Magazine article European Social Policy

Social Housing : Complaint Lodged with Commission over French Subsidies

Magazine article European Social Policy

Social Housing : Complaint Lodged with Commission over French Subsidies

Article excerpt

A new front has opened in the crusade' by private owners against social landlords. The Union nationale de la propriete immobiliere (UNPI - National Union of Property Owners), after disputing public aid granted in the Netherlands, Sweden, Luxembourg and Belgium to social housing bodies, has now lodged a complaint with the European Commission over French subsidies.

The French association, which represents housing stock of 1,500,000 units, denounces an incompatibility with state aid rules on services of general economic interest (SGEI). "We question the misuse in France of public housing financed by taxation, consisting of the allocation of housing to persons who do not need it," France Bauvin of UNPI told Europolitics social. "I nevertheless wish to make it clear that we consider public social housing essential." At stake, she added, is "20 billion in state aid allocated to public housing, which includes low-cost housing managed by social housing bodies but also housing managed by the local authorities, which unlike the former is not subject to an income ceiling and on which we lack precise data. This grey zone runs counter to EU rules on state aid to SGEIs".

"This limited volume of private housing owned by local authorities is not supported with public funds," protests Laurent Ghekiere, who represents the Union sociale pour l'Habitat with the EU.

MISUSE

The UNPI's second objection concerns "misuse of the public service mission of operators providing public housing, which should only be available to low-income individuals," explains Bauvin. The population of such social housing is made up mostly of blue-collar workers and employees but also includes 50% managers and "even 50,000 people with very high income," she explains. Ghekiere disputes these figures: "Certain tenants were able to qualify for social housing at the start of their career and stay, although their income has risen, because the leases are open-ended. …

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