THE EUROPEAN UNION
Brussels, 24 November 2010
The Working Party on Social Questions
No. prev. doc. :
13883/10 SOC 561 JAI 759 MI 317
No. Cion prop. :
11531/08 SOC 411 JAI 368 MI 246
Proposal for a Council Directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation
Delegations will find attached a note from the EL delegation.
Presidency questionnaire concerning housing
1. Situation in Member States
Both the Racial Equality Directive (2000/43/EC) and the Gender Goods and Services Equality Directive (2004/113/EC) cover housing available to the public in their scope. Several MS have gone beyond these two grounds in their protection against discrimination.
i. To what extent does your national legislation against discrimination apply to housing?
The two relevant laws , namely Law 3304/2005, that has transposed the Racial Equality Directive (2000/43/EC), and Law 3769/2009, that has transposed the Gender Goods and Services Equality Directive (2004/113/EC), apply to the public and the private sector of the economy. The abovementioned legal framework covers housing available to the public for the grounds of “ethnic or racial origin” and sex. There is no distinction between private and public/social housing.
ii. Do you distinguish (for this purpose) between private and public/social housing?
There is no distinction between private and public/social housing.
c) Do you have statistics on the number of cases of discrimination in the area of housing, and if so, what is the most prevalent ground?
No statistics are available.
2. Social housing
i. Do you consider social housing to be a service (for the purposes of EU law)?
The Labour Housing Organization (ΟΕΚ) is a body exclusively funded be employees’ and employers’ contributions (no statutory funding), on a reciprocity–basis. Therefore, eligible for OEK’s services are only employees as well as pensioners who pay or have paid contributions to OEK. In other words, OEK does not offer universal coverage. However, being the only public body that provides decent housing to the less privileged employees and pensioners, OEK can be considered the only social housing agency in Greece.
ΟΕΚ beneficiaries are: a) all blue and white-collar employees working in the private sector who are insured at a main social security organization and pay contributions to ΟΕΚ, b) employees working in Public Enterprises and the wider public sector who pay contributions to OEK, and c) pensioners of the above categories.
Prerequisite for housing eligibility is that beneficiaries do not already own a house or have enough assets to buy a house on their own. Additionally, they must have completed a certain number of working days; the number of days required differs depending on their family status.
In principle “social housing” could be considered as a service.
b) If not, do you consider it to be a part of the social protection system?
3. Private life
In some cases, the principle of equality might be in conflict with the right to private life, in particular in the area of housing (e.g. renting out a room in your own apartment).
i. Is this better taken into account by an exclusion of transactions in the area of private life from the scope of the Directive, or by an exclusion of activities which are not commercial or professional?
Non-commercial or non-professional activities should be excluded. Thus private actions and, consequently, private life will not be undermined. In any case, in order to ensure that the right to equality will not pose a challenge to the right to private life, the relevant wording in the last paragraph of Article 3(1) of the original Proposal (doc. 11531/08) should be retained.
b) How is commercial/professional housing defined in your national legislation?
The term commercial/ professional housing in a broad sense is mostly used in the taxation legislation. It refers to the space, building or part of a building in which a professional activity is carried out. In the Hellenic urban development legislation, which also contains accessibility provisions, the term commercial/professional housing is not used but buildings are distinguished on a usage basis (e.g. residence, tourist facilities, administration, education, industrial facilities).
4. Disability – reasonable accommodation
i. In your view, what should the obligation to provide reasonable accommodation mean for providers of housing?
The obligation for reasonable accommodation in the case of existing housing that is not yet accessible to persons with disabilities should be seen in relation to the disproportionate burden that the adjustment would impose. Specifically, the difficulty of implementing a simple solution (in technical and economic terms) for ensuring accessibility (horizontal or vertical) for persons in wheelchairs should be noted. Additionally, large-scale and costly measures are not advisable due to the natural ageing of the raw materials of buildings as well as to the limited lifespan of some buildings.
Another parameter is the very rough natural terrain in Greece that results in the development of urban settlements on steeply sloping ground. This parameter often makes the construction of pavements and other communal areas, as well as the construction of building entrances with gentle inclines offering access for persons in wheelchairs, extremely difficult. Simple adjustments that facilitate the access of people with other types of disability, such as blind people, for example the construction of handrails in stairways, are acceptable.
In general, this issue should be seen in a flexible way and the obligation for necessary adjustments should be regulated by the national legislation in accordance with the specific characteristics of each Member State.
b) Is there legislation on the accessibility of buildings (private as well as public/social) in your country?
Yes there is. More specifically, the current legal framework provides the obligation of ensuring horizontal (ramp with a suitable gradient and corridors that allow the passing of a wheel chair) and vertical accessibility to all buildings up to three floors that must have elevators of sufficient size for a wheelchair (article 28, L.2831/2000. This provision concerns all buildings constructed after the aforementioned law came into force, without distinction between public and private buildings.
It should be noted that buildings in areas with steep inclines, or small plots are excluded from these provisions due to the objective difficulty of constructing elevators in sufficient size to facilitate wheelchair access.
Also in some categories of new buildings (public buildings or those of general public interest, schools, offices ) there are provisions for horizontal and vertical accessibility of disabled people as well as the provision for accessible sanitary areas for them.
Furthermore, according to the Ministerial Dec. 52487/ 16-11-2001, specific regulations apply for existing public buildings that are under renovation or in cases that people with disabilities work there, in order to facilitate access for these persons.
5. Disability – accessibility
i. What should the obligation to provide for accessibility measures encompass in the area of housing?
Please refer to question 3, par. B. The abovementioned legal framework sets the minimum accessibility requirements.
ii. Should there be a difference between old and new buildings?
There should be a difference; stricter requirements should be imposed in cases of new buildings, while less stringent measures should be applied to old existing buildings, priority being given to buildings that are used more often by the public.
Do you support immediate applicability with respect to new buildings?
A differentiation on usage should be implemented. Indigenous and objective difficulties as regards accessibility for wheelchair users also exist. This parameter is recognized in the existing legal framework, given Greece’s natural terrain which has steep inclines as well as relatively small building plots.
In any case, it is a fact that the majority of the existing buildings have been built prior to the coming into force of the current legal framework on accessibility and therefore no provisions have been made for people with disabilities. Therefore, a major issue emerges as regards the necessary resources and the time needed for the adjustments to the needs of people on wheelchairs. The adjustments needed for other categories of people with disabilities are considered more simple in terms of both resources and time.
According to the official estimates, more time (10 to 12 years for example) should be given for modifications to existing buildings, and an exclusion clause should be provided for some building categories (e.g. depending on the public usage or the ground inclination).
i. Should there be a difference between the obligations for private and public/social housing respectively?
e) Are there public funds available in your country for the adaptation of housing (private as well as public/social)?