Europe’s youth is facing difficulties in accessing housing, and the COVID crisis has further aggravated the situation, according to the annual report on the state of poor housing in Europe published on Thursday (6 May) by the Abbé Pierre Foundation and the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA).
“Youth is an aggravating factor. It is part of the vulnerable social profiles”, said Sarah Coupechoux of the Abbé Pierre Foundation.
People aged 15-29 represent 17% of Europe’s population and a third of them are living in poverty, according to the report published on Thursday. While this is partly due to the financial crisis of 2008, the COVID-19 crisis has accentuated this phenomenon, which has made access to housing increasingly difficult for this demographic.
“This generation, which has been hit hard by the health crisis, is affected both in terms of employment and housing, to the point where their autonomy and their passage to adulthood are being called into question,” she continued.
According to Eurostat figures, youth unemployment has risen by 3% between 2020 and 2021 with 18% of 15-29 years olds being unemployed, adding another layer of difficulty for the younger generation’s ability to access housing.
The European Commission has recognised that jobs held by young people are precarious, and have been particularly impacted by the pandemic.
This crisis situation affecting young Europeans has given rise to the term known as the “boomerang” generation.
In Europe, 80% of young people aged 18 to 24 still live at home with their parents and move in and out regularly without being able to settle down permanently. The global pandemic has accentuated this phenomenon, with the introduction of video-conferencing courses and teleworking.
However, there are great disparities across Europe, with 36% of the young generation going through this in Denmark, compared to a whopping 95% in Italy.
It is also difficult to find decent accommodation to live in the major European cities, particularly given the discrepancy between salaries and rental prices.
“In Lisbon, the average income of a young person is €900, while the average rent for a studio is €1,000. The calculation is quickly done,” said Coupechoux.
Another aggravating factor is the competition for small flats in capital cities.
“There is an increase in the number of single households, but young people are also competing with tourists, who are increasingly numerous in European capitals,” the Abbé Pierre Foundation wrote, in reference to, among other things, rental platforms like Airbnb that dominate the property market.
66% of France’s youth victim of energy poverty
The consequences are multiple: school dropout, degraded housing conditions, overcrowding, but also what has been termed ‘energy poverty’. This year alone, 66% of young people in France had to cut back on their heating to reduce their bills.
Another alarming consequence is that “we have seen an exponential increase in the number of young people among the homeless over the last ten years,” warned Coupechoux.
Given the urgency of the situation, the Abbé Pierre Foundation and FEANTSA are calling on EU countries to support young people.
“The issue of housing must be included in the European structural funds, housing subsidies must be improved and a minimum income must be introduced for young people”, said Coupechoux.
At a more local level, the report also calls for the development of student accommodation, more places in hostels for young workers and easier access to shared accommodation between generations and migrants.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]