One in five households in the UK now lives in a privately rented home, according to the latest Census.
Five million households in England and Wales rented their accommodation privately in 2021, making up 20.3% of all households. Just 3.9 million households, 16.7%, rented privately in 2011 when the last Census was taken, and in 2001 it was less than 2 million.
In fact, private renting is the only type of tenure to have grown since the last Census. Owner-occupiers still make up the largest proportion of households at 62.5%, but this is down from 64.3% in 2011. Meanwhile, the proportion of households renting socially has fallen from 17.6% to 17.1% since 2011.
Unsurprisingly, London had the highest proportion of private renters and lowest proportion of owner-occupiers of any region. 30% of households in the capital rent privately. In all other regions, 17-20% of households live in privately rented accommodation, with Wales having the fewest renters at just 17.1% of households.
Following the trends
The Census figures reflect the growing importance of the private rented sector, and also the increasing difficulty of getting onto the housing ladder. While the number of outright homeowners rose over the last decade, the number of people who own their homes with a mortgage or through shared ownership fell to 7.4 million or 29.7%, down from 7.8 million (33.5%) in 2011.
The Census may also miss more recent trends by comparing 2021 to 2011. The latest English Housing Survey, published last month, found that 19% of households in England rent privately – fewer than in 2016. Property industry groups say that landlords have been driven out of the sector by recent tax rises and regulatory changes such as Section 24 changes to mortgage interest tax relief. If they’re right, we may see the sector’s growth reverse in the 2031 Census.
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