Presentation (MS PowerPoint , 524kb)

Report
Access to Social Housing in
Europe
Nicholas Pleace
University of York
European Observatory on Homelessness
Nora Teller
Városkutatás Kft / Metropolitan Research Institute, Budapest
European Observatory on Homelessness
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012
About the research
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Comparative research is always rather difficult
Direct comparison of apparently quite similar countries
not straightforward
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Variation in definitions (in this instance ‘social housing’ and
‘homelessness’)
Some EU societies with centralised systems, others massively devolved
which means its not just a matter of differences at national level, a
single country can be highly varied
WE and CEE comparison complicates the situation further
Expert questionnaire approach – iterative process
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Not perfect, because reliant on a few experts who may vary in
knowledge and skills
But allows standard questions using standardised definitions
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012
Summary of definitions
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Talking about homelessness in the sense of
literally being on the street and people who are
in accommodation that they cannot reasonably
be expected to occupy (physical conditions such
as poor repair and overcrowding, security of
tenure) - ETHOS
Talking about publicly subsidised bricks and
mortar, i.e. physical housing and not welfare
benefits designed to enable poorer people to
meet the costs of renting privately - FEANTSA
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012
Coverage
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Thirteen experts recruited through European
Observatory on Homelessness
Belgium (focusing specifically on Flanders), Bulgaria, the
Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, the
Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Spain and the
UK.
Data on both social housing and homelessness much
better in some countries than others, concentrating here
on Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland,
Netherlands, Sweden and UK
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012
Key questions
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Why does homelessness exist in welfare systems with
social housing?
Contrasting views
 Individual pathology and homelessness causation
 ‘Barriers’ to social housing
 Supply shortfalls
 Lack of coordination of social and housing services
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012
Social housing does not tackle homelessness
because of the ‘nature’ of homelessness
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Homelessness ‘caused’ by individual characteristics
Three levels
 Homeless people are a ‘sick’ population, characterised by
mental health problems, problematic drug and alcohol use
 Choices to become/remain homelessness, sometimes
referencing ideas of ‘thin rationality’/’survival’
 Homelessness as a culturally distinct state (similar logic to
negative area effects)
Nature of homelessness creates a kind of ‘avoidance’, a difficulty in
engaging with welfare systems, homeless people as ‘distinct’ from
cultural, economic and social mainstream
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012
Problems with Individual Pathology
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Argument that homelessness is caused by support needs and
individual choice is problematic
Three sets of evidence
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Broad associations with welfare systems, more extensive welfare
systems have less homelessness
Evidence of groups (such as homeless families) who are not
characterised by high support needs and who seem largely
undifferentiated from the poor population
Evidence that the high cost/high risk ‘chronic’ homeless group are a
minority in a larger, transitional population of emergency
accommodation users
‘Neo-Liberal’ interpretations of homelessness are popular with
politicians because they make the issue a matter of ‘individual
choice’ or ‘illness’ rather than due to labour market, housing market
and welfare system cuts or failures
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012
Shortfalls in supply of affordable and adequate
housing
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There are simply not enough affordable homes of
adequate standard
Difficult to dispute, this is recognised as a strategic
problem across much of the EU
Whether one interprets this as an issue of social housing
supply depends on perspective
Social housing is not in fashion, seen as expensive, as
‘distorting’ housing markets and as creating social
problems by generating spatial concentrations of poverty
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012
Social landlords avoid housing
homeless people
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Reduction in investment in bricks and mortar in many developed
welfare systems which creates rationing (but not all)
Popular and cultural images of homeless people as likely to be
‘difficult’ tenants, causing management problems like anti-social
behaviour, not paying the rent
Rise of social enterprise/private finance, reliance on bank
lending to develop requires working tenants who will reliably pay
(and can afford) rent that provides economic return
Negative area effects/’workless’ places. Social landlords under
direction to avoid spatial concentration of poverty in urban
space. Homeless people are poor.
Homeless people may need additional social work and health
services, typically not offered by landlords.
