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Start at Home - Housing Europe presents its contribution to the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, COP21

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30 November. The European Federation of Public, Cooperative and Social Housing presented its contribution to COP21, offering a measurable overview of the development of the affordable housing sector in Europe over the last five years. Despite the global financial crisis public, cooperative and social housing providers have managed to stay committed to the fair green energy transition they had promised in their Offer towards the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen.

In the data gathered from the Housing Europe Observatory, from Eurostat as well as from relevant  European Projects, such as BEEM-UP, POWER HOUSE  nearly Zero Energy Challenge and NEUJOBS, one may immediately notice that over the past five years there has been constant increase in refurbishments of the Housing Europe stock and an overall investment of around 32 billion Euros in renovation projects that have triggered employment opportunities, have resulted in significant energy savings and have offered a relief in the energy bills of tenants.

Refurbishments with multiple benefits
From 2010 to 2015 a total of 1,843,000 dwellings have been refurbished, a figure that accounts for 6.2 % of the Housing Europe members’ stock. On an annual basis affordable housing providers refurbish approximately 1.2 % of their stock. To reach these goals an overall investment of 32.8 billion € was needed, which translates into 20,000 € per cost of renovation. However, it should be noted that the cost spans from an average of 7,000 € in Eastern European countries to 32,000 € for deep renovation projects in Northern and Central Europe. In general, the average payback time can be rather safely calculated to 26 years based on the property cost, the cost of energy and of manpower.

The investments which have been made have proven to be a significant employment generator at a time of rampant unemployment in most EU member states. In total, 506.550 full-time jobs have been created which equals to an average of 15 jobs per 1M € invested in every refurbishment project according to a NEUJOBS.

At the same time the improved performance of the housing stock produces multiple savings both in energy and in the expenses of each household. The homes managed by Housing Europe members- with an average surface of 84 m2 as Eurostat figures suggest- offer an average energy saving of 45 kWh/m2 per year. At the same time the tenants living in these apartments save on average 724 € on their energy bill each year. These figures derive from the online energy consumption tracker HIVE  that has been used to monitor representative case studies of different climate zones.

Improving quality through innovation
Apart from quantitative developments, Housing Europe has also provided some highlights related to the qualitative evolution of the affordable housing sector to meet the changing energy and environmental needs of our times.

Through Energiesprong, Net Zero Energy refurbishments have been made a market reality. The refurbishments are financed from the energy cost savings, since a house does not consume more energy than it produces (E=0); a refurbishment is executed within 10 days and comes with a 30-year energy performance warranty from the builder.  
Most of Housing Europe member organisations are already actively involved in the decentralised EU energy market, paving the way for the EU Energy Union. Through smart grid and smart meters these organisations facilitate the creation of smart green living spaces, ensuring that energy is accessible and affordable for all .

Through the Housing Europe flagship European Project, Power House nearly Zero Energy Challenge expertise has been pooled in reaching really high energy standards while a large and diverse EU-wide cooperation has managed to bridge the gap in the market regarding real consumption data of homes.

Apart from refurbishments, the public, cooperative and social housing sector has been spearheading developments in new construction as well, making the case for a need to set the new standards based on solid evidence while reducing the construction costs to maximize offer. Kombohus in Sweden is a state of the art example.

What’s next?
Making use of the milestone of COP21 Housing Europe calls decision makers to foster continuation of support to the affordable housing sector so that it can keep making an even more significant contribution to the fight against climate change.
The demands are structured around four main axes:

1.    Empowering and involving citizen-consumers and communities
This will be key to unlocking the full potential of every green energy transition strategy already under way. Therefore, the role of local partnerships with energy companies, the construction sector and housing providers will be crucial in improving the ability of tenants to use their homes the best way possible.

2.    Adequate finance for energy efficiency
The amplification of conventional and alternative ways to provide long-term low-cost capital financing for the renovation of social housing.

3.    New energy market design
Housing should become part of the energy grid and housing associations should take the lead in becoming energy providers, too. Better, more effective combination/mix of Renewable Energy Sources (RES) and Energy Efficiency policies should be a priority.

4.    Enabling EU legislation
Both the EPBD and the EED should be turned into instruments to support local partnerships using cost effective measures.