Eurostat spends a good amount of money in producing statistics about almost any activity within the EC and offers very valuable information about the construction industry. This time it has produced an array of figures about where the European likes to live.
I am not one for statistics I must confess, but as I have mentioned in many other articles we do obtain a lot of useful information especially for those of us involved in the construction industry.
Spain tops the ranking
According to the latest data from the European Statistical Office (Eurostat), Spain tops the ranking of countries in the European Union (EU) where the highest percentage of population lives in an apartment: 66.5% of Spaniards live in this type of building compared to 33.1% it does in a house. The figure is striking especially when compared with other neighbouring countries. In France, for example, the ratio is almost reversed: seven out of 10 French lives in a house for three out of 10 in apartments.
The difference is even greater if we take the number of UK, the country with the highest percentage of population living in households: 84.7% versus 14.4% living in a flat (0.9% of those interviewed answered with another category called "other"). The closest country to Spain with apartments as the most widespread living accommodation is Latvia (65.1%), followed by Lithuania (58.4%) and Greece (56.9%), in that order.
The result of the average of the EU countries also marks a clear dissimilarity with the Spanish context: six out of 10 Europeans live in a house opposite the remaining four does so in an apartment; more than 2.5 points of difference from the Spanish proportion.
There are more home owners in Spain than in other European countries.
Another interesting figure from Eurostat study on the conditions and characteristics of housing in the EU is about ownership, all data shown here are obtained from 2014.
In this respect, nearly eight out of 10 Spaniards (78.8%) own the property in which they live, 8.7% more than the European average. For rent they are somewhat below the average: 21.2% versus 29.9% for the European Community.
Why is the apartment so quintessential to the Spanish people and why are they so prone to this property regime?
The reasons can be explained by three factors: the historical, economic and sociological.
From inside the castle wall to the apartment block.
Let’s start from the beginning. We have to roll back to the turbulent middle ages, when wars determined the pattern of urban settlements. The cities were walled, the ground was very limited and already at that time housing needed to be built in height. It was also the same in other countries, but in those countries wars did not last centuries as in Spain.
More recently, we had the rural exodus: Farmers left the countryside and moved on to the city. In Spain this happened not long ago just in the decades of the 60’s to the 80’s. People migrated to cities and property developers sorted the problem out with a quick construction method: the block of flats.
Today, vertical construction has been widely accepted because it is greener and more resource-efficient.
Spain is an increasingly empty country where it is increasingly easy to build horizontally. Still remember that, despite everything, the Spaniards hardly see the good side of an ecological construction and tend to seek the villas from a prestigious point of view.
Property developers take control.
The role of the economy and the current situation of crisis arising from the bursting of the housing bubble, are some of the explanations that make almost seven out of 10 Spaniards to live in apartments. There has been a very uneven economy and there are the selected few who control the sale of development land. The property developer gets more economic benefit from building in height because they can make more profit.
A conservative family orientated society.
The Spanish idiosyncrasies explain the property ownership regime being most widespread among the Spanish people on one hand, and developments been built around the block of flats on the other.
The Spaniards are very conservative and fear and loath financial investments. You only have to read recent news to see what happened to those who tried buying complicated financial products that they didn’t understand.
In general people have always seen the brick as a solid long term investment, unlike financial products.
They are also conservative in its family structure. There is less geographical mobility than other countries and historically people have bought a house because they did not anticipate moving for work reasons for a long time.
Having said that, due to the current crisis there a good percentage of the working population ready to move anywhere, even abroad for a stable job position.
This has impacted directly on the sale of properties, now the tendency has changed to rent.
However, figures for rental in this country still far from European countries more oriented in that direction. As shown in Eurostat study, Germany with 52.5%, Austria with 57.2% and Denmark with 63.3%, are the countries where most people opt for the lease in detriment of an ownership regime.