The access to a first home by any young person is perhaps the most relevant event in the process of his/her life emancipation. However, the high prices of housing, in both rent and property, and the tight monthly salaries received by those who are just beginning their professional careers, make it arduous for such personal independence to occur. In the Basque Country, youth emancipation is a relatively late event compared to the rest of Europe.
In this sense, the difficulties in accessing a home produce situations of exclusion among young people and delay generational change, constituting a dilemma for society as a whole. This is demonstrated by the decreases in birth rates and increases in aging ratios in the territory (for example, today in the Basque Country, the population under 35 years of age only reaches the 32.5%).
On the other hand, the public entities with political competences in this arena, such as the Basque Government and municipalities, jointly promote various policies that try to mitigate this situation among young people, such as programs aimed at the availability of protected housing, complementary income, and aid for the rehabilitation of housing stock. Despite all this effort, 64% of young people under 35 years of age have not emancipated yet.
Furthermore, 91.9% of those between 18 and 24 years old still live with their parents; this situation reduces to 66.9% in the case of young people between 25 and 29 years old, and to 29.9% in the case of those between 30 and 34 years old. However, it is central to highlight that only 33.3% of these unemancipated young people admit that they need their own space to live, while 41.8% consider that they will not be able to become independent within the next four years. Regarding the distribution by gender, the percentage of emancipated women aged between 18-34 years is significantly higher (40.1%) than that of men emancipated (32%). It is also curious that young people of foreign nationality in the territory present much higher emancipation figures compared to the natives: 73.8% versus 28.6%, respectively.
Recent conversations with specialists in the territory confirm that the situation of emancipation in the Basque Country has changed very little in recent years. According to the report Youth, Emancipation and the Need for Housing in Euskadi (Basque Youth Observatory, 2019) in 2015, the total percentage of emancipated people aged 18 to 34 was 37.0%, this being 35.6% and 36% in 2017 and 2019, respectively. Again, despite all the efforts of government entities and social initiatives, these numbers today place the territory as a whole below the EU average, which is 51.8%.
Something similar happens with the average age of emancipation, going from 30.1 years in 2015, to 30.4 and 30.2 years in 2017 and 2019, respectively; almost five years above the European average (25.9). As the saying goes, "there is no place like home," in the Basque County.
However, there is a series of data in this regard that we must pay special attention to; for example, the average age of emancipation in our territory differs by six years from the ideal age declared by young people (23.9 years). Another relevant data is that, of the total number of emancipated young people who pay for a home in property, 21.1% are above the recommended maximum debt limit, placing these households in a situation of economic overstrain. In the case of emancipated young people with rental housing, this percentage rises to 40%; while, among young foreigners, the percentage doubles with respect to natives.
These circumstances are cushioned through the provision of periodic economic supplements. In this sense, 8.7% of emancipated youth in the territory affirm that they belong to a home in which they receive some type of social or economic aid (e.g minimum guarantee income, social emergency aid, etc. .); while 20.4% of young households in a situation of overexertion claim to receive some public aid of this type. Although these percentages had been decreasing in recent years, it is expected that they will increase markedly due to the current crisis caused by Covid-19.
Likewise, as a product of the policies and programs promoted by the Basque Government and local governments, 13.6% of emancipated youth in the Basque Country currently reside in a protected home, whether this happens to be an officially protected property (9.3%) or a protected rental one (4.2%).
According to the aforementioned Basque Youth Observatory report, young Basques believe that housing political solutions should focus more on: “…more affordable rent of existing dwellings, increasing the stock of protected housing, providing a greater support for the purchase of homes, reducing the value of the land, mitigating the number of empty flats, encouraging rehabilitation of old uninhabited houses, and reducing the costs associated with home financing, among others,…”, among others.
In this sense, it is necessary to examine in detail how policies and programs that attempt to reduce housing inequality are currently being generated; how the different local governments cooperate to each other to implement the shock actions; what perceptions the beneficiaries of these policies have; what areas for improvement policies could have; how the spaces for reflection between multiple interest groups are created and managed; and how innovation arises and is generated in the process of designing and implementing policies to give a better response to demanding groups and thus increase the levels of individual well-being an collective welfare in society.
To this end, in 2020 the H2020 UPLIFT project was born, encouraging European society to put the voices of young people at the center of youth policy and to discuss the various dimensions that influence the opportunities and capacities of young people to access to a home; while trying to co-create a reflective agenda that can be useful to those responsible for the development and promotion of policies. UPLIFT will be a three-year collective knowledge generation program that will involve 16 European cities, one of which will be Barakaldo.
In Orkestra, we believe in an increasingly inclusive and sustainable territorial competitiveness, which places people more than ever at the core of its work, and, by stimulating the drivers and competitive components of the Basque Country, contributes to improving the present and future welfare of its citizens. That is why Orkestra is excited to be part of this project.