Young and Homeless - Let's Talk Statistics
by Ties Gijzel
“We should make the most of the momentum, catch the wind in our sails,” said the Commission’s President Juncker this month in his State of the Union address. That’s great, but before we sail away, let us please not forget to look back at who we would be leaving behind.
Because people are being left behind. Europe is actually experiencing a rapid increase in the number of (young) homeless people (generally 20-29 years old) in almost every country. Take Denmark, for instance, where the number of young homeless increased by 85% in the period 2009-2015. In the Netherlands there was an increase of 50% in the period 2015-2016, bringing the total of young homeless people to 12.400, and in Sweden there was a 55% increase between 2005-2011 in the number of people who had to move in with family and friends, simply because they couldn’t afford their housing costs anymore.
Increase in homelessness (in %)
*Countries have different definitions of homelessness
The increase in homelessness is a general European trend that is mostly explained by the 2008 financial crisis. But what stands out is that young people are somehow affected by homelessness more than other age categories, which cannot naturally be explained by the economic downturn and thus cannot simply be solved by “catching some promising wind”.
No, the actual reason why young people are pressured more easily out of their homes lies in the housing market. People who live in London, Amsterdam, Dublin and Paris are already familiar with their highly competitive housing markets and outrageous rents. Even though these European capitals might be extreme examples, they do represent a general trend where young people are more likely to be overburdened by housing costs than the rest of the population. In the Netherlands, for instance, 20-29 year olds are four times as likely to allocate the largest proportion of their income to accommodation in comparison to other age groups.
This is an underlying development that most of the European youth experiences, but one that hasn’t sufficiently been addressed. While we should help those who are being evicted from their homes, we should also make sure we prevent future generations from ending up on the streets. It’s evident, however, that we’re not doing enough.
In Romania, more than a quarter of people aged between 20-24 are being deprived of proper housing. In Greece, housing costs are a main concern for almost half of young people. When you look at some of the poorest youth, the situation is even worse. According to the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA), 58% of poor young people are overburdened by housing costs in the UK. In Germany this is 65.1%, in the Netherlands 72,9% and in Denmark 78.3%. The EU average is 48%.
We need to collectively make sure that Finland is not the only European country where homelessness has, in recent years, decreased. Affordable housing is a basic right that is no longer a political choice, but a legal obligation. Article 31 of the Revised European Social Charter states that housing must be available, affordable and adequate, and homelessness should be prevented, to the point of its eradication. This responsibility rests on the shoulders of the EU member states, not on the EU institutions or even Juncker himself. National governments should uphold their legal responsibilities and not ignore that a marginalised part of society has lost a fundamental right to housing.
Even Juncker himself, who’s generally regarded as one of the most optimistic politicians walking around the Schengen-area, has forgotten about the young and homeless...