Lack of affordable, accessible, secure housing of adequate quality is a defining feature of homelessness. In order to tackle homelessness, it is therefore necessary to understand the central role housing provision and housing policy play in pathways into and out of homelessness.
Housing is becoming an increasingly ‘hot topic’ within the European Union (EU). Housing markets were a critical factor in the onset of the crisis in 2008. Several of the EU’s housing markets have experienced dramatic boom and bust cycles in recent years, with serious implications for homelessness and housing exclusion. The European Commission is now monitoring some house price developments in the framework of the European Semester, with a view to fostering more stability and balance. Housing affordability is a major and growing challenge in many European Member States. EU-SILC data shows that the proportion of households reporting being overburdened by housing costs in the bottom income quintile increased in the EU-27 from 30.9% in 2008 to 35.2% in 2012. Social housing policies in many Member States are under pressure. Finances are strained and waiting lists are growing in many cases. The implementation of EU competition law has led to cases on state aid with interesting implications for the definition and functioning of social housing in some countries such as the Netherlands. There are also new opportunities at EU level to invest in the social role of housing, for example through Cohesion policy and the recently announced Juncker Commission 315 billion € investment programme. This makes this edition of Homeless in Europe a timely occasion to explore the relationship between homelessness and housing in the EU. Analysing this relationship includes looking at the double-edged role housing markets can have in generating as well combating homelessness, understanding homeless people’s housing needs and exploring links with neighbouring sectors such as social housing.