Launched in 2016, the Urban Agenda for the EU is a new partnership aimed to promote cooperation between Member States, Cities, the European Commission and other stakeholders, in order to stimulate growth, liveability and innovation in the cities of Europe. The initiative recognizes the role of cities in tackling some of Europe’s most pressing socioeconomic challenges, including the ageing of the EU population.
The work within the Urban Agenda is split into 12 partnerships focusing on one of the following themes:
- Inclusion of migrants and refugees
- Air quality
- Urban poverty
- Circular economy
- Jobs and skills in the local economy
- Climate adaptation (including green infrastructure solutions)
- Energy transition
- Sustainable use of land and Nature-Based solutions
- Urban mobility
- Digital transition
- Innovative and responsible public procurement
They all focus on the topics of better regulation, better knowledge and better funding and have to include transversal issues such as demographic change. To read more, click here.
The first four partnerships started their work last year and each one recently launched a public consultation in order to help them prepare their action plan.
AGE replied to the consultation on housing, an essential component to social inclusion and independent living in old age, and therefore a key topic in the promotion of older persons’ rights and age-friendly environments.
AGE recommendations on housing
In our reply, we notably called for affordable housing solutions. Many older persons are struggling with low pensions and raising expenditures, namely for healthcare. Also older persons often live in old houses or flats, for which they don’t have the financial means or the right to take loans to renovate them. Those homes become thus more expensive to maintain. We believe that state aid rules can help here by providing the necessary flexibility to help cities renovate their housing stock and provide it at reasonable prices to their inhabitants, including to the older ones, in order to help them remain at home independently.
We also backed the objective of the Urban Agenda partnership on Housing to offer better guidance on EU regulation and public support for housing. The European Union having ratified the United Nations’ Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, there is a number of obligations that apply to the housing sector, in particular with regard to the article 9 on accessibility. This is a key article to allow persons with functional limitations to live independently and to help the ageing population remain at home for longer. Guidance on the implementation of article 9 would be very useful to ensure that the housing stock better fits everyone’s needs. The EU Public Procurement Directive and the European Regional Development Fund are further key instruments to foster the accessibility of public housing, and we strongly believe that the European Accessibility Act, currently discussed within the European Parliament, may help to strengthen these instruments.
Furthermore we supported the call for better knowledge sharing. As in many other domains, there is a lack of information about existing practices that could present an interest. In the field of age-friendly homes, some EU countries (such as the Netherlands or Ireland) are indeed very well advanced, and could share their knowledge and experience to other EU countries. Fostering exchange among practitioners at local and regional levels is one of the added-value the European Union can bring. Having for example access to a European database of practices could be very beneficial in that sense. Yet, we underlined the need to keep this database alive and updated and to provide the information in different EU languages.
Last but not least, we emphasized the necessity to co-create housing solutions with inhabitants, as it allows developing adequate models, which are fit for purpose and therefore sustainable. Inhabitants are indeed in the best position to identify needs and suggest improvements. Many methodologies have been and are being developed to support co-creation efforts and ensure that they are socially inclusive. This is notably the case for older persons.
By the end of 2017 a report based on the result of the consultations will be presented to the Council of the European Union. It will cover the progress of the Urban Agenda and its Partnerships, suggestions for improvements and will also provide some reflections on the future on the Commission’s work on urban matters.
Next to that, a big conference with workshops (‘Cities Forum’) will take place in the city of Rotterdam on 27 and 28 November 2017 which will bring together all actors involved in urban development at EU, national and local levels including stakeholders such as NGOs, businesses and experts.
To get updated on future action related to the Urban Agenda and its different partnerships, you are invited to visit the Futurium portal of the European Commission.