The “Urban Investment Support” was recently launched by the European Commission and the European Investment Bank with the aim of helping cities plan investments. Consequently, their urban development strategies would be supported and there would be easier access to financing.
Precisely this access to financing remains one of the biggest issues that cities have to face. Individual municipal projects in the fields of social inclusion, urban regeneration or energy efficiency are usually too risky or developed on too small a scale to affect the market.
Furthermore, integrated urban program funding is difficult to access due to grouping projects according to sectors. Ultimately, cities might also face borrowing limits.
URBIS intends to help cities tackle these specific issues. It will aid them in the design, planning phase and implementation of investment strategies and projects, with tailor-made technical and financial advice, also focusing on innovative financing options.
One of the top priorities of the European Commission at the moment is working together with cities to ensure a good quality of life.
Through such initiatives, urban communities are driven towards sustainable growth, towards the sharing of knowledge and funding. EU’s urban agenda brings together the expertise and power of the Commission with national ministries, city governments and other stakeholders.
The objective is to see solid projects get off the ground in the short to medium-term across a wide range of fields, tackling future challenges.
Maroš Šefčovič (European Commission Vice-President responsible for the Energy Union): “Mayors want to take action and make their cities smarter and more sustainable. On our part, URBIS will make it easier for them to access the investments they need to get this done – through tailor-made advice and leveraging existing funds and assets. Urban innovation needs to be unlocked, get enough scale and be replicated across Europe.”
Corina Creţu (Commissioner for Regional Policy): “We have ambitious objectives for sustainable urban development under the Urban Agenda for the EU and URBIS will help us reach them. Thanks to this initiative, cities will have the support they need to create new opportunities for their inhabitants.”
URBIS will essentially consist of European Investment Bank experts from the institution’s different advisory and project services, including staff located across Member States.
They will also be able to explain and guide the process of blending EU funds with national and local financing banks and will recommend innovative financing opportunities. Expertise on preparing EU-funded projects will also be offered by JASPERS.
According to a November 28th European Commission Press Release, URBIS will help:
- Improve a city’s investment strategy firstly by offering advice on strategic planning, prioritizing and optimizing investment programs and projects.
- Bring projects and investment programs to a bankable stage, for example by providing analysis on demand or support in financial structuring and by reviewing draft grant applications.
- Explore additional financing opportunities under the European Fund for Strategic Investments and Cohesion Policy funds — under which over €100 billion is being invested in urban areas over 2014-2020.
- Support the preparation work for investment platforms and facilities combining funds, liaise with financial intermediaries and set up implementation arrangements for these facilities.
- Develop various financing approaches limiting the burden on municipal debt and aimed at helping municipal companies and private urban service providers access funding.
What is next?
URBIS will start by using the existing advisory and project services of the European Investment Bank and will focus on a selected number of assignments. Initial work will firstly be assessed by the EID and the Commission in the second half of 2018.
Additional resources can be considered, provided the initial successful response after evaluation, along with options of continuing, improving and enlarging the initiative.
Cities of all sizes in all Member States can apply for URBIS’s support via a web page hosted on the European Investment and Advisory Hub.
Vazil Hudák (European Investment Bank Vice-President responsible for advisory and project support in cities and regions): “Cities are more attractive than ever: in three decades 8 out of 10 Europeans will live in a city. Towns, cities and regions need finance as well as advice to become smart, modern, green and innovative, and with the help of our pilot project URBIS we can deliver just that.”