Living conditions in Europe - housing quality
Data extracted in November 2017
No planned update
Some 11.1 % of the EU population spent 40 % or more of their household disposable income on housing.
In 2016, 41.8 % of the EU population lived in flats, just over one third (33.5 %) lived in detached houses and almost one quarter (24.0 %) lived in semi-detached houses.
16.6 % of the EU population lived in an overcrowded household in 2016.
Some 8.7 % of the EU population were unable to keep their home adequately warm in 2016.
This article is part of a set of statistical articles that forms Eurostat’s flagship publication, Living conditions in Europe - 2018 edition. Each article helps provide a comprehensive and up-to-date summary of living conditions in Europe, presenting some key results from the European Union’s (EU’s) statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC), which is conducted across EU Member States, EFTA and candidate countries. This is the second edition of the publication: it was initially released as a paper only publication in 2015 (cat. no. KS-DZ-14-001).
In the context of material living standards and well-being, housing is a fundamental characteristic. Indeed, many people would agree that being able to afford adequate housing of decent quality in a safe environment is a basic need, as a dwelling should provide shelter, adequate space for its occupants to live, eat and sleep, as well as a degree of privacy for the household as a whole and for its individual members.
Housing quality is a broad term that covers a wide range of issues, which are related not only to the dwelling itself, but also to the broader residential area surrounding where people live. Housing quality may be assessed, for example, in relation to: structural issues such as damp walls or a leaking roof; overcrowding or a shortage of space; ability to keep home adequately warm or, a lack of basic amenities (for example, , hot and cold running water, or bathing and sanitary facilities). It may also be assessed through a wider residential context, for example, whether (or not) people are living in a noisy area, are exposed to pollution, or feel unsafe in their neighbourhood. The information presented in this article generally analyses these aspects in terms of the subjective responses of individuals to questions about their local environment.
Overall, 16.6 % of the Europeans lived in an overcrowded household in 2016. There were considerable differences between EU Member States, with overcrowding more prevalent in the southern and eastern Member States, while cross-country comparisons revealed that the highest levels of overcrowding were usually concentrated in cities (where space is often at a premium).
In 2016, some 15.4 % of the EU-28 population reported that they were living in a dwelling with a leaking roof, damp walls, floors or foundation, or rot in window frames or the floor, while almost half this share of the population — some 8.7 % — were unable to keep their home adequately warm.
In 2016, 17.9 % of the EU-28 population considered that noise from neighbours or from the street was a problem; this share was slightly higher than the corresponding proportions of the EU-28 population who declared that they faced problems in relation to pollution and grime (14.0 %), or crime, violence or vandalism (13.0 %). For all three of these issues, the prevalence of these problems across the EU-28 diminished during the five-year period from 2011 to 2016.
For many households their largest single expenditure item each month is in relation to housing costs. In those cases where housing costs represent a considerable share of total household expenditure, it is increasingly likely that the population may have to defer or cancel expenditure on other items (possibly in relation to some basic needs). The housing cost overburden rate is defined by those households which allocate 40 % or more of their disposable income to housing. In 2016, this rate covered 11.1 % of the EU-28 population (and was much higher among tenants than owners), with shares rising above 15.0 % in Germany and Bulgaria, while a peak of 40.5 % was recorded in Greece.
Poor housing conditions are one of the main contributing factors that prevent Europeans from enjoying an acceptable standard of living. The first part of this article analyses the distribution of housing stock before looking in more detail at overcrowding, living space and structural issues that impact on the quality of housing available to people living in the EU.
Europeans tend to live more in houses than in flats
In 2016, 41.8 % of the EU-28 population lived in flats, while a majority of people lived in a house — just over one third (33.5 %) of the population lived in detached houses and almost one quarter (24.0 %) were living in semi-detached houses (see Figure 1).
The share of persons living in flats ranged from 7.4 % in Ireland (2015 data) and 14.3 % in the United Kingdom to cover more than three out of every five people in Estonia (62.0 %), Latvia (66.1 %) and Spain (also 66.1 %).
On the other hand, more than half of the population in Poland (51.9 %) and Denmark (54.9 %) lived in detached houses, while this share rose to more than 60.0 % in Romania (61.9 %), Hungary (62.8 %) and Slovenia (65.5 %), peaking at 71.0 % in Croatia; a relatively high share of the populations in Norway (59.9 %) and Serbia (64.2 %) also lived in detached houses.
Ireland (51.6 %; 2015 data), the Netherlands (58.4 %) and the United Kingdom (60.1 %) were the only EU Member States where more than half of the population was living in a semi-detached house in 2016.
