Study on affordable sustainable housing in the EU

The study will contribute to the reflection on possible policy solutions to affordable sustainable housing in the EU, by examining a number of initiatives taken at (sub)national level innovating in the field of housing and determining how these could be relevant in a European context.

The current challenges surrounding the availability of affordable and sustainable housing are linked to a number of factors, a major challenge being the lack of supply in dwellings where demand is strong, such as in urban areas, but also efficiency, market and regulatory restrictions. Recent literature on the topic has identified a wide variety of policy solutions. The UN #Housing2030 report, for instance, identifies policies in four different fields: tools for governance, land policy, finance and investment, and climate neutrality. In this context, the present study will scrutinize a number of new or lesser-known initiatives in two distinctive areas with a view to examining how these initiatives can contribute to affordable sustainable housing in the EU, namely:

  1. Digitalisation;
  2. Structures in housing, property development and social economy.

Firstly, in the field of digitalisation, the focus will be on the potential of the digitalisation of building permits, including the use of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques, and on the establishment of a relevant database for buildings in the EU. With the use of AI in digital building permit systems, it is possible to have an overview/analysis of the building substances and the costs related to re-use of the structures and to optimise individual recycling approaches.

Furthermore, the availability of data is a basis for the preservation and revitalisation of the buildin stock and can facilitate recycling and circular approaches. Despite the launch of a Building Stock Observatory at EU level, there is still a lack of implementation in many Member States. The study will contribute to the digital exchange and transfer of European best practices in these fields.

Secondly, the study will contribute to the debate in the area of structures in housing, property development and the social economy. Structures and (legal) frameworks can differ considerably in different countries and have a strong impact on costs and the quality of housing, e.g. in some countries, housing space is provided and governed by non-profit organisations and housing associations (for instance the limited-profit housing associations in Austria). The study will assess the state of play, with the aim to identify best practices to be recommended across the EU.

Client: the European Economic and Social Committee