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30 years through the fast lane

Housing Europe turns 30

Brussels, 6 June 2018 | Published in Research

Our Research Coordinator, Alice Pittini is taking you on a flash trip through the major housing trends over over the last 30 years.


  • Housing markets across Europe and the globe went through booms, busts, and there are signs of bubbles taking shape again.
  • The risks of overleveraged financialization of housing and speculation on homes of low income households in countries like the US, UK, Ireland, Spain and the Netherlands are clear after the financial crisis. This might have been adverted if the social outcomes and impacts for households and communities would have been tracked and would have re-diverted financial means into more socially responsible investments.
  • Home ownership increased dramatically since the Eighties, driven by socio-demographic change, the development of the mortgage markets but also policy choices towards privatization of large parts of public housing.
  • Housing policy in many countries was decentralized with stronger competences to regions/regional states and the local level.
  • With a few exceptions countries in the EU shifted the focus from producing new social housing to paying benefits directly to residents. in the light of current emerging housing shortages at the local level, this policy trend may well have to be reversed.
  • Social rental housing as a share of the overall housing sector has decreased in most countries, but the sector has been also deeply transformed with increasing professionalism and diversification of activities and at the same time a stronger social role/commitment.
  • As 'Airbnb' type of short term lettings are spreading in recent years, people who need to rent a home to make their life in the city are being pushed out. However, a number of community-driven initiatives are popping up across Europe, from CLTs to coops. This is the kind of 'collaborative economy' we would like to see encouraged by the EU.
  • Compared to 30 years ago, the question of energy efficiency and use of renewables has taken up a central place in the way we work and social, public and cooperative housing providers are seen as strong players in leading the energy transition.
  • The digital revolution has deeply transformed every area of human life and our societies, and it's bringing about new developments also in the way we plan, build and manage our homes and services to residents.
  • Overall, and most important: having a roof over one's head is still central for people's lives and wellbeing, but it's not getting any easier particularly for those on low incomes. As the market is failing many, our role must become increasingly important.