UK third least affordable in Europe for housing costs

Families in the UK are among the worst off in Europe when it comes to total housing costs, new research reveals.

The findings, published by the European Union and highlighted by the housing charity Shelter, show that one in six people in the UK (16.5%) are overburdened by housing costs. This means they are spending more than 40% of their income on costs such as rent, mortgage payments and other living costs associated with their home.* The UK has three times as many people weighed down by housing costs than our nearest neighbour France, where only 5.2% report they are overburdened.

Housing in this country is so unaffordable that out of 29 EU countries analysed only Denmark and Greece reported being worse off, placing the UK third from bottom for housing costs. 

Even countries with famously troubled economies such as Spain, Italy and Portugal fared better - in Portugal only 4.2% of people are spending over 40% of their income on housing, four times less than the in UK. Only 11.2% of Spanish and 7.5% of Italians face the same strain.

Over the last few decades, homes in the UK have become less and less affordable as succession of governments have failed to prioritise housing investment. Chronic lack of supply of affordable homes and years of easy access to mortgages are key elements in driving up house prices in the UK, but the continuing increase in house prices has been widely accepted as the norm. 

Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of Shelter, said:

“These figures are the evidence that the UK housing market is deeply dysfunctional. With so many families spending huge amounts of their income on their rent or mortgage, people will be making daily trade-offs between food bills, filling the car tank with petrol, and paying their housing costs. 

“And this is not set to get better any time soon. While the situation is bleak at the moment, a succession of governments failing to provide much needed affordable homes means that the future facing our children and our children’s children is only set to get worse. 

“Housing is the largest monthly cost for most people, yet the affordability of housing is not getting the same attention as the monthly costs of other essentials such as food or fuel. We believe all political parties must recognise solving our housing crisis is as fundamental as health and education.”

It is vital that anyone struggling with housing costs seeks help immediately: visit or call Shelter’s advice line on 0808 800 4444.


Notes to editors:

• The full list of European countries and the percentage of population living in a household overburdened by housing costs is available on request (Source: European Union Statistics on Income and Living Standards, 2010). 
Source: European Union Statistics on Income and Living Standards, 2010. 
* The indicator is defined as the percentage of the population living in a household where the total housing costs (net of housing allowances) represent more than 40% of the total disposable household income. The EU definition of ‘total housing costs’ include costs connected with the household’s right to live in the accommodation: mortgage interest payments or rent payments, structural insurance, mandatory service and charges, regular maintenance and repairs, taxes and costs of utilities (water, electricity, gas and heating).
• Data about Germany was not provided by Eurostat
• Average Annual Domestic Gas Bill in 2011: £719 (Source: DECC Domestic Price Statistics, Table 2.3.1)
Average Annual Domestic Electricity Bill in 2011: £452 (Source: DECC Domestic Price Statistics, Table 2.2.1)
Average Annual Housing Costs in 2010/11: £6,760 (figures by tenure are £7,436 for homeowners with a mortgage, £4,108 for social renters, and £8,320 for private renters. Source: English Housing Survey 2010/11 – figures are based on weekly costs multiplied by 52). 

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