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012
Background: Social Housing
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012
Background: Homelessness
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Don’t know exact numbers with a very few exceptions
Hard to measure because often a transitional state
On-going attempts to standardise EU level data to get an overview
Latest attempt to coordinate data collection, ensure minimum
standards, ensure any data collection MPHASIS and guidance on
counting homelessness 2011 Censuses have not worked
Key issues are agreeing definition, raising political profile in
Southern and Eastern countries which have much bigger social
problems to worry about
Know it is there, know something about its shape, cannot be
precise, almost certainly hundreds of thousands
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012
Barriers: Resources
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Inadequate supply of all forms of adequate affordable housing
consistently reported across all 13 countries
Reflected in national strategic concerns
 UK has been struggling to find an economic way to deliver
affordable housing supply for decades
Insufficient social housing supply and location of available stock
outside areas of high demand
 Taking UK as example again, far less demand for social housing
in the North and parts of the Midlands that in London and Home
Counties
 But the modernist urge that created some social housing policy
movements is fading (and it was not present elsewhere), social
housing is also very expensive, it is unfashionable
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012
Barriers: Homeless people as ‘difficult’ tenants
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Widespread belief among social landlords that
homelessness was always associated with severe
mental illness and problematic drug/alcohol use, chaotic
behaviour, sustained worklessness, low level criminality
A reluctance to house homeless people when support
needs were present because of a concern that support
workers, health, social care, psychiatric and drug and
alcohol services would either not be put in place or
would only be provided on a short-term basis
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012
Barriers: Marketization
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Some evidence of homeless people as bad financial risk,
expensive to manage, too poor to afford financially viable
rents and disproportionately likely to go into rent arrears
But this was related to the nature of the social housing
system
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Marketization and a growing focus on enterprise role in the Netherlands
had been ‘rolled back’ by Government in response to financial crisis,
social landlords told to ‘re-focus’ on housing need
Sweden has seen a near-’commercialisation’ of former social housing
UK has seen ever greater role for private investment since 1988
legislation introduced the New Financial Regime
But returns to pay off private loans/investment not
present everywhere
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012
Barriers: Area Effects
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Social landlords were under legal obligation, directives or
guidance at national, regional and/or local level to avoid
spatial concentrations of poverty
A ‘culture of worklessness’ within poor areas that was
presumed to exacerbate social, cultural and economic
marginalisation, criminality of the populations in those
areas, sometimes intermixed with anxiety about Muslim
population concentration
But seemingly an anxiety of Northern European
Capitalism...Belgium, Finland, France, Germany,
Netherlands, Ireland, UK, not the South or the East
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012
Barriers: Not in the Design
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Social housing often predates the relatively modern
“recognition” that a state of homelessness and a
subgroup of ‘homeless people’ could exist
Often been a concern to address housing need, but
social housing is often not specifically designed to
address homelessness
Homelessness exists, but social housing was originally
built to do other things
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012
Barriers: Not in the Design
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Social housing is generally not designed specifically to tackle
homelessness or all forms of acute housing need
It was – and is – designed to do other things, urban renewal, slum
replacement or shanty clearance, encourage local enterprise
through increasing affordable housing supply, house ‘keyworkers’,
address child poverty etc etc
Homelessness may be quite a way down the agenda for social
landlords
With the exception of many poor families containing children, who
tend to be able to access social housing when in housing need, just
as they often have enhanced access to welfare systems
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012
Barriers: Coordination
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Poor strategic coordination
Social housing seems to have often developed separately rather
than be integrated within wider welfare systems
Housing does not tend to be regarded as a ‘welfare’ service in the
way that social work or health services are
There are countries that respond to homelessness with a raft of
specific policy interventions and service models, including health
and social work or treatment-led models, effectively adopting the
ideas of individual pathology rather than looking towards social
housing as providing an answer (the UK is one obvious exception to
this, France to a lesser extent)
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012
Conclusions
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The presence of high levels of social housing does not
predict low levels of homelessness, so homelessness is
not necessarily made into a smaller social problem by
extensive social housing provision (Portugal @ 15%,
Ireland @ 15%)
But if we look at welfare-rich systems and here there is
some (limited) evidence to suggest that universal access
to minimum income, welfare benefits to meet housing
costs, do appear to significantly reduce overall
homelessness, particularly transitional homelessness
among low-need groups
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012
Conclusions
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The barriers to social housing are significant, according
to the respondents there was often not enough of it and
it could be problematic for some groups of homeless
people to access
Social housing remains a major resource, it certainly can
be used to reduce homelessness and, where it offers
better standards, to counteract the - now once again
growing - relationship between income poverty and poor
housing/housing exclusion. In this sense, problems with
social housing supply and with access to social housing
may well make homelessness worse than it would
otherwise be.
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012
Conclusions
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The relative neglect of social housing reflects – in some
societies – this unfashionable ‘expensive’ and ‘antimarket’ way of dealing with housing need, it is also
associated with negative area effects, social problems
It also reflects the cultural status of social housing as an
undesired tenure in some societies
A clearer emphasis on homelessness and housing need
could help re-focus social housing policy, give it a clearer
role, but there is massive ideological resistance to nonmarket led responses to homelessness or housing need,
despite the self-evident failure of housing markets to
adequately meet housing need
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012
Thanks for listening
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Nicholas Pleace, Centre for Housing Policy, University of
York [email protected]
Nora Teller, Városkutatás Kft / Metropolitan Research
Institute, Budapest [email protected]
European Observatory on Homelessness
http://www.feantsaresearch.org/
European Research Conference
Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe
York, 21st September 2012

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