In response to a parliamentary question from MEP Agnes Jongerius (S&D, NL) regarding the revision of state aid rules for services of general economic interest (‘SGEI’), Commissioner Margrethe Vestager affirmed that state aid can only be granted if social housing responds to "a public need: the provision of accommodation to disadvantaged citizens or socially less advantaged groups who due to solvency constraints are unable to obtain housing at market conditions".
She added that the Commission had accepted social mix and social cohesion "as valid public policy objectives for which state aid may be granted under the 2012 SGEI Decision".
EUROCITIES welcomes the recognition by Commissioner Vestager of social mixing and social cohesion as appropriate policy objectives for state aid to social housing.
Nevertheless, we recall our request for a revision of state aid decision 2012/21/EU to suppress the restriction of access to social housing to ‘disadvantaged citizens or socially less advantaged groups’.
The restrictive target group for social housing in this decision limits cities’ policies and undermines social mixing and social cohesion. To ensure the full implementation of the right of access to housing and subsidiarity, the Commission should not define social housing.
Commissioner Vestager recognised that member states "have considerable discretion when defining service of general economic interest (‘SGEI’). The pillar of social rights mentions access to housing for ‘everyone in need’, not only for those who lack sufficient financial resources but equally those with special needs – due to their disabilities, family breakdown, etc."
EUROCITIES hopes these positive steps will be followed by a revision of state aid decision 2012/21/EU.
Commissioner Vestager explains that the Commission has not yet taken any decision as to the timing of a possible review of the 2012 SGEI Decision. The decision itself stipulated that it would be reviewed five years after its entry into force. This period ended on 31 January 2017 as mentioned by MEP Jongerius in her question to the Commission.
EUROCITIES calls on the Commission to start the review of the state aid for SGEI decision as soon as possible to facilitate investments in social housing. Cities need to be able to develop strong social housing policies at a time when they need to accommodate the needs of growing population, including refugees, and ensure energy efficiency in buildings.
The EP, the Committee of the regions and other stakeholders such as Housing Europe, are also calling for a revision of this decision.
Contact: Marie Ranty, firstname.lastname@example.org