Proportion of Income Spent on Rent has Fallen, Reports English Housing Survey
Rose Jinks - February 1, 2019
The proportion of income spent on rent by private tenants
has fallen over the past decade, according to new official figures.
The latest English Housing Survey, for 2017/18, shows that
the proportion of income spent on private rents was an average of 32.9% in the
period, which is down from 34.3% in the previous year and 36.4% in 2014/15.
With the Government considering how to increase the length
of private tenancies, the Survey also found that the average time that a
private tenant has spent in their current home was up from 3.9 years in 2016/17
to 4.1 years in 2017/18.
The Government’s new Private Landlord Survey for 2018, which
was published at the same time, reports that 70% of landlords kept their rent
prices the same when renewing their most recent tenancies, indicating that
landlords prioritise keeping good tenants for the long-term.
The latest English Housing Survey found that, of the
estimated 23.2m households in England, 14.8m (64%) were owner-occupiers in
2017/18. The proportion of homeowner households increased steadily from the
1980s to 2003, when it hit a peak of 71%.
Since then, owner-occupation has gradually declined to its
current level. However, the rate of homeownership has not changed since
After more than a decade of decline, the proportion of
35-44-year-olds in owner-occupation has increased. In 2017/18, 57% of those in
this age group were homeowners, which has risen from 52% in 2016/17.
While owner-occupation remains the most prevalent tenure for
this category, there has been a considerable rise in the proportion of
35-44-year-olds living in the private rental sector (from 13% in 2007/08 to 28%
After a period of substantial growth, the proportion of
households in the private rental sector has not changed for five years.
Meanwhile, the share of households in the social rental sector has not changed
for over a decade.
In 2017/18, the private rental sector accounted for 4.5m (19%) households. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the proportion of private rental households was steady, at around 10%. While the sector has doubled in size since 2002, the rate has hovered around 19-20% since 2013/14.
The proportion of social tenants who expected to buy their
own homes has declined, but no such drop was observed among private tenants.
In 2017/18, 25% of social tenants expected to buy a property
at some point in the future, which is down from 30% in 2016/17. A greater
proportion of private renters expected to buy – 58%, which is unchanged on
The social rental sector had the highest rate of
overcrowding and the lowest rate of under-occupation.
In 2017/18, 8% of households in the social rental sector
were living in overcrowded accommodation (compared to 6% in the private rental
sector and 1% of owner-occupied homes).
Meanwhile, 10% of homes in the social rental sector were
under-occupied (defined as two or more spare bedrooms). While under-occupation
remains less prevalent in the social rental sector (54% of owner-occupied homes
and 15% of private rental homes), it rose between 2016/17 and 2017/18, from 8%
The energy efficiency of English homes has increased
considerably in the past 20 years, but has not improved since 2015.
In 2017, the average Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP)
rating of English dwellings was 62 points, which was up from 45 in 1996. This
increase was evident across all tenures.
However, the increase appears to be slowing, and there was
no change in the average SAP rating of homes between 2016-17 (in any tenure).
There remains a lower proportion of non-decent homes in the
social sector than in the private rental and owner-occupied sectors.
In 2017, 13% of homes in the social rental sector failed to
meet the Decent Homes Standard. This is lower than the proportion of private
rental (25%) and owner-occupied (19%) homes.
Over the past ten years, the proportion of non-decent homes
has dropped from 35% of all stock in 2007 to 19% in 2017. This decline was
observed across all tenures, but has stalled in recent years.
Positively, the number of homes in the private rental sector
with a Category 1 hazard has plummeted from 31% in 2008/09, to 14% in 2017/18.
John Stewart, the Policy
Manager of the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), responds to the Survey:
“What emerges from the wealth of data out today is a picture of
continuing improvement in affordability, security and standards for private
“The figures also debunk the myth that landlords are
always increasing rents unreasonably and looking for every opportunity to evict
“We recognise that, whilst this data confirms that the
vast majority of landlords enjoy good relationships with their tenants and want
them to stay on long-term, there are still too many unscrupulous landlords who
bring the sector into disrepute and they should be driven out of the market.”
Dan Wilson Craw,
the Director of tenant lobby group Generation Rent, had a different opinion: “With house prices slowing and
landlords now paying more tax, it has become slightly easier for renters to buy
their first home. However, for the remaining 4.5m private renters,
unpredictable rents and tenancies that the landlord can end without needing a
reason mean they have no stability. We need much better protections from
eviction and regulation of rents if renters are to enjoy long-term homes.
“These numbers suggest that most tenants
already have a landlord who wants to provide a long-term home. But, because
tenants have so little power in the market, there’s no way to actively avoid
ones who don’t. Tenants should expect that paying rent means they get to stay,
and that they shouldn’t face unaffordable rent rises. With most landlords already
on board with this, the Government should crack on and raise standards for the
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