Feargus O'Sullivan is a contributing writer to CityLab, covering Europe. His writing focuses on housing, gentrification and social change, infrastructure, urban policy, and national cultures. He has previously contributed to The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times, and Next City, among other publications.
At least, that's how it feels to Europeans, according to a new survey.
Finding a European city with both ample jobs and affordable housing isn't possible. At least, that's what European city-dwellers think.
According to a recent survey that polled residents across the continent, only one major city makes its residents feel that jobs and reasonably priced apartments are there for the taking. You probably won't guess which city, because it isn't really in Europe and it's not very famous. It's Antalya, Turkey, a Mediterranean beach town of around one million citizens currently enjoying a tourism boom.
Antalya is the only European city where a majority of residents agreed (either strongly or somewhat) that jobs and affordable housing are easy to come by, according to the EU's new Eurobarometer report (which includes Turkey but excludes Russia and non-EU members). On the rest of the continent, city dwellers seem to have little faith in their access to jobs and housing.
In only nine cities surveyed (out of a total of 83) did a majority of people think finding a job was easy. This lucky group is, in order of resident optimism from higher to lower, Oslo, Prague, Munich, Antalya, Zurich, Stockholm, Helsinki, Istanbul and Bratislava.
The lowest performers – cities where more people disagreed slightly or strongly that jobs were easy to get – are mostly located in crisis-stricken Southern Europe. With the worst placed first, these are Palermo, Naples; Malaga, Spain; the Athens region and Athens proper; Miskolc, Hungary; Barcelona; Oviedo, Spain; Turin, Italy; and the Lisbon region.*
Europeans felt that affordable housing wasn’t quite so difficult. Most residents in 20 European cities agreed strongly or somewhat strongly that it was easy to find somewhere reasonably priced to live. The faint silver lining for low jobs-scorers Athens, Miskolc and Oviedo is that they all made the top ten for this group (with top place taken by the Romanian city of Piatra Neamt). Less happy were the people of Turin, who have some of the lowest expectations for job hunting, and also believe that reasonably priced housing is tough to come by.
While no other city touches Antalya's confidence, a couple of other places have a relatively rosy outlook. In Denmark's Aalborg, Britain's Cardiff and Manchester, Turkey's Istanbul and Ankara and the Romanian city of Cluj Napoca, over 30 percent felt that jobs and housing were both easy to find.
While this mosaic of European cities' hopes and fears is interesting, there's a clear limit to its scope. The figures gauge not the reality of the jobs and housing markets, but how people feel about them. This explains why cities in the former Czechoslovakia fared so well for job availability. The Czech Republic is doing better than many during Europe's ongoing crisis, but its unemployment rate in August was a not-negligible 6.9 percent. Prague's joblessness levels were slightly above that level as of this spring. This is higher than the 4.7 percent rate in neighboring Austria, yet 63 percent of Praguers agree strongly or somewhat that it's easy to find a job. Only 48 percent of Viennese feel the same way. This suggests that the Czech's rocky economic progress has lowered expectations and made people less sensitive to precarity.
Likewise, Munich residents were slightly more likely than Parisians to say that affordable housing was hard to find. In fact, while median salaries are roughly 1.7 times higher in Paris ($9,000 monthly compared to $5,234 in Munich), average rents per square meter are 2.6 times higher ($43 per square meter compared to Munich’s $16.4). Munich's citizens may object to high rents even more than Parisians do, but their attitude is likely shaped more by higher expectations than by the difficulty of making ends meet.
And the bigger picture isn't as bleak as it seems. In all 83 cities, most residents said they were satisfied to live there. In 82 cities, most said they were happy with cultural facilities (the one flop was Valletta, Malta). Public spaces were considered satisfactory by most people in 79 cities. Most people were happy with schools in 75 cities; with the state of streets and buildings in 73 cities.
If Europeans are finding new jobs and good housing hard to come by, they still seem pretty confident that they have resilient, attractive cities that will see them through.
* Correction: Due to an editing error, this story originally misstated Turin's location.