RICS - Housing related expenditure in Europe: growth despite the economic crisis

RICS Research Report – “The Housing Sector in Europe – Household Consumption long-term and during the crisis”

Housing related consumption in Europe was the only type of household expenditure which was not reduced during the economic and financial crisis, in contrast with other components of consumption and GDP trends, says RICS research report published today.

Housing related expenditure is the biggest component of consumer spending at a European level. In 2011, the equivalent of €1700 billion were spent on housing in the 27 EU Member States, making up 23.6 % of total household expenditure, up from 20.3 % in 2000 and 22.5 % in 2008. Other important components of consumer spending were: transport related expenditures (13.2 %) and food and non-alcoholic beverages (12.9 %).

There were large variations between countries. Member States with income levels well above EU average (e.g. the Nordic countries, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) indicated a high level of housing related expenditure. In contrast, Member States in Southern Europe (with the exception of Greece) noted a smaller proportion of housing related expenditure.

Looking at the development of actual rents over the last decade (2001-2012), in the countries most hit by the financial crisis there was an impact on the rental sector as a whole and not only on recently agreed rentals.

Peter Parlasca FRICS, author of the research, explains why housing related expenditure continues to absorb such a significant proportion of consumers’ budget in times of economic uncertainty:

“If during 2008-2011, the housing sector was the most robust element of household consumption, it is because Europeans paid out more money in their rental and energy bills, and in particular due to the increased spending of home owners, for living in their own dwelling. However, consumers spent less in improving their homes (maintenance and repair of the dwelling was reduced by 3.2%).”

According to the report, the most important component of housing related consumption is “imputed rentals for housing” which are designed to capture the segment of owner occupied housing (12 %), followed by water, gas, electricity (6 %) as well as maintenance and repair of the dwelling (1.3 %).

RICS President, Michael Newey FRICS, CEO of a UK Housing Association said:

“Good quality affordable housing is a fundamental requirement for European citizens. It is also a key driver in economic recovery. This research shows that expenditure on housing is the biggest single expense for households in the vast majority of European countries, and second only to food in five EU Member States.

A striking feature of the data is the huge variation in home ownership rates in individual countries between around 50% and 90%, and substantial differences in rental trends. While average GDP across Europe has fallen, the proportion of spending on housing has increased, and tends to grow alongside GDP per capita growth in individual countries. Nonetheless, variations between countries are due mostly to structural differences in national housing markets rather than income levels.”

Source: RICS

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