Can you afford to heat your home? Around 13 % of the EU population live in a home with a leaking roof

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The FINANCIAL – In 2019, 6.9% of the European Union (EU) population said in an EU-wide survey that they could not afford to heat their home sufficiently. This share peaked in 2012 (10.8%), and has fallen continuously in subsequent years.

The situation in the EU Member States varies. The largest share of people who said that they could not afford to keep their home adequately warm was recorded in Bulgaria (30.1%), followed by Lithuania (26.7%), Cyprus (21.0%), Portugal (18.9%), Greece (17.9%) and Italy (11.1%).

Around 17 % of the EU population live in an overcrowded home…

The quality of housing can be measured in many ways. One is whether people live in an overcrowded home. In the EU in 2019, 17.2 % of the population were living in such a home, a share which has fallen from 19.1 % in 2010.

In 2019, the highest overcrowding rates were observed in Romania (45.8 %), Latvia (42.2 %) and Bulgaria (41.1 %), and the lowest in Cyprus (2.2 %), Ireland (3.2 %) and Malta (3.7 %).

The quality of housing can be measured in many ways. One is whether people live in an overcrowded home. In the EU in 2019, 17.2 % of the population were living in such a home, a share which has fallen from 19.1 % in 2010.

In 2019, the highest overcrowding rates were observed in Romania (45.8 %), Latvia (42.2 %) and Bulgaria (41.1 %), and the lowest in Cyprus (2.2 %), Ireland (3.2 %) and Malta (3.7 %).

… and 33 % live in an under-occupied home

The opposite of an overcrowded home is an under-occupied home, meaning that it is deemed too large for the needs of the household living in it. The classic cause of under-occupation is older individuals or couples remaining in their home after their children have grown up and left. In the EU in 2019, a third of the population (33 %) lived in an under-occupied home, a share which has been almost stable since 2010.

In 2019, the highest shares of under-occupied homes were recorded in Malta (72.6 %), Cyprus (70.5 %) and Ireland (69.6 %), and the lowest in Romania (7.7 %), Latvia (9.6 %) and Greece (10.7 %).

Around 13 % of the EU population live in a home with a leaking roof

It is not only the number of people living in a home which impacts the quality of life, it is also the quality of the housing, such as the ability to keep the house warm, the lack of toilet and shower and a leaking roof.

In the EU in 2019, 6.9 % of the population did not have the ability to keep the house adequately warm. The highest shares were observed in Bulgaria (30.1 %), Lithuania (26.7 %), Cyprus (21.0 %) and Portugal (18.9 %), and the lowest in Austria and Finland (both 1.8 %) and Sweden (1.9 %).

On average in the EU, 1.6 % of the population lacked a toilet, shower or bath. This was most common in Romania (22.4 % of the population), followed by Lithuania (8.7 %), Latvia (7.7 %) and Bulgaria (7.5 %).

Regarding a leaking roof, 12.7 % of the EU population had such a problem. The highest shares were observed in Cyprus (31.1 %), Portugal (24.4 %) and Hungary (22.3 %).

Housing cost overburden highest in cities

With house prices and rents rising, the cost of housing can be a burden. This can be measured by the housing cost overburden rate, which shows the share of the population living in a household where total housing costs represent more than 40 % of disposable income. In the EU in 2019, 11.8 % of the population in cities lived in such a household, while the corresponding rate for rural areas was 7.0 %. The housing cost overburden was higher in cities than in rural areas in all Member States, except Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The highest housing cost overburden rates in cities were observed in Greece (40.7 %), Denmark (21.1 %) and Germany (16.2 %), while in rural areas they were in Greece (28.3 %), Bulgaria (18.5 %) and Germany (12.4 %).

A fifth of disposable income dedicated to housing

Another way of seeing whether housing is affordable is by the share of housing cost in total disposable income. On average in the EU in 2019, 20.0 % of disposable income was dedicated to housing costs. This differed among the Member States, with the highest shares in Greece (38.9 %), Denmark (27.1 %), Germany (25.9 %) and Bulgaria (24.8 %).

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Looking at those having a disposable income of below 60 % of the national median income, people who could be considered as at risk of poverty, the share of housing in disposable income rose to 39.3 % on average in the EU. On the other hand for those having a disposable income of above 60 % of the median income, the share was 16.3 %.

Is housing affordable ?

Housing cost overburden highest in cities

With house prices and rents rising, the cost of housing can be a burden. This can be measured by the housing cost overburden rate, which shows the share of the population living in a household where total housing costs represent more than 40 % of disposable income. In the EU in 2019, 11.8 % of the population in cities lived in such a household, while the corresponding rate for rural areas was 7.0 %. The housing cost overburden was higher in cities than in rural areas in all Member States, except Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The highest housing cost overburden rates in cities were observed in Greece (40.7 %), Denmark (21.1 %) and Germany (16.2 %), while in rural areas they were in Greece (28.3 %), Bulgaria (18.5 %) and Germany (12.4 %).

A fifth of disposable income dedicated to housing

Another way of seeing whether housing is affordable is by the share of housing cost in total disposable income. On average in the EU in 2019, 20.0 % of disposable income was dedicated to housing costs. This differed among the Member States, with the highest shares in Greece (38.9 %), Denmark (27.1 %), Germany (25.9 %) and Bulgaria (24.8 %).

