Housing and Young People (Working Group in preparation)


Igor Costarelli
University of Milan Bicocca
Department of Sociology and Social Research
Milan, Italy

Oana Druta
Eindhoven University of Technology
Built Environment Department
Eindhoven, The Netherlands

Constance Uyttebrouck
KU Leuven
P.PUL research group, Department of Architecture
Ghent campus

In the last two decades, due to the combined effects of the 2008 economic crisis and the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, the position of young people in relation to housing markets and housing outcomes has progressively worsened (Mackie, 2016). Economic and job uncertainties have further delayed transitions to independent living (Luppi et al., 2021) or forced many young people to return to live with parents in the family house. While family support does provide a safety net, forced cohabitation does not always guarantee adequate living standards causing negative effects on youth psychological and social well-being (FEANTSA and Fondation Abbé Pierre 2021; Housing Europe Observatory 2018; Wilkinson & Ortega-Alcázar, 2019). Youth reliance on temporary job contracts often translates into temporary tenure conditions, less stability and more insecurity (e.g., Hughes, 2013). As a result, a new cohort of young renters in precarious living arrangements is on the rise. Various expressions have been coined to define youth’s weaker position on the housing markets, from generation rent to generation share (Hoolachan et al. 2017; Maalsen 2020), and the housing literature has documented a number of negative implications including residential alienation, low self-esteem and feelings of powerlessness (FEANTSA and Fondation Abbé Pierre 2021).

The lack of affordable and adequate housing solutions for young people is also an obstacle to social mobility. Difficult access to social housing and weakened welfare state have made youth destinies more dependent on the resources provided by the family of origin (Hochstenbach & Boterman, 2015, Druta & Ronald, 2017, 2019), situating housing at the core of debates on intergenerational dynamics of social inequality (Forrest & Yip 2013; Manzo et al. 2019). Those seeking better job and education opportunities in the most attractive cities see their right to the city denied by the lack of adequate housing. Against this backdrop, some attempts are being made by social housing organisations and institutions to improve youth access to affordable housing. These attempts include support to emerging living concepts addressing young professionals and students’ housing needs (Uyttebrouck et al., 2020) as well as innovative programs that allocate housing to young people in exchange for voluntary work for neighbourhood regeneration and community empowerment (Costarelli & Melic, 2021). A better understanding of the effects that the current state of housing for young people has on social inequalities and exclusion as well as the potential of innovative housing solutions to tackle urban problems is of paramount importance to position young people’s housing issues at the core of policy agenda on sustainable and equitable development.
Considering the growing relevance of these issues in contemporary society and the lack of specific working groups addressing them within the ENHR, we propose to initiate a discussion for and with the contributions of all community members. The proposed working group will explore the following topics:

● Housing conditions of youth and young adults (discussing aspects of housing inequality related to youth, e.g. affordability, living conditions, housing preferences, careers and pathways, youth homelessness etc.)
● Access to housing (reflecting on young people’s struggles to access affordable and adequate housing solutions in cities, the coping strategies and socio-economic implications)
● Provision of housing for young people (types of housing solutions proposed by institutions, private developers and social housing organisations to meet the housing needs and demand of youth). We are interested in exploring the main characteristics of proposed solutions/policies, in terms of selection criteria, tenure conditions, governance etc., and in better understanding their implications on youth wellbeing, housing quality, inclusion/exclusion process, transition to adulthood and life outcomes.
● Youth and emerging housing forms (young people’s lived experiences in intergenerational co-living, mixed housing, shared houses and other forms of innovative housing). This would include investigations of the youth as a preferred target group of emerging market segments aiming to respond to assumed specific needs and lifestyles. We would also explore the instrumental role of the youth in the support and development of such housing solutions.
● Critical analysis of concepts used to describe the housing conditions of youth and the types of accommodation they live in (e.g. Generation rent, Generation share, shared housing, micro-living etc.)
● Intergenerational housing inequalities (comparing housing conditions across generations, examining the role of housing in the intergenerational reproduction of social inequality, accumulation and transmission of housing wealth across generations)
● Youth and urban neighbourhoods, exploring the relationship between young people and their residential environment, including youth lived experiences in the neighbourhood, local participation dynamics in housing, planning, urban regeneration domains, neighbourhood transformations connected to studentification/youthification processes, neighbourhood effects on children and teenagers (age 16-19).

Activities for the next two years (Dec 2021-Dec 2023)
Year one:
– 25th February 2022: Kick off event of the WG Housing and young people. A seminar within the international doctoral programme in Urban Studies (URBEUR) at the University of Milan Bicocca will be organised (in person and online, open to everybody)
– June 2022: First workshop at annual ENHR conference in Barcelona
– Autumn 2022: After the first workshop in Barcelona 2022 the coordinators will explore opportunities for joint publication (books/journal articles/proceedings etc.)

Year two:
– A joint workshop session with another ENHR working group will be organized during the Lodz 2023 conference. Potential affinities exist with Housing, Migration and Family Dynamics, Homeownership and Globalization; Collaborative Housing.
– At least one more meeting/roundtable/seminar will take place in autumn 2023 after the ENHR main conference, involving WG members, followers and broader audience
– By the end of the two years of activity the WG aims to apply for a funding program, such as a COST action or other network funding initiatives, to solidify the collaboration among members and increase the chances for joint research. Depending on funding opportunities and existing collaborations of members, the WG aims to connect research to policy and practice (creating occasions to exchange outputs or sharing policy recommendations with institutional actors, reaching out to non-academic circles).

Additional activities to be initiated during the initial 2 year period:
Explore opportunities for joint supervision of students within cooperation and mobility programs (e.g. Erasmus +), including internship opportunities