Unaffordable and Inadequate Housing: A Growing Challenge for Europe’s Young Adults

Photo by Margaret Polinder

Eurofound’s Comprehensive Report Identifies Housing Issues and Calls for Targeted Policy Solutions

In recent years, Europe has witnessed a decline in overall homeownership, leading to increased housing insecurity among young adults and low-income groups. A comprehensive report by Eurofound, titled “Unaffordable and Inadequate Housing in Europe,” sheds light on these challenges, explores the impact on various population groups, and provides policy recommendations to improve the situation.

Between 2012 and 2020, numerous EU countries, including Denmark, Cyprus, Spain, Lithuania, Finland, and Bulgaria, experienced a decline in homeownership of over 3 percentage points. This decline was particularly significant among young adults, resulting in a rise in the proportion of individuals aged 20-29 relying on private rentals. Unfortunately, the private rental market in Europe has been plagued by housing insecurity and adequacy issues, including low energy efficiency.

For many young adults, the lack of affordable options has made it difficult to move out of their family homes entirely. The average age at which at least 50% of people in the EU left their parental homes increased from 26 to 28 between 2007 and 2019. Countries such as Spain, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Belgium, Greece, and Ireland witnessed the largest increases in the number of individuals aged 25-34 living with their parents between 2010 and 2019.

Eurofound’s report underscores the need to address these housing challenges within the framework of human rights and social well-being. It examines the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being, as outlined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and considers housing-related rights outlined in the European Pillar of Social Rights.

The report highlights the importance of expanding the supply of quality housing to alleviate rental pressures and reduce prices. Measures to tackle vacant dwellings are also recommended. These issues are particularly relevant for young adults who faced supply challenges and reduced access to credit in several EU Member States following the Great Recession.

Notably, tenants in the private rental market have faced steeper cost increases compared to homeowners. Among them, 46% express concerns about affording their accommodation in the next three months, and 34% report problems with poor energy efficiency.

Furthermore, the report emphasizes the need for targeted and appropriate housing policies to avoid exacerbating existing inequalities. Policies aimed at increasing housing affordability can have unintended consequences, such as driving up rent and purchase prices or benefiting higher-income individuals more than those with lower incomes. It is crucial to ensure that support measures consider vulnerable groups across all housing tenures and take into account future housing needs.

Eurofound Executive Director Ivailo Kalfin stressed the significance of meeting present and future housing needs to ensure human dignity and social inclusion across Europe. Policymakers must prioritize the fulfillment of basic housing rights and devise housing support strategies that cater to vulnerable groups. Simultaneously, they should consider long-term housing adequacy when formulating policy solutions to tackle this pressing challenge.

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