Housing Shortage in Germany - An Analysis of Socioeconomic Causes and Effects
A central yet underexplored dimension of the new housing issue is the insufficient supply of households with living space. After decades of continuous increase in living space per household and person in West Germany, and since the 1990s in East Germany as well, urban and especially tenant households have responded the price and rent inflation of the recent years with a significant decrease in demand for living space. This trend is also mirrored by increasing rates of overcrowding in European countries. In 2020, 10% of German households (and even 20% of young households) had less than one room per adult person available (overcrowding).
The supply of living space and overcrowding are strongly income-dependent in society, with a Gini coefficient of about 20% in Germany, according to data from the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) (Kohl et al. 2019). Unequal consumption is not necessarily problematic per se but has a series of socially undesirable consequences, especially in the case of overcrowding.
Our project focuses on families confronted with the trilemma of balancing family, school, and work regarding the housing issue. Existing literature shows a strong correlation of overcrowding with psychological stress, family instability, and low academic performance. This has become particularly visible during the COVID-19-induced shift to home office and homeschooling. Housing shortage thus has negative spillover effects on various aspects of life, which this project aims to explore for the first time using causal methodology and in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany.
Adequate housing supply is not only a central factor for the reproduction and allocation of labor but also an increasingly important aspect of the welfare state. In recent years, the housing issue has been repeatedly referred to as "the social question of our time."