September 21st, 2023
Hi, it’s Gustav and I am currently doing an internship here at Datawrapper in the area of interface design. This week we will have a look at the housing crisis here in Germany, especially from the perspective of families.
At home, I have a family of five and am confronted with many everyday family problems. One that has been with us for a very long time is finding a large apartment for us and the kids. Since the real estate market for rental housing rarely offers large enough, family-sized apartments where I live, I wondered if families are particularly affected by the ubiquitous housing shortage – let’s have a look.
Germany is one of the countries with the highest proportion of renters in Europe – only Switzerland has a larger share. That is why Germany is particularly dependent on a healthy housing market.
A recently published report by the Pestel-Institute states that Germany had a deficit of about 700,000 apartments in 2022 — the highest housing deficit in 20 years. Unfortunately, while the report is publicly available, the data used for the calculation is not. So we cannot look explore the trend directly.
Luckily, Empirica, a research institute, publishes housing vacancy rates by city and municipality every year. This data shows how easy it is to find an apartment in each city so it should give us a good idea of the housing deficit.
We see that in the last 10 years, it has become more and more crowded in many cities and therefore more and more difficult to find apartments. The frontrunner in vacancy decline is Leipzig: once an insider tip for accessible housing, it is now on the level of Berlin in 2010.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to find housing in German cities. For a long time, one of the reasons was the rural exodus, a pattern of people from rural areas fleeing to cities. Crises abroad, such as the war in Syria or Ukraine, have led to migration and also intensify the housing shortage here in Germany.
According to a recent article by ZEIT magazine, the rural exodus finally reversed. More people are now looking for a new home in rural areas, especially young families.
Personally, I cannot imagine moving out of the city and leaving our social circles behind. I think grandparents, friends, kindergartens, and schools play an important role in the everyday life of families. To rebuild that social infrastructure as a young family is very difficult.
To assess how families are affected by the housing crisis, it would be best to look at families' expenditures on housing. Since I could not find such data explicitly, I decided to use Eurostat’s data on housing cost overburden instead. According to the German Federal Statistical Office, a household is considered overburdened if more than 40% of the household income is spent on housing costs. So let's see how much families are affected.
The data surprised me — it seems to contradict my original assumptions. The data suggests that households without children are significantly more burdened by housing costs than households with children.
However, the SoVD (Germany Social Association) published an expert opinion in 2018, arguing that cost burden is not an adequate parameter for comparing such different groups. Instead, they suggest that households with children more often live in overcrowded living conditions. As a result, the cost burden is lower because the apartments are undersized. If families were able to choose the size of their apartment, the share of income spent on housing would increase, potentially exacerbating the problem of housing affordability for families.
The lower the share of working members in a household, the more affected it is by the housing crisis. This means that we are talking primarily about single parents or families with many children and people without work permits. However, the housing shortage still seems to be a problem for the general population as well. It affects low- and poor-income households the most, but it is also a problem for many with middle income, especially those who live in cities.
Numerous tenant interest groups are calling for action and raising awareness about the ongoing crisis, and small improvements in the real estate purchase market give us hope. However, it remains to be seen whether this is a long-term trend.
That's all from me. I hope you found this as enlightening as I did. If you have any feedback or a housing offer 😉, reach out to me at email@example.com or connect with me on Mastodon. Next week, check in with our CEO David.