The disadvantaged in the housing market
Measuring who is disadvantaged
The objective of Norwegian social housing policy is to ensure that everyone has a satisfactory living situation, and that those who are disadvantaged in the housing market are able to obtain and retain suitable housing (Proposition no. 1 to the Storting 2016-2017). The main aim of this report is to examine how data from administrative registers can be used to measure the number of people that are disadvantaged in the housing market. The definition of who is disadvantaged in the housing market we use is ‘individuals and households who are unable to obtain and/or maintain a satisfactory living situation on their own’ (NOU 2011:15). Operationalising this definition is a challenge. Situations that have not yet occurred, in this case the inability to obtain or maintain a satisfactory living situation, are difficult to measure directly. In this report, we examine different ways of measuring who is disadvantaged in the housing market and the impact of different measuring methods when using a compiled registry for people and housing. This is the data source for Statistics Norway's register-based statistics on housing conditions (https://www.ssb.no/en/bygg-bolig-og-eiendom/statistikker/boforhold).
Our operationalisation of the definition of ‘disadvantaged in the housing market’ is based on those who have a potentially difficult financial situation, both in terms of income and housing costs, and who additionally do not have a satisfactory living situation. The challenge of the register data that forms the basis for the analyses is that none of the data is linked directly to housing costs and there is limited information on housing standards. When we measure those who are disadvantaged in the housing market, several of the definitions use debt burden to identify who has high housing costs. We do not know how much of this debt is linked to housing, but must assume that most of it is mortgage debt. This is therefore an indirect measurement, and mostly includes those who own property, and tenants to a lesser extent. Since we cannot ascertain housing costs from the register data, we have estimated these using the Rental Market Survey (http://www.ssb.no/en/priser-og-prisindekser/statistikker/lmu). Estimating the housing costs gives us a definition of ‘disadvantaged in the housing market’ that covers tenants to a greater extent.
The different choices in relation to how we choose to define the group ‘disadvantaged in the housing market’ can have a major impact on the result. Depending on the definition, the number of people disadvantaged in the housing market in 2015 could range from 17 500 to 259 000. In the report, we examine what characterises those who are disadvantaged in the housing market according to three of the methods used to measure this group. Common to all definitions is that immigrants, tenants and Oslo inhabitants are particularly disadvantaged. The young are also at more of a disadvantage, as are large families. Couples without children and the elderly are seldom disadvantaged in the housing market.
This analysis shows that none of the measurement methods clearly stand out as better than the others, and that a more nuanced picture can be obtained by operationalising the group in different ways. In order to establish a more precise definition of ‘disadvantaged in the housing market’, the information on housing costs needs to be improved, and information on housing standards would also be beneficial. At the moment, we do not therefore have adequate data to create an accurate indicator of those who are disadvantaged in the housing market that is suitable for use in official statistics. This theme is more suitable for analysis, where various aspects of the phenomenon can be examined.