Almost 7 out of 10 persons in the EU-28 lived in an owner-occupied dwelling
Many Europeans strive to become homeowners, as this may offer increased security of tenure, while at the same time providing a means of generating wealth.
In 2016, almost 7 out of 10 (69.3 %) persons in the EU-28 lived in an owner-occupied dwelling (see Figure 2). Across each of the EU Member States, at least half of the population owned their own home, with this share ranging from 51.7 % in Germany and 55.0 % in Austria — the only Member States having less than 60.0 % of their population owning their own dwelling — to 90.1 % in Croatia, 90.3 % in Lithuania and 96.0 % in Romania.
A closer analysis reveals that 42.7 % of the EU-28 population lived in an owner-occupied dwelling without a housing loan or mortgage in 2016. The share of the population that were homeowners and did not have an outstanding mortgage or housing loan was generally quite high in eastern Europe and the Baltic Member States: for example, in Romania, Slovakia, Croatia and Lithuania it rose to more than 80.0 %. By contrast, in much of western Europe, more than one third of homeowners had a mortgage or loan and this share rose to more than half in Sweden (54.8 %) and the Netherlands (61.0 %); even higher shares were recorded in Norway (62.3 %) and Iceland (62.8 %; 2015 data).
Just over three tenths (30.7 %) of the EU-28 population lived in rented accommodation in 2016: some 19.8 % of the population were tenants living in dwellings with a market rent, while 10.9 % lived in rent-free or reduced price dwellings. Among the EU Member States, the share of people living in a dwelling with a market price rent rose to more than 30.0 % in the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Germany (where a peak of 39.8 % was recorded). There was a relatively high share of the population living in rent-free or reduced price dwellings in France (16.0 %), the United Kingdom (18.6 %) and Slovenia (19.6 %); this was also the case in Turkey (16.1 %; 2015 data).
Sufficiency of space in the dwelling
Despite a slowdown in population growth, many EU Member States are characterised by a shortage of (adequate) housing; this reflects, at least in part, a change in the composition of households, as an increasing share of the population choose to live alone, while fewer extended families occupy the same dwelling.
The overcrowding rate is defined on the basis of the number of rooms available to a household, the household’s size, family situation and the ages of its members. In 2016, some 16.6 % of the EU-28 population lived in an overcrowded household; this rate ranged from a low of less than 5.0 % in Cyprus, Malta, Ireland (2015 data), Belgium and the Netherlands, to more than 40.0 % in Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Croatia, Bulgaria, Latvia and Romania (where the highest share was recorded, at 48.4 %).
As such, the overcrowding rate was generally higher in eastern and to a lesser degree southern Europe, while it was generally lower in western Europe and the Nordic Member States (see Map 1).
Figure 3 shows that people living in cities were more likely to be living in crowded conditions than those living in towns and suburbs or rural areas. In 2016, 17.6 % of city-dwellers in the EU-28 were living in an overcrowded household, while the corresponding shares for people living in rural areas (17.1 %) and towns and suburbs (14.9 %) were somewhat lower.
There was more variation among the EU Member States in terms of the distribution of overcrowded households by degree of urbanisation. In 2016, overcrowding rates for people living in the cities of Denmark, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Italy (2015 data) were 10-12 percentage points higher than for the population living in rural areas, while this gap widened to 15.2 points difference in Bulgaria and peaked at 20.5 points difference in Austria. There were a few exceptions to this general pattern of higher levels of overcrowding in cities, notably in Slovakia, Latvia and Spain (where the highest overcrowding rates were recorded for people living in towns and suburbs) and Poland and Hungary (where the highest overcrowding rates were recorded for people living in rural areas).
Alongside the overcrowding rate, another measure which may be used to analyse living space is the average number of rooms per person. In 2016, each EU-28 inhabitant had an average of 1.6 rooms.
In keeping with the results already presented for overcrowding, the average number of rooms per person was lower, at 1.5, for those people living in cities than it was for those people living in rural areas (1.7 rooms). Differences in the average numbers of rooms per person were generally much greater between EU Member States rather than within individual Member States. In 2016, the average number of rooms per person ranged from a high of 2.2 in Belgium and values of at least 2.0 rooms per person in Ireland (2015 data), Malta, Cyprus and Luxembourg (2015 data), down to 1.1 rooms per person in Croatia, Poland and Slovakia, with the lowest average recorded in Romania (1.0 rooms per person); among the non-member countries, Norway recorded a relatively high average number of rooms per person (2.1), while the average in Serbia (0.9 rooms) was lower than in any of the EU Member States.
