A nation divided by housing tenure

This week’s Census reveals a historic shift from owning to renting as the nation adjusts to new housing realities. That much is obvious but there are some significant trends behind that headline number too.

The results for England and Wales show private renting has risen from 9 per cent of households in 2001 to 15 per cent in 2011 and that home ownership has fallen from 68 per cent to 64 per cent over the same period.

However, that simple two-way split misses what has happened beneath the surface. Tenure is now split roughly three ways between outright ownership, owning with a mortgage and renting (itself split evenly between social and private renting). Many people were watching to see whether private renting would overtake social renting (for the first time since 1961) but this did not happen unless you include all forms of private renting, including those who rent from an employer or live rent-free.

So the more significant change for me is the fact that there are now more renters (private and social) than people buying with a mortgage. Between 2001 and 2011, mortgaged home ownership fell from 39 per cent of all tenure to 33 per cent. The total number of households buying with a mortgage has fallen by 749,000 over the last ten years from 8.4 million to 7.6 million. However, if mortgaged ownership had maintained its 2001 share of a rising number of households, there would now be 1.4 million more home owners on the housing ladder.

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