Housing costs: Young people, singles, single parents affected most


While housing costs are low for homeowners, they constitute a considerable financial burden for people who rent their homes.

Emanuel List and Wilfried Altzinger from WU’s Research Institute for the Economics of Inequality have conducted an empirical study to analyze the financial burden that housing costs place on Austrian households.

Income gap between tenants and homeowners

People who rent their homes have significantly lower incomes than property owners. The average disposable income of a tenant household is €2,900 per month. Homeowner households, in contrast, have an average monthly income of €4,400. This difference is also reflected in the income distribution percentages: While about 60% of people in the bottom third of the income range rent their homes, the number of tenants drops to below 20% in the top third of the income distribution.

Housing costs as a financial burden

Housing costs are felt much more strongly by households who rent their main place of residence, not only in relative terms but also in absolute figures. For homeowners, average monthly housing costs are €448. For tenants, the average costs are 40% higher at to €646 per month.

In total, housing costs constitute a heavy financial burden for 10.1% of all households, meaning that these households spend more than 40% of their disposable income on housing.  The gap between tenants and homeowners is very wide here, however: Only 3.1% of homeowners face a heavy financial burden due to their housing costs, compared to 19.4% of people who rent their homes. Even if we add loan or mortgage rates to the housing expenses, the relative financial burden caused by housing expenses is still lower for homeowners who have to pay back loans than it is for tenants. The study includes a sociodemographic analysis, which shows that young people, single households, and single parents face a particularly high financial burden caused by housing costs.

A call for more social housing policies

Economic policies aiming to reduce the burden of housing costs for the households affected most should focus primarily on people who rent their homes. Suitable approaches could include strengthening social and public housing or eliminating VAT on private rents. Subsidizing property purchases, in contrast, always presupposes a certain amount of available wealth and a medium or high income. This means that subsidies for would-be homeowners would almost entirely miss their purpose and fail to target households actually struggling with high housing expenses.

For further information, please see:

To the study

Emanuel List, Wilfried Altzinger: “Eigentum und Miete. Finanzielle Belastung durch Wohnkosten in Österreich.” Available at (in German)

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