Highlights from ‘preventing evictions and homelessness’ study visit in Vienna


On 6-7 December, EUROCITIES working groups on housing and homelessness had a joint meeting to learn and exchange views on Vienna’s strategic approach on preventing evictions and homelessness. The city has shared its practices with more than 50 participants from 18 cities (Barcelona, Berlin, Birmingham, Brno, Dublin, Ghent, Glasgow, Gothenburg, Leipzig, Ljubljana, Lyon, Munich, Newcastle, Oslo, Poznan, Vienna, Zaragoza, Zurich). The discussions were focused on the key challenges, success factor and lesson learnt in developing preventive measure for evictions and homelessness at local level.

Zoom-in on Vienna’s good practice
In Vienna, one in four citizens lives in municipal or subsidized housing. Wiener Wohnen is the company that manages around 220,000 social housing units, being the largest municipal housing company of Europe. In order to prevent eviction, Vienna has introduced a new service – Case Management, which is based on the early intervention of the social workers for tenants at risk of being evicted (e.g high rental arrears, case of anti-social behaviour due to mental health issues, drug or alcohol abuse, dementia, compulsive hoarding etc.).
The participants also had the opportunity to visit the ‘Sofortprogramm’ – temporary living accommodation. The program is a combination of the innovative housing solution and social housing management that focuses on reminders, debt collection, instalment agreements and specialized social services (income problems, debt, employment, child care etc.). The concept provides a complex support to people to help them keep a stabile home.
Based on the programmes and the strategic approach of Vienna, the main lesson learnt mentioned by cities were:
1.    The social housing connected to supporting social services;
2.    The case management system fostering the outreach through social workers;
3.    Understanding the needs at local level and tailor the services to be focused on people;
4.    Political will to make housing and prevention of homelessness as priority at local level;
5.    Flexible approach of the city to temporary housing. (Vienna has temporary housing for 10 years).
Barcelona, Birmingham, Glasgow, Ljubljana and Newcastle showcasing their work
Five other cities have presented their practices and preventing homelessness policies. During the meeting the cities had the chance to gather the feedback from the participants on what could be improved and gather more ideas on how to develop the following practices:
Barcelona has a Unit Against Residential Exclusion (UCER/ SIPHO) which has the aim of intervening in eviction processes to ensure that it respects human rights and to coordinate all available resources and actors for avoiding evictions. This involves an effective coordination among services, NGOs and civil society organizations.
Birmingham has implemented the Local Government Association - Children’s Service Efficiency project which aimed at establishing how efficient can be the cost of placements for young people. Based on this project, the city, has developed the concept of Psychologically Informed Environments to test if a change in young people’s environment and a social support would get to different outcomes and if it can be cost efficient.
In Glasgow the social housing stock is managed by a Housing Association gathering 68 housing organisations. The city has developed a strong partnership involving the public bodies, housing associations and third sectors in order to achieve a consistency and quality prevention activity. The work focuses on the partnership across sectors and on minimising the conflict/inconsistency within the system.
Ljubljana works on preventing evictions through the Public Housing Fund (PHF) which deals with 4200 rental housing units. The PHF has designed ‘in-house’ preventive measures (reminders, instalments, residential unit grants etc.), external mediation actions, and preventing evictions activities in partnership with NGOs and social care centres. The measures implemented in partnership with NGOs were included in the housing plan of the municipality.
Newcastle has an Active Inclusion partnership to deliver coordinated services to prevent homelessness. It addresses primary prevention (information for beneficiaries of welfare rights, debt and homelessness), secondary prevention (advise for residents at risk) and crisis intervention (emergency housing 727 rooms).
Strategic approach to preventing evictions and homelessness
The visiting cities had exchanged views on the challenged and success factors that are similar to Viennese context. The common key aspects indentified by the participants were:
·       Insufficient social housing stock and land supply which lead to low levels of social and affordable housing;
·       Fast growing of housing prices;
·       Mismatch between law and local circumstances.
Success factors
·       Cooperation between different public services;
·       Development of tools for early intervention;  
·       The use of data in understanding the demand and better distribution of resources.
Smart solution to prevent homelessness
The participating cities have elaborate a set of smart solution based on lesson learned and identified key factors, on how cities can improve their preventing evictions and homelessness systems and polices. The main highlights are:
1.    Reinforcing prevention work by developing solution for a proactive approach and for early intervention.
2.    Increasing the public investment in social infrastructure - social and affordable housing.
3.    Developing person-focused solutions through identifying and tackling the cross-cutting issues.
4.    Building consensus and encourage cooperation between stakeholders (among public services and also between public services and NGOs, private providers etc.).
5.    Introducing one-stop-shop for accessible housing and preventing eviction that are accessible.
6.    Prioritizing investment in qualitative prevention measures, rather than quantitative measures. 
7.    Non-discriminatory housing services and polices, especially to specific social groups like migrants, refuges, single parents etc.
During the event, the working groups (WG) homelessness and housing have met to discuss about the future plans and also to elect the coordinators of the WGs. The newly elected chair and vice chair of working group homelessness are Gordon Smith (Glasgow), respectively Dobroslawa Janas (Poznan). The working group housing has reconfirmed Susanne Bauer (Vienna) as chair and Javier Buron (Barcelona) as vice chair.

EUROCITIES staff contact

Patricia Couti