From Iceland — What The News!? Young Icelanders Keep Living At Home

What The News!? Young Icelanders Keep Living At Home

Published January 13, 2023

What The News!? Young Icelanders Keep Living At Home
Photo by
Julia Staples

Breaking news: fewer young adults than ever are living at home with their parents … but also more young adults than ever are living at home? How can that be? It turns out both are true, depending on which age ranges you zoom in on.

As Stundin reports, the percentage of young people ages 18 to 24 who are still living with their folks was at an all time low of 55,5% in 2021 — that’s significantly down from the high of 62,2% measured by Statistics Iceland in 2016. However, sometime in that five-year span, a not insignificant proportion of those young Icelanders realise they are lacking either the life skills, gumption or the cold hard cash (likely the latter) to make it on their own two feet in the world and the stats begin to tell another story.

You see, never before did more Icelanders ages 25 to 29 live at home with mamma and/or pabbi than in 2021, with 22,5% of them still sitting tight in the family abode — which we are absolutely certain their parents love just as much as they do.

No Shade Here

Just to be clear, we’re throwing these figures out without a hint of judgement. The housing market in Reykjavík is in absolute shambles. Real estate is prohibitively costly and rentals are too few, too far between and way, way too expensive. It’s no wonder the figures show more adults at home in the capital region than in other parts of the country (where property is slightly less unaffordable).

The average cost of a residential property in Reykjavík is up 50% since 2020 and up 20% just since 2021. Adding another barrier for young people to enter the housing market is the fact that, according to Statistics Iceland, some 53.000 dwellings are owned by just 5.000 individuals or legal entities. Give that a moment of thought. That means 14,6% of all housing in the entire country is owned by people or entities who own more than one home or apartment.

So how, pray tell, is a 24-year-old middle-class Icelandic person meant to move out when such a large percentage of the country’s housing stock is in the hands of the wealthiest 10% of the population, who, the data shows, are most likely to own more property than their primary residence? And how, in a competitive market, is a first-time buyer meant to muster up an offer as appealing as those expertly playing Monopoly up and down the streets of Reykjavík?

With great difficulty.

I’m reminded of an out-of-touch campaign run by one of the big banks a few years ago highlighting the stories of bright-eyed young people who successfully bought their first apartment — huzzah! — only those young people had their down payments topped up by the generous bank of mom and dad. That’s not a scenario that is a reality to a decent proportion of young Icelanders. If we had to venture a guess at who, exactly, it’s not an option for, we’d ballpark it to be around 22,5% of 25 to 29-year-olds.

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