People living in rural areas tended to report the highest (or joint highest) average number of rooms per person. In 2016, this pattern held in the vast majority of the EU Member States, although the highest average number of rooms in Cyprus and Slovenia was recorded for people living in cities, and in Malta for people living in towns and suburbs.
A comparison within individual EU Member States reveals that the average number of rooms per person was generally quite similar when analysed by degree of urbanisation. In the United Kingdom, those living in rural areas had, on average, 0.6 more rooms per person than people living in cities, while a similar pattern was observed in Denmark and Luxembourg (2015 data), where the difference was 0.4 rooms per person.
In 2016, the average number of rooms per person was somewhat higher, at 1.7 rooms, for EU-28 homeowners than it was for tenants living in rented accommodation, 1.5 rooms per person (see Table 1). As may be expected, the space available to people living in houses was, on average, greater than that available to people living in flats. This was particularly the case among homeowners, as people living in houses had, on average, 0.3 more rooms per person than homeowners living in flats. There was almost no difference in the average size of dwellings among tenants, whether they resided in houses (1.6 rooms per person) or flats (1.5 rooms per person).
The average number of rooms per person was higher for homeowners than for tenants in each of the EU Member States in 2016, with the exception of the Netherlands (where tenants lived, on average, in larger dwellings) and Malta (where the dwellings were of similar size).
Space constraints on tenants were particularly apparent in Luxembourg (2015 data) and the United Kingdom, where tenants had 0.7 fewer rooms per person than homeowners; in Ireland (2015 data), Sweden, Austria and Romania, the corresponding gap was at least 0.5 rooms in favour of homeowners.
Structural problems for dwellings
Among the various structural problems that may be experienced in a dwelling, some 15.4 % of the EU-28 population reported that in 2016 their home had a leaking roof, damp walls, floors or foundations, or rot in its window frames or floor. Between 2006 and 2009, the proportion of the EU population that lived in a dwelling that was affected by at least one of these issues fell from 18.9 % to 16.0 %. There was a slight increase in 2010 (which may be linked to a lack of investment following the global financial and economic crisis), after which the share of population living in a dwelling with a leaking roof, damp walls, floors or foundation, or rot in its window frames or floor fluctuated (see Figure 5).
More than 1 out of every 11 persons in the EU-28 was unable to keep their home adequately warm
Overall, some 8.7 % of the EU-28 population in 2016 could not afford to keep their home adequately warm (see Table 2); this share increased to 21.0 % of the EU-28 population when analysing those individuals who were at risk of poverty.
In 2016, more than one fifth of the population living in Portugal (22.5 %) and Cyprus (24.3 %) and more than one quarter of the population living in Greece (29.1 %) and Lithuania (29.3 %) was unable to keep their home adequately warm; this share peaked in Bulgaria, at 39.2 %.
Among those subpopulations at risk of poverty, the share that could not afford to adequately warm their home in 2016 was higher than 20.0 % in 11 EU Member States, and was particularly high in Italy (35.9 %; 2015 data), Portugal (42.7 %), Cyprus (49.0 %), Greece (52.5 %) and Bulgaria (61.9 %).
Energy prices tend to fluctuate far more than the inflation rate and during the period 2011-2013 they were relatively high. However, during most of 2014 the price of energy fell at quite a rapid pace; thereafter, energy prices remained at relatively low levels (compared with historical developments). This pattern was reflected in the share of the EU-28 population that was unable to keep their home adequately warm, which peaked in 2012 and 2013 after which it fell for three successive years during the period 2014-2016.
Living conditions are also affected by the quality of the local environment around residential areas where people live. Some people express concerns about issues such as noise, pollution, crime, violence or vandalism, which may impact on their quality of life.
Noise was the most widespread environmental problem for people living in the EU
In 2016, noise from neighbours or from the street was the most widespread environmental problem, as reported by 17.9 % of EU-28 inhabitants. An analysis by EU Member State in 2016 reveals that the issue of noise was particularly prevalent among those populations living in Luxembourg (2015 data), Romania, Portugal and the Netherlands, where between one quarter and one fifth of the population complained about noise in the local area where they lived, a share that rose to 25.1 % in Germany and 26.2 % in Malta (see Table 3).
Compared with the other two issues presented in Table 3, noise was the main problem reported in a majority (20 out of 28) of the EU Member States in 2016. It was however more common to find that people in Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta and Slovenia complained about problems relating to pollution, grime or other environmental issues, while in Bulgaria, Ireland (2015 data) and Italy (also 2015 data) it was more common for people to complain about crime, violence or vandalism.
