How our nation of homeowners became ‘generation rent’

More people are renting from private landlords than local councils or housing associations
  • @Roger_Harding

New figures show that homeownership has fallen to its lowest level in England since the 1980s, as out-of-control house price rises leave more of us trapped in ‘generation rent’.

Renting from a private landlord is not the stepping stone it once was. These days, it’s the only option for millions. In fact, if you’re under 35 – single or with a family – you’re now more likely to rent privately than own with a mortgage. 

That leaves more of us faced with the unsettling reality of, bringing up children in a cycle of short-term private lets, coping with unpredictable rent rises and not able to make long term plans.

The grim reality of our rental market means that it isn’t surprising that most of us want to own a place of our own. Poll after poll shows that the vast majority of young people in this country are prepared to work hard and save to buy their own home like their parents, but they need to be met halfway.

While the figures were recorded before Help to Buy mortgage guarantees were introduced, we need to remember that homeownership started falling in 2004, despite the cheap mortgage lending and low deposits that preceded the financial crisis. If people were struggling to get on to the property ladder in the days of 110% mortgages, there’s no surer sign that the problem is our chronic shortage of homes.

The reality is that decades of failure to build enough affordable homes has pushed house prices out of reach – that’s why homeownership is dropping. It leaves us with a stark choice: do we ask young people to abandon their aspirations of a place of their own? Or do we roll up our sleeves and come up with the big, bold plans to give the next generation a better chance of a home of their own?

Until the government gets serious about building the affordable homes we need, more people will see their dreams of a home of their own continue to slip away.

Roger Harding, director of campaigns, policy and communications at Shelter

More people now rent privately than from councils or housing associations