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Last Updated: Monday, 26 March 2007, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
Owner occupation falls in England
Browsing an estate agent's window
Has the popularity of home ownership peaked?
The number of owner-occupied homes in England has fallen for the first time since official records began in 1939.

There were 14.62 million owner occupied homes in England last year, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

That was 25,000 fewer than in 2005, because of a drop in the number of people buying a home with a mortgage.

The total number of households rose again to 20.8million, with more living in public or private rented housing.

"We have had 1.8 million more home owners since 1997," housing minister Yvette Cooper told the BBC.

"The only way to ease the pressure on first-time buyers is to build more homes," she said.

Mortgages

The main reason for a drop in owner occupation last year was a fall of 94,000 in the number of homes being bought with a mortgage.

This was only partly offset by a rise of 71,000 in the number where the occupier owned the home outright.

Bernard Clarke of the Council of Mortgage Lenders said steeply rising house prices had been a key factor in the drop in owner occupation.

"Our data shows there has not been a fall in the popularity of home ownership," he said.

"It is a question of affordability - the challenge young people face in reaching that goal is steeper than ever."

The figures suggest the popularity of home ownership, which boomed in the decades after the Second World War, may have reached a ceiling.

In 1953, just 32% of English households owned their own home.

That proportion rose steadily over the years, partly stimulated by the sell-off of council housing promoted by Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

But home ownership, as a proportion of all housing in England, peaked at 71% in 2000 and has hovered around that level ever since, despite last year's small fall in absolute numbers.

Private tenants

The other big trend highlighted by the survey was the revival of privately rented housing in the past few years.

In 1953, 50% of households rented from a private landlord.

Its popularity fell rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s, but has been reviving since the mid-90s thanks to the boom in the popularity of buy-to-let ownership.

The proportion of private rented housing has risen from 10% to 12% over the past decade, with the number of homes lived in by tenants rising from 2.1 million in 1997 to nearly 2.5 million last year.

The government figures are based on the annual Survey of English Housing, which samples 20,000 households and which began in 1993.


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