Looking at those having a disposable income of below 60 % of the national median income, people who could be considered as at risk of poverty, the share of housing in disposable income rose to 39.3 % on average in the EU. On the other hand for those having a disposable income of above 60 % of the median income, the share was 16.3 %.

Share of households with arrears on mortgage, rent or utility bills going down

Arrears on mortgage, rent or utility bills is another indication that housing costs could be too high. Despite the fact that house prices and rents have increased during the period 2010 to 2019, the share of households with arrears on mortgage, rent or utility bills in the EU has decreased from 12.4 % in 2010 to 8.2 % in 2019. The shares have decreased in all Member States, except Greece, Denmark and Finland. In 2019, the largest shares were observed in Greece (41.4 % of households), Bulgaria (29.3 %) and Cyprus (17.6 %) and the smallest in Czechia (2.8 %), Germany (3.7 %) and the Netherlands (4.0 %).

House prices up by 19 % in the EU between 2010 and 2019

Looking at the trend of house prices between 2010 and 2019, there has been a steady upwards trend since 2013 with particularly large increases between 2015 and 2019. In total there was an increase of 19 % between 2010 and 2019. There were increases in 23 Member States and decreases in three (data for Greece not available) over this period. The largest increases were observed in Estonia (+96 %), Hungary (+82 %), Latvia (+75 %), Luxembourg and Austria (both +65 %), while decreases were registered in Italy (-17 %), Spain (-7 %) and Cyprus (-4 %).

Rents up by 13 %

There has been a steady increase of rents in the EU between 2010 and 2019 – in total 13 % during the whole period. There was an increase in 25 Member States and a decrease in two. The largest increases were registered in Estonia (+156 %), Lithuania (+101 %) and Ireland (+63 %), while decreases were observed in Greece (-25 %) and Cyprus (-7 %).

Inflation up by 13 %

Inflation between 2010 to 2019 developed similarly as rents with a total increase of 13 %. There has been inflation in all Member States during this period, with values of over 20 % in Estonia (+26 %), Romania (+23 %) and Hungary (+22 %). The smallest inflation was observed in Greece (+3 %), Ireland and Cyprus (both +6 %).

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Housing costs range between 64 % below and 77 % above the EU average

The housing costs compared to the EU average differs significantly between Member States. The highest housing costs in 2019 compared to the EU average were found in Ireland (77 % above the EU average), Luxembourg (70 % above), Denmark (63 % above) and Finland (42 % above). The lowest, on the other hand, were observed in Bulgaria (64 % below the EU average), Poland (60 % below) and Romania (57 % below).

Looking at the evolution between 2010 and 2019, house price levels compared to the EU average have increased in 17 Member States and decreased in 10. The largest increases were observed in Ireland (from 17 % above to 77 % above the EU average), Slovakia (from 44 % below to 23 % below) and the Netherlands (from 22 % above to 37 % above), and the largest decreases in Greece (from 8 % below to 35 % below the EU average) and Cyprus (from 8 % below to 25 % below).

Construction costs up by 15 % between 2010 and 2019

The cost for constructing new residences in the EU has also increased during the period 2010 to 2019, especially since 2016. The increase during the whole period was 15 %. Among the Member States, the largest rises were observed in Hungary (+47 %), Romania (+46 %), Latvia and Lithuania (both +36 %). Greece was the only Member State to record a decrease (-7 %).

Size of housing

On average 1.6 rooms per person…

The size of housing can be measured as the average number of rooms per person: there were on average 1.6 rooms per person in the EU in 2019. Among the Member States, the largest number was recorded in Malta (2.2 rooms per person), followed by Belgium and Ireland (both 2.1 rooms). At the other end of the scale were Croatia, Poland and Romania, all with 1.1 rooms on average per person.

… and 2.3 persons per household in the EU

A related indicator is the number of persons per household. There were on average 2.3 persons per household in the EU in 2019. Among the Member States, this number ranged from 2.9 persons in Slovakia, 2.8 in Poland and 2.7 in Cyprus and Croatia down to 2.0 persons in Germany, Denmark, Finland and Sweden.

More than two thirds of the EU population own their home

Being an owner or a tenant of your home is something that differs significantly among the Member States. In the EU in 2019, 70 % of the population lived in a household owning their home, while the remaining 30 % lived in rented housing. The highest shares of ownership were observed in Romania (96 % of the population owned their home), Hungary (92 %) and Slovakia (91 %).

In all Member States, owning is most common. However, in Germany, renting is almost equal with 49 % of the population being tenants. Austria (45 %) and Denmark (39 %) follow.

Just over half of the EU population live in a house

Living in a house or a flat also differs among the Member States, and also varies depending on whether you live in a city or the countryside. In the EU in 2019, 53 % of the population lived in a house, while 46 % lived in a flat (1 % lived in other accommodation, such as houseboats, vans etc.). Ireland (92 %) recorded the highest share of the population living in a house, followed by Croatia and Belgium (both 78 %) and the Netherlands (75 %). It should be noted that this includes terraced houses.

Houses are most common in two thirds of the Member States. The highest shares for flats were observed in Latvia (66 %), Spain (65 %), Estonia (61 %) and Greece (59 %).

In cities, 72 % of the EU population lived in a flat and 28 % in a house. For towns and suburbs, the proportions were 58 % and 42 % respectively, while for rural areas, 82 % of the population lived in a house and only 18 % in a flat.

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