The Death of a Dream – the crisis of homeownership in the UK

The dream of homeownership is dying in Britain, undoing a century of social progress

To read the full report click HOA Report – Death of a Dream (PDF)
To read the press release click here

The key findings are:

  • UK homeownership in long-term decline
  • Owner occupation rate peaked in 2002 at 69.7% in UK, has fallen to 64.7%
  • The majority of households in London now rent
  • The ‘homeownership gap’ – the difference between those who want to own but can’t – has hit 5 million
  • UK homeownership ranks in bottom 11 in EU, below Portugal, Ireland and Bulgaria

The report, Death of a Dream – The Crisis in Homeownership, uses unpublished government data to reveal that home ownership in the UK peaked 10 years ago, before sliding to a point where a generation of young people face being locked out of the housing market for good.

London has been worst affected, with most people in the capital now renting. Just under half of properties in the city are now owner-occupied, the lowest level since records began in 1991.

Official figures unearthed by the HomeOwners Alliance have revealed that the high point in homeownership in the UK was 2002, when 69.7% of households were owner occupied. The rate has plummeted since then to a low of 64.7%, a level last seen in 1988, when Mrs Thatcher was promoting ‘the right to buy’.

The report estimates that the slump in owner occupied properties has resulted in a 1.4 million fewer homeowners than otherwise would have been the case, had the previous trend continued. By 2016, that shortfall is estimated to jump to 2.4 million.

Paula Higgins, chief executive of the HomeOwners Alliance said: “This decline in homeownership is depriving a generation of the chance to own the roof over their head, shattering their dreams and aspirations. It is preventing millions of people from living the sort of lives they want to. The report reveals a ‘homeownership gap’ of about 5 million households – people who want to live in their own home, but have to rent instead. Buying your first home is no longer a joyful rite of passage for young adults, but returning to being a privilege of elites”.

She warns the social consequences are profound and long lasting: poverty among pensioner and children will rise, social inequality worsen, with more and more people face life in insecure rented accommodation. Without urgent action, the government also faces a rocketing welfare bill, as housing benefit costs soar.

The study argues the causes of the crisis are deep. Mortgages remain out of reach because the deposits required by lenders have soared. The gap between what people earn and house prices in the UK is amongst the worst in the world. At the heart of the problem is a chronic shortage of new homes.

International comparisons confirm that the UK’s standing as a nation of home owners is under threat.  It has now slumped to 11th from bottom in the EU for home owning levels, below countries such as Romania, Portugal, Ireland, and Bulgaria.

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