Andreas, what is RAND Europe?

RAND Europe is a not-for-profit research organization that helps to improve policy and decision making through research and analysis. Our aim is to disseminate our research widely to benefit the public interest. We have two legal entities registered in Cambridge UK and Brussels BE.

Our findings and recommendations are based on rigorously peer-reviewed research and analysis. We combine deep subject knowledge with proven methodological expertise across many policy areas — health, science, innovation, defence and security, transport, criminal justice, employment and social policy, and education. We work with a range of clients, including European governments and institutions, charities, foundations, universities and private sector firms that seek impartial, quality-assured research.

You are the author of the policy memo “Understanding the housing conditions experienced by children in the EU”. What was your motivation to deal with children and housing?

This policy memo was produced as part of RAND Europe’s work on behalf of the European Commission in maintaining the European Platform for Investing in Children (EPIC). Reflecting the European Commission’s policy focus on children at risk, EPIC collects, evaluates, and disseminates practices that improve outcomes for children. As part of this body of work, RAND Europe produces a series of policy memos on topical issues related to children in Europe (the full series of EPIC policy memos can be accessed here). Housing has emerged as a key factor in the well-being and development of, and outcomes for children in recent policymaking in the EU (e.g. the 2013 Recommendations on Investing in Children, The Child Guarantee). For this reason, it was agreed together with DG EMPL to publish a policy memo that helps to build a comprehensive understanding of the housing conditions experienced by children in the EU, and the actions taken by the EU and member states to improve housing conditions for children.

Why is the housing issue so important for children’s health?

Available evidence shows a clear link between housing quality and the physical, mental and emotional well-being of children and their overall development. Low-quality housing is associated with a range of physical and mental health problems in children, including a higher risk of severe ill-health and disability during childhood and early adulthood, an increased risk of meningitis, asthma and slow growth (which is itself associated with coronary heart disease), anxiety and depression, and behavioural problems. Many of these issues persist into adulthood, and, as such, have a long-term impact on the life chances of children.

Children are also a high-risk group for overcrowding and homelessness in many MS, both of which have damaging impacts on their well-being and development. These include a lack of suitable cooking facilities required for a healthy diet and regular meals, a lack of recreational areas, problems doing homework, concentrating, and inviting friends over – all constraints that cause stress, insecurity, shame, developmental and social problems.

These issues have become more apparent than ever during the COVID-19 crisis, which is why the memo is a particularly timely contribution to our understanding of how housing quality is linked to the well-being and overall development of children.

What was the research question of the memo? What was the method?

The purpose of the memo was to outline the housing conditions experienced by children across EU Member States. Another aim of the memo was to offer examples of EU- and MS-level responses to the housing issues facing children living in the EU. To do this, we analysed variables related to housing quality and affordability using the EU statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC) to establish an understanding of the housing conditions experienced by children across EU member states. The study team also conducted a review of documents that capture developments in policies related to housing that affect children, both at the EU and Member State level.

What are the most important findings?

The memo shows how households with children are more likely to experience severe housing deprivation and overcrowding compared to the general population in the EU, although access to affordable housing is generally similar for households with children compared to the general population in the EU. The memo has also highlighted that some social groups are at a particularly high risk of suffering from poor housing conditions: children of migrants, single-parent households, couples with three or more children, and households living in private or social rented accommodation.

However, the EU and many Member States have a number of legislative and policy levers in place to protect and promote the housing rights and conditions of children, e.g. policies and directives, funding streams, housing-related welfare schemes and schemes to tackle homelessness.

What do you think could be possible and realistic solutions?

Whilst we hope that the memo will act as a useful tool to assist policymakers in answering this important question, it is beyond the scope of this research memo.

What does it take to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights in European and national policies?

Principle 19 of the European Pillar of Social Rights highlights the right of EU citizens (especially vulnerable citizens) to: (a) social housing or housing assistance of good quality; (b) appropriate assistance and protection against forced eviction, and; (c) adequate shelter and services for the homeless to promote their social inclusion. The memo provides a number of examples of policies, practices and funding programs developed and implemented by the EU and many member states to deliver on these Rights.

Andreas Culora, is an analyst at RAND Europe within the Home Affairs and Social Policy research group. PhD completed, titled “Geographies of Housing in Multiple Occupation” within the Department of Geography and Environment at Loughborough University. He is the author of the report “Understanding the housing conditions experienced by children in the EU“.