Housing inequality and exclusion become much more visible in the current Covid-19 crisis. The situation fears and affects especially those who are already struggling with high rents, from the consequences of short-time work, unemployment or a decrease of sales. If this situation continues, hundreds of thousands will no longer be able to pay their rents and are running in danger of getting evicted.
Mr. Rouzbeh Taheri, a housing activist from “Deutsche Wohnen & Co enteignen” in his statement in the German newspaper “Der Freitag” claims that “real estate owners have enormous growth in wealth and tenants are paying an increasing share of their income for rent. And now they have to fear for their home.” There is a market failure in the provision of decent, safe and energy‑efficient housing for broad groups of society (lower and middle class).
By pointing out that “the framework conditions for the rent policy is set by the state and can also be changed”, Mr. Taheri addresses a crucial point: Change! In order to address this social issue, public intervention is crucial. Here is where politicians are urgently needed, as they have the authority to regulate or freeze rents and implement taxes.
Some Member States, however, have already developed emergency measures to protect tenants. Austria, by instance, has passed laws to stop evictions and, in Germany, there has been a financial support for tenants. Other initiatives also include the regulation on moratoriums. The hope remains that countries will do everything possible to prevent the economic crisis from becoming an incredible dramatic social crisis that destabilizes Europe and threatens peace. This European housing issues need a European response.
The crisis gives the empirical answer to all who believe in the unbridled markets when it comes to affordable housing. The Covid-19 consequences can also be seen as a chance for implementing better housing policies. Now more than ever, housing needs to be a public responsibility!