War, Winter and the Weary – The Unfolding European Housing Crisis

housingBy Graham Vanbergen

Property prices across almost all the 28 EU member states have increased and have grown faster than incomes. The price correction of the post-2008 era fizzled out due to zero interest rate policy by the global central banks. The price-income ratios are still not back in line, effectively creating another debt-fuelled housing bubble.

The latest data available for poverty in the EU highlights that more than a third of the population is at risk of poverty or social exclusion in five EU Member States: Bulgaria (48.0 %), Romania (40.4 %), Greece (35.7 %), Latvia (35.1 %) and Hungary (33.5 %). At the other end of the scale, the lowest shares of persons being at risk of poverty or social exclusion were recorded in Sweden (16.4 %), Finland (16.0 %), the Netherlands (15.9 %) and the Czech Republic (14.6 %).

Housing is of course by far the most income-consuming expenditure, followed largely by heating and food.

27.6% of children and 18.3% of pensioners in the EU now live in poverty. By contrast as Global Research mentioned in a report on Libya “In 1967 Colonel Gaddafi inherited one of the poorest nations in Africa; however, by the time he was assassinated, Gaddafi had turned Libya into Africa’s wealthiest nation. Libya had the highest GDP per capita and life expectancy on the continent. Less people lived below the poverty line than in the Netherlands.”

The Netherlands has experienced a sharp rise of poverty in all demographic groups in recent years which says something about Gaddafi and also about the policies of EU member states.

The poorest in the EU now spend over 40% their income on a roof over their head. This does not include those nations under the brutality of the Troika-enforced austerity programme such as Ireland, Spain, Portugal and poor old Greece, where 40% of the entire population now find themselves in total poverty and experiencing a crisis of daily life courtesy of the banks.

The EU buries it head on the matter. It does not undertake periodic large-scale surveys designed to understand the extent and characteristics of their homeless populations. Census data from 2011 were inconsistent or were not collected, making the generation of an EU-level homelessness figure based on census results impossible.

The European Observatory on Homelessness determined that in five nations; Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden and France, there was an average increase in homelessness of around 26% in just three years to 2013 giving some indicator of scale, particularly as all five are considered wealthy nations with strong welfare systems. England saw a 37% increase in people sleeping rough due to welfare cuts.

Research conducted by Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit NGO dedicated to promoting affordable housing around the world found some startling and worrying statistics for Europeans.

Householders in central and eastern Europe now spend an average of 40%, but as much as 50% just on winter heating let alone the cost of housing itself. This is an astonishing sum that is boosting poverty and home repossessions year on year, pushing homelessness that is conveniently not counted.

It is no surprise that young adults, and by young we mean up to the age of 34, are still living with parents. In one half of the EU, predominantly central and east Europe, 59.3% of youngsters live with parents. In the other half it stands at 38%. The average across the whole of Europe is about 50% depending on what statistics you have.

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Construction of new homes has completely collapsed, free-falling an average of 80% across Europe.  In an environment of economic failure, single-occupation households increase as families break up and their personal finances disintegrate, exacerbating an already dire situation.

Last winter in the UK, 25,000 people died as a direct result of fuel poverty. Again, the EU does not count what is known as “excess winter mortality” rates. In a research report called “Excess winter mortality in Europe: a cross country analysis identifying key risk factors” by the Journal of Epidemiology, it was found by using decades of hospital data that something in the region of 94,400 such deaths occurred in just 8 European countries. That is one third of a million deaths related to fuel poverty per year in the EU.

Social housing construction is 90% short against the need of desperate citizens. The EU does not want to acknowledge the problem. After all, it only spends 26 billion euros on kit for a mixed bag of squabbling armies in defence of its citizens and then stands idle seeing them starve or die of the cold.

Germany, where the highest proportion of its citizens pay more than 40% of their income on housing (after Greece of course) are not only facing acute housing problems, but they now have one and a half million homeless refugees to consider. In a leaked secret document the Guardian reported that the German authorities were concerned about the risk of a “breakdown of provisions” and that they were already struggling to procure enough living containers and sanitary facilities for the new arrivals.

The UN has predicted 800,000 refugees for 2015 and 2016. We know this number is wildly off as Germany has already absorbed that total two-year prediction by last month. We are not told what the real number is.

It is patently obvious that the 28-nation bloc is economically fracturing and can barely look after its own. Now we have countries in the Balkans that have begun refusing people of certain nationalities as part of a backlash against migrants in the wake of the Paris attacks.

The ongoing conflicts and refugee crises in several Middle Eastern and African countries have brought the total number of forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2014 to almost 60 million, the highest level since World War II is a disaster to Europe.

According to the UN 77% of these poor souls come from imperialistic goals i.e. the indiscriminate bombing and destabilisation of Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. 65% of them are men.

Britain, supposedly with the fastest growing economy of any major Western country will confirm this unbelievable feat by putting 14 million of its own citizens into poverty by 2030. That being the case, the European Union, already burdened with 50 million unable to heat their homes this winter, over 100 million more in poverty and 120 million more on the brink of poverty, will see the refugee crisis as the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

It will be a housing crisis that triggers a new dilemma amid this winter as Europeans, no matter how benevolent, will not easily go homeless in front of mass immigration as a result of failed political gambles in the Mid-East.

You can read more from Graham Vanbergen at his site TruePublica.org.uk

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