According to the latest Eurostat figures from 2021, the average European homeownership rate is 70%, with Germany coming in lowest at less than 50%, and, on the opposite end, Romania counting up to 95.3% of its people residing in their own homes. To many, this may come as a surprise that, of all places, the highest percentage of homeowners is found in Romania. However, there is a two-fold, logical explanation behind this phenomenon, making the conclusion not only understandable but also expectable.
The first dimension is due to history. Before mentioning the vast implication of communism and its fall on the aspect of homeownership in Romania, we must mention that throughout its history, Romania was a country of peasants that, like many other states, was subjected in the early 19th century to feudal governing. This changed for Romania in 1864, when Alexandru Ioan Cuza installed the New Agrarian Reform, abolishing the feudal regime and turning the peasant population into free owners of the property they were residing in.
“Serfdom is abolished forever, and from today, you are free owners in the places of your dominion.”Alexandru Ioan Cuza
This measure was the first in the list of many meant to start the modernization process in the Romanian Principalities. However, not many generations were able to enjoy the privilege of having their very own space. In 1947 the Communist regime took over the country, once again stripping the people of the very little they had.
Homeownership in Romania: the communist legacy
Against this background, nationalization by the regime had significant implications on the morale and mentality of the people, which is why in 1989, after the fall of communism, people rushed to buy their own homes. The economic and social context of the years following the Revolution facilitated the acquisition of such real estate.
Mass privatization of properties and increasing inflation made it possible for people to buy apartments for very cheap – sometimes as cheap as the price of a TV, a BBC article suggests – and people were eager to get a place of their own, to get back into their hands at least a part of what was taken away.
This led to a second dimension – mentality. After living in scarcity, followed by a short period where people were finally able to own at least some land, only to have everything taken away again, increased the sense of need to own. To this day, this urge to possess, control, and have rights over a place equals stability. It means reassurance and, to a certain degree, power, and strength. Moreover, at the end of the day, it means prestige, which is why homeownership is a desire of the population.
With this in mind, it comes almost as a given that Romania is the number one country in Europe, and arguably worldwide, in terms of home ownership. And while such a conclusion sounds astonishing in numbers, the reality of the fact is not entirely rosy. While Romania may be at the top of the list of home ownership, it is at the bottom of another – that of average rooms per person (according to Eurostat). Countries like Malta top the list with a whopping 2.3 rooms per person, whereas in Romania, the numbers show just 1.1 rooms per person per household.
Romania remains the country with the highest percentage of homeowners and seems set to continue along this path, even despite a significant drop in 2021 compared to 2020. This doesn’t change the fact that, to its core, Romania is a country that values and desires ownership, as the national conscience places great emphasis on owning and having property of your own.