Overcrowded homes skyrocket in Spain
Spain is one of the European countries where the growth of overcrowding in homes throughout the last few years. A situation that reflects the problems in finding a home that suits the needs of family units and cohabitants. Between 2010 –in the midst of the financial crisis– and 2020 –the year of the pandemic and the last one with data published by the European statistical office Eurostat–, the percentage of the population in overcrowded housing has skyrocketed by 52%. A growth that is only behind that registered in the Netherlands, where the population in this situation has more than doubled.
Eurostat includes as overcrowded dwellings those in which a series of conditions are met. Basically, that there are more inhabitants than those for whom these properties were intended. For example, it includes those cases where single adults live together and there are fewer rooms than cohabitants; or, if there are children, there are more than two minors per stay. In short, homes that are not adapted to the space needs of those who inhabit them.
At the end of the year of confinement, in Spain there was 7.6% of the population in this situation. A figure that, despite its growth over the last decade, and more specifically between 2018 and 2020, is much lower than that of other European countries where this reality of overcrowding is especially high.
For example, in Romania it exceeds 45%, in Latvia 42% and in Bulgaria 39%. The EU average is 17.5%. It is even higher than in Spain in neighboring countries such as Italy (26%), France (10%) or Portugal (9%). However, we are also far, in the reverse aspect, from the 2.5% of Cyprus or the 3.2% of Ireland.
These data gain perspective when compared, for example, with the number of people living in flats, which in Spain they are two thirds of the population, at levels similar to those of Lithuania; and well above 46.2% of the European average. In contrast, only 25% of Cypriot citizens live in flats.
It is also relevant to see if there is a relationship between the reality of living in overcrowded houses and the risk of poverty and social exclusion. When comparing the data published by Eurostat, it can be seen that, in the case of Spain, there are not excessive differences between men and women; but there are when analyzing them by age. 28% of girls under 18 years of age at risk of poverty live in overcrowded households, when in younger men, it is 22.7%. Eurostat considers at risk of poverty those people whose income is less than 60% of the national median.
Once you reach adulthood and emancipation, there the differences between men and women are not so high. 16.9% of women with very low incomes live in an overcrowded household, compared to 15.9% of men. On the other hand, in the case of the elderly, the data is considerably reduced. Only 5.9% of women over 65 at risk of poverty and 5% of men are in this situation of overcrowded housing.
Behind this last reality, there would be other factors such as the loneliness of the elderly, who are also prone to living in substandard housing. In the whole of Spain, a 20% of those over 65 live in a situation of extreme residential vulnerability. A condition that it is especially aggravated in certain regions, such as the Valencian Community and the Balearic Islands; and in the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla.
Regarding how the relationship between overcrowding in housing and the risk of poverty is growing, the percentage of minors who live in an overcrowded home and are in a situation of exclusion has doubled throughout the 2010s. Meanwhile, in adults up to 65 years, that percentage has increased by more than 70%.
It should be remembered that, with revenue data for 2020, the population living below the poverty line rose last year to 21.7%. That is, more than one in five people in Spain, the highest figure since 2016, according to the Living Conditions Statistics (ECV) published by the INE.
In the case of Eurostat, it analyzes the evolution of overpopulation in households within a broader study on the living conditions of the citizens of the Union. It assumes that "poor housing conditions are one of the main factors that prevent people from enjoying an acceptable standard of living."
To do this, it not only takes into account the number of people who live in a home based on its characteristics, but also other aspects such as whether they have problems meeting essential expenses, such as heating. In 2020, the year hardest hit by the pandemic, "7.4% of the EU population were unable to keep their home adequately warm. Among EU Member States, this percentage ranged from 1.5% in Austria and 27.5% in Bulgaria", highlights Eurostat.
Going into detail, in Spain the number of people who have economic difficulties to be able to heat their houses has increased. In 2020, before energy prices skyrocketed, more than 10% of the population had difficulties, when in 2019 that percentage remained at 7.5%. It is the highest figure since 2014 when the consequences of the previous financial crisis were still perceptible and this problem affected more than 11% of the population.
Other countries where there are more economic difficulties to heat houses in winter are Portugal, Greece and Cyprus, where it exceeds 17%. These two southern European states, along with Bulgaria and Lithuania, were already the ones with the highest figures in 2014. In contrast, in colder countries, such as Poland and Sweden, this reality only affected 3.2% in 2020 and 2.7% of the population, according to Eurostat. Data that collects the months of confinement and long before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the war conflict and the decision of the Government of Vladimir Putin to close the gas tap to European countries, which can change the statistics of the most recent months .
Once again, looking in detail at the relationship between the impossibility of keeping the home warm and the risk of poverty, there is a differentiation by household. The greatest risk occurs in households occupied by an adult under the age of 65 at risk of poverty, where it reaches 32%, a percentage well above the overcrowding among the rest of adults who live alone. In the case of dwellings occupied by two adults with three or more dependent children, the risk is close to 30% in the case of families with low income, a percentage five times higher than that of families of the same number but with higher income .
These data are prior to the energy crisis and this week The Red Cross has reported that 75% of the vulnerable families served by this organization say they cannot maintain the right temperature in their homes, especially in winter. Data that already collects 2021, but not what happened after the invasion of Ukraine. This data, collected in an analysis carried out together with the non-profit organization Ecodes, indicates that 23% of these families say they do not have heating, compared to 10% collected by the official statistics of the Institute for Diversification and Energy Saving (IDAE).