Real Estate

Number of households renting has more than doubled since 2001, census reveals

The scale of the rise of “generation rent” has been laid bare by the 2021 census that reveals the number of households renting has more than doubled in the last two decades in England and Wales, as home ownership rates fell.

In England and Wales, 5m households are private renting – equivalent to one in five – up from 3.9m in 2011 and 1.9m in 2001. Nine hundred thousand more households call a flat, maisonette or apartment home than a decade ago – the fastest-growing type of home. More than half of households in London rent.

Home ownership graphic

Amid concerns over the health risks caused by cold and rising energy bills, the figures also showed 367,000 households had no central heating – which the Office for National Statistics has estimated affects close to 700,000 people. After the Isles of Scilly, where one in six households have no central heating, Westminster was the next worst with one in 25 lacking a system.

Despite repeated pledges from Conservative-led governments to boost home ownership, it fell slightly with 62.5% of households owning their own accommodation, down from 64.3% in 2011 – equivalent to half a million fewer home-owning households. The latest housebuilding rates are well below targets set by the government to build 300,000 homes a year. In the last year 140,000 private homes were completed in England, 31,000 by housing associations and just 1,300 by councils.

The newly released census results, focusing on housing, also revealed the rise of the multi-car family with 2.3m households owning three or more cars or vans, up from 1.7m a decade ago. Just 233,000 households used any renewable energy sources for central heating – with one hotspot in Ceredigion, west Wales. Ninety-nine thousand households were revealed to be only using renewable energy sources, just under one in every 200.

Housing graphic

The figures reveal in stark detail the scale of the shift in how people own their homes in England and Wales. The 2010s began with twice as many mortgage holders as private renters. Ten years later the gap has narrowed dramatically, with just 50% more mortgage holders than private renters, a trend that is likely to increase in an era of higher interest rates.

There was also an increase of 900,000 in the number of households that own their homes outright – without any mortgage debt or loans – to 8.1m.

The home ownership hotspots were Monmouthshire in Wales and areas such as the New Forest and Wealden in southern England. London had the lowest levels of home ownership.

Across the two countries, 900,000 fewer people live in houses and bungalows than in 2011 and there was also a rise of 19,000 in the number living in caravans or other temporary or mobile structures.

“Despite an array of supposedly pro-home ownership policies over the past decade, the private rented sector was the fastest-growing tenure,” said Dan Wilson Craw, the deputy director of the campaign group Generation Rent. “A million more households are paying high rents to private landlords, face a much greater risk of living in a poor quality home, and live with the threat of eviction at short notice without the chance to appeal.”

He added: “In 2019, the government belatedly recognised the need for a much better deal for private tenants, including the abolition of unfair section 21 evictions, but as we start 2023 we are still waiting for the legislation that will make this a reality.”

Outer London boroughs as well as parts of Greater Manchester and the West Midlands recorded the largest increases in renters compared with homeowners. Watford, just outside London, had the largest increase in the proportion of privately rented homes, from 20% of households to 28%. The second highest increase was in Salford, Greater Manchester, where 26.8% of households are privately renting.

“The number of private rented households in England has skyrocketed since 2011,” said Polly Neate, the chief executive of the housing charity Shelter. “Despite this, regulation of the sector stagnates. Every day our emergency helpline hears from private renters paying through the nose for damp, mouldy homes, and families too scared to complain for fear they will be kicked out.”

Shelter’s analysis of social housing completions, demolitions and sales has shown that in 2020-21, there was a net loss of more than 15,000 social homes.

Rates of overcrowding improved slightly with 4.3% of households having fewer bedrooms than required, down from 4.5% in 2011 although the total number of households affected by the problem remained steady at 1.1m. Far more households had spare space with 17.1m households across the two countries having more bedrooms than required, as estimated by a standard requirement.

More than one in 10 households in London are overcrowded. The worst borough was Newham, where 22% of households had fewer bedrooms than required, followed by Barking and Dagenham, Brent and Tower Hamlets.

Outside the capital Slough was the most overcrowded town or city in England and Wales, with 16% of homes having fewer bedrooms than required, followed by Leicester and Luton.


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