Socio-economic cohesion and convergence were key principles underpinning the European social model, which emerged as the continent was trying to recover from the devastating wounds fascism and Nazism had inflicted on it. Most major European countries developed their welfare states, in an attempt to support the post-war effort and to rebuild wealthier, more equitable and fairer societies. Housing played a fundamental role in securing decent living standards for everyone and as part of people’s right to the city.
Major global shifts and new political rapports de forces brought changes that prioritized other principles –mainly competitiveness– and thus member states across the EU increasingly adopted neoliberal policies weakening their welfare systems. Housing provision suffered more than other welfare policies by commodification and the loss of its function as social right. Even countries with more developed and ecumenical welfare states were eventually affected by this turn. From an element contributing to redistributive justice in the era of vigorous welfare provision, housing is increasingly commodified –through its financialization and the expansion of the private rented sector– and turns into a significant component of the growing and re-patrimonialized inequalities.
Alongside those shifts, housing systems in Europe have also been facing major challenges for some time now: rapidly ageing populations, changes in household structures and in household formation, changes in the structure and role of the family as well as immigration waves that have added a complex variety of demographic, cultural and social patterns to national population structures.
Economic crises and events like the on-going refugee issue have prompted some countries and EU institutions to re-think their stance. However, several European countries went the opposite way by adopting measures which overtly undermine social solidarity, and often pander to xenophobic and nationalist political movements, which appear to be oblivious to the continent’s recent past.
In this congress we explore how housing can be part of a new solidarity model for Europe and how housing policies can lead the way in this direction. We look for answers not only in the way central governments and mainstream institutions have responded but also in the realm of social innovation in the diverse regions of Europe, where path dependency and other contextual factors have given or could give rise to unique solutions to some of the continent’s most pressing housing provision challenges.