Home ownership rises for the first time in 10 years

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The Independent Online

The number of people in Britain who own their home has increased for the first time in a decade, government statistics show.

The number of people in Britain who own their home has increased for the first time in a decade, government statistics show.

In four years, at least 726,000 more homes have become privately owned, bringing the proportion of home owners to 69 per cent.

The latest figures, published on Wednesday as part of the General Household survey by the Office of National Statistics, show that life in Britain has never been more comfortable. The rise in home ownership is accompanied by an increase in consumer durables owned by each household.

The proportion of households with access to two or more cars has trebled from9 per cent in 1972 to 28 per cent in 1998. Households with a home computer rose from 27 per cent to 34 per cent between 1996 and 1998.

The report, called Living in Britain, which is taken from an annual survey of nearly 9,000 households across the country, shows that in 1981, 54 per cent of people in Britain owned their own home. This rose during the Eighties to 66 per cent, mainly because council homes were sold off. During the Nineties, the level stayed the same due to recession and economic uncertainty, but between 1996 and 1998 the proportion of home-owners rose to 69 per cent.

The report says home life has improved beyond recognition in 30 years. In 1972, 37 per cent of homes in Britain had central heating and 42 per cent had a telephone. By 1998, the figures had risen to 90 per cent and 96 per cent respectively.

People with satellite and cable receivers rose between 1996 and 1998, from 18 per cent to 29 per cent.

However, the figures suggest that concerns about poorer households being excluded from the internet revolution are justified. The figures reveal that the gap in access to the new technology is widening.

Almost three-quarters of professional households have a home computer compared with slightly more than a quarter of semi-skilled and less than a fifth of unskilled or manual households. Nearly half of households where someone is in paid work has a home computer, compared with just 24 per cent of those with no working occupants.

The health of the nation appears to be getting worse, judging by the survey. In 1998, a third of people in Britain said they had a long-standing illness, compared to one in five in 1972.

Of those who were ill, 20 per cent said they had a condition that limited their activities in some way. Children aged five to 15 who live in houses where no one works are twice as likely as children living in working households to have a limiting long-standing illness.

* The growing culture of young women shunning marriage, choosing to live on their own and socialising more was one of the most marked trends in the General Household survey.

Two fifths of women living alone do not have a sexual relationship, the report found. Marriage appeared less fashionable, with the proportion of unmarried women aged 18 to 49 rising from 11 per cent in 1979 to 29 per cent in 1998.