Housing review Europe and Central Asia 2015

Habitat for HumanityHabitat for Humanity is updating its Housing Review 2013 on Europe and Central Asia. The updated report will be launched at the 3rd Europe Housing Forum in Berlin on 18-20 November, 2015.

The Housing Review analyses the current state of housing in 15 countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia which are struggling due to chronic underinvestment after reforms and housing privatization in the 1990’s.

The report’s goal is to help develop a set of practical recommendations on ways of addressing the housing situation across the region. Aimed at policy makers, regional, national and local government officials in the housing development area, the private sector, academics and NGOs, the report focuses on three themes—affordability, sustainability and livability—and how each affects Europe’s citizens. Affordability will address how to get people into homes; sustainability, keeping them in their homes in terms of improving energy efficiency; and livability; developing the communities of the future.

Energy efficiency in residential buildings

Habitat for HumanityIn 2015, the Bulgarian government adopted changes to the energy efficiency program for which Habitat for Humanity Bulgaria had been advocating since 2012. Back then, the government launched a national program to make multi-apartment buildings in 36 cities more energy efficient. Habitat Bulgaria suggested three modifications to make the process more accessible and effective:

  1. Decentralize the program – delegate authority from the national government to municipalities.
  2. Decentralize financial mechanisms of the program.
  3. Ensure that maintenance services are kept after the renovation to preserve changes.

The program was adapted after many proposals, meetings, press conferences and letters to various government officials filed by Habitat Bulgaria and members of the national housing coalition, Decent Home.

Number of people potentially affected by the system change
As of June 2015, more than 1,300 buildings signed up for the renovation program. This means that it can affect around 46,872 homes or more than 107,000 people.

Money allocated
The money for the program is allocated to the municipalities. For this calendar year the budget is € 500 million. It is co-financed by the EU (75%) and by the national government (25%).


Poles choose to emigrate to solve housing problems

Almost two thirds of all Poles see housing as a major concern.  Both availability and quality were identified as key issues that could cause them to consider emigration. The Habitat for Humanity Poland survey was carried out among a statistically representative group of Poles aged 16 and above.  The study, conducted by Millward Brown between May and June 2015, is part of Habitat’s goal of increasing awareness of poverty housing in the country.

Habitat for Humanity PolandAbout one-third of all Poles identified two top concerns—the inability to renovate or refurbish their current home and improve living conditions by moving to a better or bigger space. The survey also found that around 15 percent of respondents could not afford living on their own. And, another 15 percent faced problems with paying their mortgages or utility bills.

“Over 3.2 million of Polish families have to share their living space with other tenants and almost 15% of Polish citizens experience housing poverty defined as a lack of housing or substandard conditions,” says Małgorzata Salamon, director, Habitat for Humanity Poland. “The roots of this situation lie in the private and in the public sector. Market prices for housing outweigh financial means of most Polish people, while the social policy of the state is limited and cannot solve housing problems.”

After a wave of privatization in Central and Eastern Europe in the 1990s, most tenants became homeowners. According to Habitat for Humanity’s 2013 Housing Review, private homeownership in Poland is about 80 percent, while the share of social housing is around 10%. In more prosperous EU states, homeownership is about 60% and social housing accounts for 20% or more.

While the survey found that housing issues ranked third after low income (84%) and unemployment (77%) as major concerns of Poles, problems with housing ranked higher than access to health services and security concerns.  In fact, two-thirds of those polled said they knew families who postponed decisions to have children due to housing. And, almost 72 percent said they knew people who left the country because they could not solve their housing problems.

“From these and other studies that were carried out in 2010 and 2013 we can conclude that national housing programmes have failed to deliver the expected result,” said Salamon. She called on the new Polish government to develop a long-term national housing strategy with the focus on social housing. Resolving existing housing problems, commented Salamon, can help alleviate mounting social issues and better accommodate the needs of an increasing number of young people and stop them from opting to leave the country.

Housing problems are common these days in many European capitals. The crucial issue of whether Europeans can afford living in Europe will be discussed at the 3rd Europe Housing Forum that takes place in Berlin, 18-20 November, 2015. It will seek to stimulate both discussion and serve as a launching point for practical recommendations to improve availability and affordability of housing in Europe.