Rentswatch: All the rents, all the time

Nicolas Kayser-Bril bio photo By Nicolas Kayser-Bril

Flat in London

This charming London studio, 8 kilometers from city center and next to the railway tracks (but not the station), was put up for rent on November 17, 2015 on Craigslist. Price per month: 1,300€. Working for the minimum wage, a 20-year old would have to spend 110% of her income to afford it.

In European cities, rent prices is the main concern of most of the younger part of the population. Someone who does not own his flat or who has not managed to get in a subsidized housing program lives at the mercy of his landlords. One in four renters in Europe spends more than 40% of their income on rent (source: Eurostat). These precarious renters are without a doubt young and living in large metropolises.

Suprisingly, very little data exists regarding the price of rents. Cities do run studies on the topic. Countries do, too. But such data is rarely compatible (a rent in Berlin does not encompass the same elements as a rent in Bucharest). No single Europe-wide database is available for someone who ponders moving out of a city.

We want to change that. We will provide a database of rents, all across Europe, all the time, for free. We will use all possible sources of information to achieve this. This will not solve the issue of unaffordable housing, but it will give a little more information - and power - to renters when they sign a contract.

Rethinking urban geography

We will go further than simply collecting data. We will also rethink urban geography. For someone living in Lisbon, the average rent price of a flat in Portugal is of little value. Similarily, the price of flats in Lisbon within its very narrow city limits is useless. (Lisbon is, with Paris and Athens, a basket case of administrative boundaries bearing no realities with the actual city). Basel (below), spreads over 3 countries and, in Switzerland, over 2 cantons. In such conditions, finding an administrative region that matches any kind of reality becomes impossible.

Using micro-level data, we can aggregate data in any way we see fit. We can analyze rent prices along a subway or bus line. We can display rent prices within a 30-minute drive of any location. We can get rid of administrative divisions to provide information that is actually useful to European renters.