Ending homelessness – it can be done!

Europe on 23rd July 2020, in attendance of European Commissioner for social affairs Nicolas Schmit.

Shocking: Greece tops more than one “top worst” list EU-wide: homelessness is a reality for half of its unaccompanied minors, poor households and people with disabilities find it increasingly difficult to pay rent, and foreign nationals are by far more vulnerable to homelessness and housing exclusion.
According to estimates by the Foundation Abbé Pierre and FEANTSA, some 700,000 people face homelessness every night in the European Union, representing a 70% increase in ten years.
However, during the recent health crisis, the number of roofless people fell sharply in many countries thanks to the emergency measures to provide shelter for the most vulnerable among us. In Greece, within the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, some families seeking asylum were placed in temporary housing, but with confinement measures lifting, they were forced to leave their accommodation, leaving them vulnerable to homelessness again.
We have seen that it is possible to prioritise vulnerable groups and ultimately end homelessness if we really want to when we have the means to do so!
In this Fifth Overview of Housing Exclusion in Europe, the Foundation Abbé Pierre and FEANTSA have once again joined forces and shown that by mobilising 3% of the subsidies provided for in the Post-COVID Recovery Plan budget, the European Union and Member States are capable of immediately rehousing all homeless people across Europe in dignified conditions for an entire year.
Every year, our report focuses on a particular theme: this year, the Foundation Abbé Pierre and FEANTSA focused their attention on people in exile, who are over-represented among the homeless and whose fundamental rights, in particular access to dignified reception and accommodation conditions, are called into question at every stage of the asylum process.

Some numbers from the report:

•Children are particularly vulnerable to housing exclusion in Europe and specifically to overcrowded conditions. In Greece, 40% of all children live in overcrowded homes –that’s double the EU average.
•Half of unaccompanied minors living in Greece in March 2019 were reported homeless
•In the EU, Housing inequalities between poor and non-poor households are on the rise:poor households are eight times more likely to be overburdened by housing costs than non-poor households.
•90% of poor households and almost 40% of the total population in Greece are overburdened by housing costs. Greece has seen these numbers increase over 10 years, making it the “first-worst” in the EU. •In Greece, poor households spend more than 70% while the total population spends approx. 40% of their disposable income on housing costs. That makes Greece the least affordable housing market in the EU when it comes to housing its own population.
•EU-wide, Greece has the highest share of poor households with accumulated housing-related debt (19.7%).
•In Greece, non-EU nationals are twice as likely to be overburdened by housing costs as Greek nationals. Here, too, Greece is “first-worst” with 76.1% of non-EU nationals overburdened with housing costs.
•Non-EU nationals living in Greece are also twice as likely to be living in overcrowded housing in Greece as Greek nationals.
•EU-wide, Greece, along with Bulgaria, has the highest share of housing cost overburden amongst people with physical disabilities (34.5%), which doubled over the period of 2018–2010. That number goes up further when looking at the younger population: 1 in 2 young people with physical disabilities in Greece is overburdened by housing costs.
•Despite the increasing housing inequalities reported above, Greece has the lowest government expenditure EU-wide on housing construction and utilities (0.4%), and has the second-highest decrease in social protection expenditure when it comes to housing(-78.9% between 2007 and 2017).
After years of deep recession, a consequent drop in property prices, austerity policies within the context of increased European surveillance, a rising disparity between housing costs and falling income levels, the financialisation and commodification of housing have had obvious consequences on housing inequalities in Greece. It is high time the matter was given some urgent, but long-term attention.
The publication of this report comes at the end of a major health crisis that has led to an economic and social crisis. This is a major turning point and the Foundation Abbé Pierre and FEANTSA have high hopes that access to decent, affordable and adequate housing for all can be scaled up. Moreover, the European Commission appears to be paving the way for more decisive action in this area. Will Greece be part of the movement?

The 5th Overview of Housing Exclusion in Europe is available here.


FEANTSA is the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless. With over 100 members, we are the only European NGO focusing exclusively on homelessness. FEANTSA has consultative status at the Council of Europe and the United Nations.

About Foundation Abbé Pierre:

Foundation Abbé Pierre is a major actor in the fight against homelessness and housing exclusion in France and advocates for a more just and human-centered society. The Foundation was established by Henri Grouès, known as “L’Abbé Pierre” and supports almost 900 projects annually both in France and internationally.