There has been a new development in the crusade' by private owners against social landlords. The Union nationale de la propriete immobiliere (UNPI), a French association of private property owners, has revised the complaint it lodged with the European Commission in May 2012. It unveiled at a press conference, on 20 November, the content of new accusations backing up its criticisms of social housing, as defined and financed in France. The content of these objections, seen by Europolitics social, differs from the initial objections in terms of their objective and nature.
The UNPI points out in its invitation to the press that its complaint denounces a situation that is troubling in terms of a distortion of competition between low-rent housing and the private sector on the housing rental market in France. These objections "demonstrate that public housing costs the state and regions/municipalities 21 billion every year, but that there is no real monitoring of this aid. In addition, 75% of public social housing is built where there is no manifest need (2012 Court of Auditors report)". For the association, this justifies the opening of an in-depth investigation by the Commission on the basis of Article 108(2) TFEU (state aid incompatible with the internal market or misuse of aid).
This complaint fits in with a general movement in Europe of private owners challenging what they see as distortions of competition resulting from the financing of social housing. The Commission sided partly with them with its validation, in December 2009, of an increase in the income ceiling for Dutch social housing proposed by the Netherlands. At national level, the UNPI's request comes in a political context favourable to social housing: the French parliament adopted, in 2012, the Duflot Act (in force since January) increasing the percentage of social housing that municipalities will have to build from 20% to 25%. It is no coincidence that it was then (in January) that the new elements were presented to the EU executive.
The UNPI moves from a policy-based approach challenging the social housing system to a more technical attack based on the incompatibility of the financing of certain bodies with the Almunia package rules on aid for services of general economic interest (SGEIs), adopted in December 2011 and in force since 2012(1). While its initial complaint aimed to assert an error of characterisation of the public service task assigned by France to social housing...