With housing precarity rising in the city, Lyon is taking emergency steps to provide shelter to homeless and poorly housed people and is working to develop long-term responses. But the lack of affordable housing facing Europe’s cities cannot be solved at the local level alone.

Europe’s major cities are facing an unprecedented housing crisis. Land and construction costs are exploding. With rising interest rates, mortgages are unaffordable for many households. The hardest hit are the poorly housed. In the Lyon metropolitan area, 20,000 people fall into this category. The city’s green-left metropolitan council, which was elected in 2020, has made addressing this housing insecurity crisis its priority.

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Lyon is one of a number of local and regional authorities in France to have implemented a Housing First plan [offering housing to homeless people without any preconditions]. This was rapidly implemented and has benefited more than 850 people in the city to date. The metropolitan council is building additional social housing to meet high demand and, in a number of areas, has blocked new construction projects that fail to provide a given portion of social housing. The city is also using its current housing stock to help ease the housing crisis via a twofold approach. First, developing transitional urban planning by using temporarily vacant buildings as transitional housing for homeless people. And second, building partnerships with the people occupying these sites to include them in longer-term housing solutions.

A priority demographic for the council, 18- to 25-year-olds in the Lyon metropolitan area receive a “solidarity income” of up to 400 euros per month – a first in France. But this sum is insufficient if the recipient is homeless. The Lyon Métropole – with the help of the EU funding programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) – is providing its young people with targeted housing and employment assistance in order to prevent this. The fight against housing precarity also involves the provision of accommodation to people who have experienced migration, including those who have been forced to seek asylum. Over the past year, 1500 people in this situation have been sheltered in Lyon. In particular, we were keen to take in young people who are appealing in court to be recognised as minors. The metropolitan authority, working in cooperation with NGO Le MAS and with the help of co-financing from the French state, has provided 92 places for young migrants. Single mothers with children under the age of three are accommodated in small houses on two sites. Another site co-financed by the Lyon Métropole and the French state, Les Grandes Voisines, promotes migrant integration through employment. Although the Lyon Métropole is pursuing all possible options to get people off the streets, these will never be enough. To address the housing precarity crisis, the French government must commit to developing a more ambitious Housing First programme. Not only do cities need dedicated European Union funding to scale up this work; they also need housing security to become a key issue at a European level. This is an excellent opportunity for the development of a new social and urban agenda.

This piece is part of a series in the edition on how Greens in government in AustriaBelgiumCroatiaFrance, and Scotland are responding to the social crisis.

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