Between 2011 and 2016, the share of the EU-28 population perceiving noise as a problem dropped by 1.8 percentage points, while there were reductions of 1.1 percentage points in the shares of people who perceived pollution, grime and other environmental problems to be an issue and the shares of people who perceived crime, violence or vandalism to be an issue.
Among the EU Member States, it was commonplace to find a reduction in the proportion of people who claimed their living standards were affected by these three issues during the period 2011-2016. The proportion of people living in Cyprus and Romania who were affected by noise from their neighbours or from the street fell at a rapid pace, while the same was true in Malta and Cyprus for people affected by pollution, grime or other environmental problems, and in Latvia and Greece for people affected by crime, violence and vandalism. By contrast, during the period 2011-2015 an increasing proportion (4.2-5.9 percentage points) of the population living in Luxembourg was affected by all three of these issues, while there was a relatively large increase in the share of the population in Italy that was affected by crime, violence and vandalism (up 4.9 points).
Table 4 shows that across the EU-28 these three problems were more likely to be faced by the population at risk of poverty than by the total population: in 2016, the share of the population affected by noise was 3.0 percentage points higher for the population living at risk of poverty than it was for the whole population, while the share of people living at risk of poverty and affected by crime, violence or vandalism was 2.8 percentage points higher (than the average for the whole population), and the share of people living at poverty and affected by pollution, grime and other environmental problems was 1.6 percentage points higher (than for the total population).
In 2016, the share of population at risk of poverty and concerned by noise from neighbours or from the street was 1.5 times as high as the share recorded for the whole population in Belgium, Denmark and Ireland (2015 data). Croatia, Poland, Greece and especially Romania, were the only EU Member States to report that their subpopulations at risk of poverty were less likely to be exposed to noise than the average recorded for the total population.
In a similar vein, the share of population at risk of poverty and concerned by pollution, grime or other environmental problems was at least 1.5 times as high as the share recorded for the whole population in Hungary and Belgium, while the share of the population at risk of poverty and concerned by crime, violence or vandalism was at least 1.5 times as high as the share recorded for the total population in Ireland (2015 data), the Czech Republic, Denmark and Hungary.
Europeans living in urban areas were generally more concerned with noise than those people living in rural areas
On average, 23.3 % of the EU-28’s population living in cities perceived noise from neighbours or from the street to be a problem in 2016. The share of the population suffering from noise was lower for those people living in towns and suburbs (17.6 %) or in rural areas (10.4 %) — see Figure 6.
In 2016, pollution, grime and other environmental issues were perceived as problems by 18.9 % of city-dwellers across the EU-28 (see Figure 7). Such problems were less prevalent among the subpopulations living in towns and suburbs (12.8 %) and especially rural areas (8.1 %).
In 2016, almost one in five (19.1 %) persons living in cities across the EU-28 perceived crime, violence or vandalism as a problem. This share fell to 10.8 % among the subpopulation that was living in towns and suburbs and to 6.6 % for those people living in rural areas (see Figure 8).
As such, people living in cities across the EU-28 were, on average, more concerned by all three problems identified as having an impact on their living conditions and local environment.
Among the EU Member States, a similar pattern was observed in 2016 with the following exceptions:
- noise from neighbours or from the street was most commonly perceived as a problem by the subpopulation living in towns and suburbs in Romania;
- pollution, grime or other environmental problems were more frequently cited as problems by the subpopulations living in towns and suburbs in Luxembourg (2015 data) and Hungary;
- crime, violence or vandalism was more commonly perceived as a problem by the subpopulation of people living in the towns and suburbs of Hungary.
In 2010, a European Commission Communication titled, the European platform against poverty and social exclusion: a European framework for social and territorial cohesion (COM(2010) 758 final), addressed the issue of affordable accommodation by declaring that ‘access to affordable accommodation is a fundamental need and right’.
That said, housing costs often make up the largest component of expenditure for many households, thereby potentially leading to deferred or cancelled expenditure, possibly in relation to other basic needs.
Some 11.1 % of the EU-28 population spent 40 % or more of their household disposable income on housing
Housing affordability may be analysed through the housing cost overburden rate, which shows the share of the population living in households that spent 40 % or more of their disposable income on housing.
The housing cost overburden rate for the EU-28 was 11.1 % in 2016. There were, however, large differences between the EU Member States, as the lowest rates — less than 7.0 % — were recorded in eight Member States, with lows of 3.1 % in Cyprus and 1.4 % in Malta (see Map 2). By contrast, the housing cost overburden rate was at least 15.0 % in Denmark, Germany and Bulgaria, rising to a peak of 40.5 % in Greece; a high share (28.2 %) was also recorded in Serbia. These differences may, at least partially, reflect differences in national policies for social housing or public subsidies and benefits that are provided by governments for housing.
