First recorded rise in home ownership in 13 years

Houses at the end of a rainbowNew official data released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show that 62.6% of the 23.9 million homes in England are now privately owned.

After thirteen years of steady decline in home ownership, the number of privately owned homes has finally risen by just 0.2%, bringing the number to a total of 15.1 million. The peak figure of homes ownership recorded was in 2003, when 69.5% of homes were privately owned.

Figures recorded at the end of March 2017 showed that four million properties were tenanted in the council and local housing association sector, while nearly five million were rented in the private rental sector.

While councils now have the power to take over empty homes by use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs), local authorities have rarely made use of the measure. Over the five years to 2018, just 23,000 empty homes were brought back into use by councils.

However, according to government data, 205,293 homes in England are registered as ‘empty homes’, and long-term empty homes (those empty for ten years or longer) now account for 0.9% of the total housing stock. The number of empty homes peaked in 2008, when Britain’s homeowners were hit by the financial crisis, leaving 326,954 properties empty when their owners were unable to afford the mortgage payments.

In 2017, Birmingham, Bradford and Leeds each recorded around 4,000 homes that had been empty for over six months, although London’s 20,237 empty homes placed the capital at the top of England’s worst offenders list. The fewest number of empty properties were in Corby, Northamptonshire, which recorded just nine vacant homes.

The government has often repeated its drive to build more affordable homes to encourage “young families, key workers and those on lower or middle incomes” onto the property ladder, but it seems unlikely that ‘Generation Rent’ will be committing to home ownership very soon.

In 2018, the then Housing and Communities Minister, Dominic Raab, suggested that immigration had “put house prices up by something like 20%” over the past 25 years. The estimated 28% of construction workers in London alone hailing from the EU, may well add more pressure post-Brexit.

The third housing minister of 2018, and the eighth housing minister in eight years, Kit Malthouse, takes over in July. With so much Brexit uncertainty, let’s hope we now have some continuity.


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