This seminar was organised by FEANTSA, a member of HIC and a European network, working on the issue of homelessness and extreme housing deprivation. The subject was housing policies in the context of the European Union. The title of the seminar is telling. Housing is not in the European Union (EU) charter; theoretically it is left to the member states. However it is a key element of the economy and has an impact and is influenced by interest rates, inflation etc. over which the EU does have an influence. One has to bring housing policy into EU programs under other titles such as urban regeneration or sustainable communities etc. For Europeans to include housing in its prerogatives would be an important step for better housing as the EU can provide considerable resources for its programs. Showing that housing is the driving force for sustainable communities is, of course, a way of legitimising and developing housing policy in EU programs.
In the following text I have summarised selected parts of the reports of the delegates that I feel were the most significant for housing struggles in Europe. Unfortunately homelessness was not dealt with in any of the papers although declining communities and the poorly housed was. I feel that the three themes discussed there of particular interest to members of HIC are: a) the use of housing action (building and rehabilitation, renovation) in Ireland and Liverpool as a means of development and encouragement of economic growth and employment; b) the increase in different neighbourhood support activities, community development and other non landlord actions of not-for-profit housing corporations; and c) the insistence on the participation of the tenants/residents in the plans and policies concerning them.
Flo Clucas whose paper was entitles “How the EU regional cohesion policy can contribute to a stronger role for housing policy in urban regeneration/development” made it clear that she was concerned with bringing housing policy under the EU umbrella. Her paper dealt with Liverpool which had lost half of its population between 1931 and 1991 by out migration to the suburbs and elsewhere. The EU granted Liverpool considerable Structural Funds for community revitalisation not just housing. However, in Liverpool it was felt that housing policy should be considered a major element in regeneration and in developing community as it has far reaching implications. It has been used as part of a cohesive policy of planning for overall improveme