Having fluctuated between 2011 and 2016, the EU-28’s housing cost overburden rate was 0.3 percentage points lower at the end of the period under consideration (see Table 5). In half (14) of the EU Member States, the housing cost overburden rate fell between 2011 and 2016, while there were 10 Member States where the rate increased and four where it remained unchanged. The biggest reductions for the housing cost overburden rate were recorded in Latvia (down 5.5 percentage points), Hungary (-4.2 points) and the United Kingdom (-4.1 points); note that there was a relatively steady downward pattern to the rates observed in Latvia and Hungary, while in the United Kingdom there was a considerable reduction in 2012 after which the rate climbed and then remained relatively unchanged. The highest increases were recorded in Greece (16.3 percentage points), Bulgaria (12.0 points; note there is a break in series) and Luxembourg (5.2 points; note there is also a break in series).
The share of the population living in households that spent 40 % or more of their disposable income on housing was greater among EU-28 tenants than it was among homeowners in 2016; this was especially the case for tenants living in dwellings with a market price rent, for whom the housing cost overburden rate was 28.0 %, while it was 5.4 % for homeowners with a mortgage.
The housing cost overburden rate varied considerably across the EU Member States in 2016 when analysed by tenure status, as shown in Table 6. For tenants living in dwellings with a market price rent it ranged from a low of 8.4 % in Slovenia (2015 data) up to 50.4 % in Bulgaria and 84.6 % in Greece. For homeowners that had a mortgage the housing cost overburden rate ranged from less than 2.0 % in France, Malta, Finland, Luxembourg (2015 data) and Croatia up to more than one fifth in Bulgaria, more than a quarter in Greece, and close to one third in Slovakia (2015 data) and Romania. Slovakia was the only EU Member State where the housing cost overburden rate was higher among homeowners with a mortgage than it was for tenants living in dwellings with a market price rent.
Figure 9 provides an alternative analysis, as it focuses on the share of the population that spent more than half of their disposable income on housing costs. Across the EU-28, more than one in six (17.2 %) tenants living in dwellings with a market price rent spent more than half of their disposable income on housing costs in 2016.
The share of tenants living in dwellings with a market price rent that spent more than half of their disposable income on housing costs was systematically higher than the share for the whole population across all 28 of the EU Member States. In Spain, Lithuania and Bulgaria, in excess of 3 out of every 10 tenants living in dwellings with a market price rent spent more than half of their disposable income on housing costs in 2016.
Household consumption expenditure
National accounts provide information about household consumption expenditure on goods and services; this information may be analysed according to the classification of individual consumption by purpose (COICOP), where Division 04 covers housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels.
In 2016, the average amount spent by each inhabitant in the EU-28 on housing-related purposes averaged EUR 3 900. There were considerable variations between the EU Member States, reflecting differences in both rental/house prices and utility prices.
In 2016, average expenditure per inhabitant on housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels ranged from EUR 800 in Bulgaria and EUR 1 100 in Hungary and Romania (2015 data), up to EUR 6 100 in the United Kingdom and EUR 6 600 in Denmark, reaching a peak of EUR 7 500 in Luxembourg.
In 12 of the 27 EU Member States for which data are available (no data for Croatia), expenditure per inhabitant on housing-related items was above the EU-28 average (as denoted by the yellow shaded areas in Map 3) — most of these were located in western and northern Europe, but the list also included Italy. By contrast, expenditure was lower than the EU-28 average in eastern Europe and the three Baltic Member States, as well as most of southern Europe.
The share of housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels in EU-28 final household consumption expenditure was 24.5 % in 2016 (which was slightly higher than 5 or 10 years before). The highest proportion was attributed to imputed rentals for housing (13.1 % of final household consumption expenditure), followed by actual rentals (4.9 %), electricity, gas and other fuels (4.0 %), water supply and related services (1.6 %) and maintenance and repair for dwellings (0.9 %).
Source data for tables and graphs
The data used in this section are primarily derived from data from EU statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC). EU-SILC is carried out annually and is the main survey that measures income and living conditions in Europe, and is the main source of information used to link different aspects relating to the quality of life at the household and individual level.
The reference population is all private households and their current members residing in the territory of an EU Member State at the time of data collection; persons living in collective households and in institutions are generally excluded from the target population. The EU-28 aggregate is a population-weighted average of individual national figures.
- Regulation (EC) No 1177/2003 — framework regulation — this is the central piece of legislation which sets up the whole EU-SILC instrument
- Detailed list of legislative information on EU-SILC provisions for survey design, survey characteristics, data transmission and ad-hoc modules