Getting on to the property ladder is now the most effective form of contraception

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The Independent Online

Soaring house prices could have a serious long-term effect on the social fabric of the UK as couples are forced to put off having children while they save to buy a home.

Soaring house prices could have a serious long-term effect on the social fabric of the UK as couples are forced to put off having children while they save to buy a home.

The average age of parents is rising and fertility rates are falling because one third of all couples say they plan to put children and marriage behind buying a property.

According to academic research and a survey for Egg, the internet bank, buying property and gaining the qualifications to land a job to pay for it are placing enormous pressure on young people. Researchers who interviewed 1,000 prospective homeowners aged between 18 and 25 found they were prepared to sacrifice family and social lives to get on the property ladder.

"Property is less affordable than it has been for a generation," the report says. "The average deposit for first-time buyers has nearly quadrupled since 1996 from £4,818 to just over £18,000 in 2001.

"Weforecast that property will become even more expensive, with the average first-time buyer requiring a deposit of £24,000 in 2006 and £35,000 in 2011."

Melanie Howard, co-founder of the Future Foundation, which conducted the Egg research, said: "We are seeing a dramatic shift in attitudes. Many people feel having children is not viable while they save for a deposit or struggle to pay their mortgage."

According to the Egg report, Saving for a Foot on the Property Ladder, one in three of those asked said children would have to wait.

Claire Williams, 21, an estate agent, and her partner Chris Cobb, 25, a printer, lived with her parents for two years while they saved the bulk of their deposit. They then started renting – a one-bedroom flat in Thurrock, Essex, for £400 a month – but have been forced to delay marriage and children.

Ms Williams said: "I couldn't afford to get married, the money we have got has to go to the deposit and I can't have children because we've only got a one-bedroom flat. But if we don't buy now we won't be able to afford anything. It causes a lot of grief between us."

Ms Howard said one worrying aspect was that women might keep putting off having children and gamble on advances in medical science being able to help them to conceive at ever older ages.

Research by the London School of Economics has already identified this trend, suggesting that 30 per cent of all female graduates born in the 1970s and 1980s and living in London will never have children.

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