already occupying a very significant space in the monthly income of European families. In this context, the European Commission must be attentive to the problem of housing shortages and high housing costs, in line with the objectives of protecting the urban environment and social cohesion, areas in which, respecting the principle of subsidiarity, it is up to the EU to intervene,” António Costa’s executive argued.

As this is a “problem that cuts across the entire Union”, the Socialist government said it is seeking “instruments capable of ensuring access for all to decent housing at affordable costs”, which includes “the need for State intervention” in affordable renting”.

Reactions to the Socialists’ letter were instant and scathing, with many critics suggesting the PS party has been in power for the last eight years in which minimal efforts have gone into ensuring any kind of accessible regimes, for renting or indeed home-purchasing.

Source: LUSA