Doc. 9205

18 September 2001

Amelioration of disadvantaged urban areas in Europe Recommendation 1505 (2001)

Reply from the Committee of Ministers

adopted at the 763rd meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (12 September 2001)

The Committee of Ministers has examined Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1505 (2001) on the amelioration of disadvantaged urban areas in Europe and has decided to bring it to the attention of governments and of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE).

The Committee of Ministers attaches great importance to developing a healthy and pleasant living environment for the citizens of its member states. Its action to promote better social cohesion, as part of the social cohesion strategy adopted in 2000, particularly reflects this.

It is clear from the strategy that the solution of housing problems in disadvantaged urban areas requires an integrated approach, bringing together, in particular, issues of housing, social protection, employment, health, education and community relations. Improving the appearance of disadvantaged urban areas will not contribute to social cohesion in any sustainable way unless it forms part of an overall approach to improving the economic, social and cultural environment of the persons living in these areas. The effective implementation of such integrated strategies lends itself to partnership between public authorities, the private sector and civil society, particularly at local level.

In paragraph 2 of the Recommendation, the Assembly mentions the difficult situation of residents of disadvantaged areas, pointing out that “frequently, they do not own their own homes”. The Committee of Ministers notes that this is often true in the context of Western European countries, but that the reality is different in most of the post-communist transition countries in central and eastern Europe. In these countries, mass privatisation of housing estates has allowed most of the residents of these estates to become owners. Often, however, they have neither the personal means necessary to maintain their property nor access to public systems of financial assistance. The specific needs of this type of tenants have been studied closely by the Group of Specialists on Access to Housing (CS-LO), under the auspices of the European Committee for Social Cohesion (CDCS).

The group of specialists is currently drawing up a set of policy guidelines on access to housing for vulnerable categories of people. It addresses many of the issues mentioned in Recommendation 1505 (2001); for example, the implementation of area-based policies, funding for access to quality housing and housing maintenance, the establishment of legal and institutional provisions and co-operation with civil society. The results of this work, together with the outcome of other activities relating to access to social rights, should be compiled in a comprehensive report and presented at a conference to be held in 2002. It is also planned to draft a Committee of Ministers recommendation, which will incorporate the guidelines set out on access to social rights.

In order to ensure the continuity of its action on housing policies, the Committee of Ministers plans to appoint a new committee in 2002 to look at the contribution of these policies to social cohesion; the Parliamentary Assembly will be invited to attend meetings of this committee as an observer. In addition, a number of assistance programmes on access to housing are planned in the Baltic states, Bulgaria and the Russian Federation.

The Committee of Ministers would also remind the Assembly of the regional network of experts on housing in South-Eastern Europe, set up by the Council of Europe in 2000 to examine the major difficulties concerning housing in the region. The network is involved in the strategic review of social cohesion issues in South-Eastern Europe and contributes in particular to the social cohesion initiative and the action plan of the Stability Pact (Working Table II), in which the Council of Europe, particularly the Development Bank, plays an active part.

The objectives set for the housing component of Working Table II and the implementation strategy which has been developed in this context are in line with the concerns set out by the Assembly in Recommendation 1505 (2001).