SOCIETY: Single life for homeowners

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The number of single people buying homes and living alone has almost trebled in 18 years, according to a survey published yesterday. A reduction in the amount of good quality homes for rent could partly explain the increase, said the Department of Environment.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that the numbers had risen from 370,000 in 1977-78 to 1 million in 1995-96.

Younger people were said to be behind the increase, and the figures showed there were more than six times as many owner-occupiers aged under 45, who had never married, than in 1977-78.

Alan Holmans, a contributor to the report, said: "The sheer number of single men, and to a lesser extent women, is behind the changes. And in parts of the country where house prices are lower, there are more owning and fewer renting."

The third report of the Survey of English Housing, based on interviews in 20,000 private households, also showed that 200,000 households took in lodgers.