Today sees the publication of the latest report of DCLG’s English Housing Survey, which includes findings from the 2014-15 survey.
The great thing about surveys such as EHS is that they collect data in a consistent manner over time, which means we can get a clear picture of how the fabric of our society is changing.
Housing has been one of the biggest topics for debate over recent years, in particular the decline of home ownership and difficulties people face trying to buy a home (although 2014-15 figures suggest this decline in ownership has abated since 2013-14). This year, the report looked in detail at recent first-time buyers. The average age at which people buy for the first time increased from 30 in 1994-95 to 33 in 2014-15. First time buyers (FTBs) are now more likely to be couples than they were twenty years ago: 80% of FTBs are now couples, compared with 62% in 1994-95. They now have higher relative incomes and are more likely to have received help from their friends and family or to have used inherited money to fund their deposits than their counterparts from 1994-95.
Alongside the decline in ownership, it has been well documented that private renting has become much more common, particularly in the last ten years. There are now 4.3m privately renting households in England and the sector accounts for 19% of all households in England - up from 11% in 2004-05.
But the structure of the housing market is changing too. The Private Rented Sector is now more likely to contain both people in middle-aged categories than previously and also more likely to contain children: the proportion of private renters who are couples with children has risen from 16% to 23% and lone parents with children from 7% to 16% over the ten year period.
Increases in private sector rent levels have been much discussed and indeed the survey shows that they have increased from an average from £153 per week in 2008-09 to £179 per week in 2014-15. This is an increase of 17%. However, rents in the social rented sector increased at a faster rate - from £71 in 2008-09 to £99 per week in 2014-15 - an increase of 39%.
What’s more, the report tells us that among those social renters that receive Housing Benefit, there has been a decrease in the proportion for whom the amount they received covered all of their rent, from 64% in 2008-09, to 54% by 2014-15.