Este artículo está también disponible en / This post is also available in: Spanish
The public sector can generate a new governance and regulation in the social housing sector in our region. Governments need to generate new frameworks and instruments in favor of a balance between performance, responsibility, resilience, transparency, and inclusion. Without this, it is difficult to attract the private sector and guarantee sustainable investments.
In today’s blog, that is part of a series on the situation of the housing sector in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), we approach the International Festival of Social Housing, held in Helsinki a couple of months ago to present effective international practices aimed at promoting affordable social housing. Some of them may be useful for the region, so we encourage you to keep reading so you don’t miss any details about the international responses to the governance challenges of social housing.
What is governance, and what is it for?
The third International Social Housing Festival (ISHF) was held from June 14th to 17th, 2022 in Helsinki. To the question as to why governance matters in housing, the answers are as follows:
- Creates a framework for promoting housing as a public good
- Clarifies the role of various stakeholders
- Brings together information and expertise from various areas
- Informs and encourages public discussion and debate
- Defines priorities
- Provides direction for reform and defines the scale of effort required
- Defines tangible and feasible actions.
Governance refers to the interaction between the various actors involved in social housing, thus reflecting the quality of the system. In that sense, good governance requires leadership and capacity as a key element to guarantee a consistent housing policy. That is why public administrations must become “entrepreneurial governments” that go beyond the building of basic infrastructure and setting the rules and have become, instead, leading agents for innovations.
Building alliances from the local level
An example of successful leadership can be found in the City of Barcelona. The Plan for the Right to Housing (2016-2025), committed to the “Right to Adequate Housing” and the “European Pillar of Social Rights” of this Spanish city, has four dimensions:
- Preventing and addressing the housing needs
- Ensuring housing serves a social function,
- Increasing the number of affordable flats,
- Renovating the existing housing stock.
In 2017, to increase coordination, Barcelona created the Housing and Rehabilitation Institute, a municipal body responsible for the promotion and construction of officially protected housing, the management of the housing stock and the rehabilitation of buildings. It has become the local benchmark in social housing and has managed to establish alliances with the Barcelona Social Housing Council, which organizes meetings with residents to formulate proposals for action on housing.
Other cities are also seeking to lead the social housing agenda. Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris and Vienna are taking action by introducing affordable housing targets. Chicago, New York, Toronto and Vancouver have introduced various tax incentives and planning inducements to promote the production and preservation of affordable rental housing.
To consult good local practices, the European Commission proposes a toolkit that compiles the best governance practices to improve the provision of affordable housing in cities. The three practices to highlight are:
- successful affordable housing is designed and financed in partnership with beneficiary participation
- governance standards help diversify financing for social housing
- success stories are based on evidence-based data
Closing gaps between the national and the local level
Such efforts at the local level are even more successful when combined with work to better coordinate national and local level agendas and build capacity. They thus make it possible to promote comprehensive policy approaches and create the basis for attracting sustainable investment. In that sense, two instruments could be useful for LAC.
1. Develop evidence-based policies
Scotland (at the national level) and New York City (at the local level) are good examples of how to strengthen an evidence-based approach to social housing. In both cases, a set of disaggregated data sources are used to analyze local housing systems. Recent guidelines on evidence-based policies highlight the need of:
- Coordinated approaches to ensure data are gathered to document the needs and progress of policy implementation at the local level
- Openness through partnerships with academia and among subnational entities
- A comprehensive approach, connecting housing and urban policies and making sure data sourcing, data analysis, and decision making are part of a cycle to inform, document, and evaluate housing and urban policies.
2. Develop sustainability standards
In the United Kingdom, a voluntary disclosure framework for housing providers to report on their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance has been created. The objective of such set of standards is to increase private funding into the social housing sector and to develop a sectoral approach to foster environmental, social, and governance indicators (check the final report of the ESG Social housing Working Group here).
Interested in this topic? Register to the 2022 IDB Group Housing Forum
If you want to know more about the challenges of the housing sector in LAC, and specifically about governance and regulatory frameworks to reduce the housing gap in the region, you cannot miss the recording of the panel Regulatory frameworks, institutional arrangements and technological platforms that reduce the housing lag in the region of the 2022 IDB Group Housing Forum that too place in Washington DC on September 29th and 30th. Access the video (in Spanish) here:
 The Festival offered an opportunity to present “#Housing2030: Effective policies for affordable housing in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) region,” a joint international initiative of UNECE; UN-Habitat, and Housing Europe (https://www.housing2030.org/).