More than one in five people now rent in the private sector, while the number of those who own a home has fallen, according to the latest Housing Census.

An estimated 5 million households – more than one in five – rented their home in the private sector in 2021, up from 3.9 million in 2011, according to the government’s latest Housing Census.

Stretched affordability, caused by strong house price growth during the past decade, is likely to be behind the increase, as first-time buyers delay stepping onto the property ladder.

There has also been a fall in the number of households who own their home, with the proportion of owner-occupiers dropping to 62.5%, down from 64.3% in 2011.

The census also found that the number of households in England and Wales has increased by 1.4 million since 2011, to stand at 24.8 million in 2021.

The number of new homes being built has failed to keep pace with this rise, contributing to the increase in house prices seen during the past 10 years.

Here’s what else the census revealed:

How many people own their own home?

Across England and Wales, the percentage of households who own their own home has fallen during the past decade.

However, due to population growth, the actual number of homeowners has increased.

In 2021, around 15.5 million households lived in a property they owned, up from 15 million in 2011.

Overall, a third of people own their property outright, while 29.7% have a mortgage or own a stake in a shared ownership property.

One in five people rent their home in the private sector and 17.1% rent it through a local council or housing association – broadly unchanged from 2011.

A lucky 33,000 households, around 0.1% of the total, live in their home rent free.

This may be because they are property guardians, have a job that comes with a home, are live-in helpers or house-sitters.

Homeownership rates were highest in the South East and South West at 67.1% and 67% respectively, and lowest in London, with the capital having the highest proportion of people who rented from both the private sector at 30% and the social sector at 23.1%.

What type of homes do people live in?

Almost 78% of people lived in houses and bungalows, while almost 22% lived flats, maisonettes or apartments.

The remaining 0.4%, around 104,000 households, lived in a caravan or other temporary structure.

The number of households living in a flat or apartment has seen the biggest increase during the past 10 years, with an additional 500,000 households living in flats in 2021, compared with 2011.

There was also an increase in the proportion of people living in detached and semi-detached houses, while the number of people living in terraced properties fell.

This is likely to be because fewer terraced properties are being built compared with other properties, according to the National House Building Council.

Unsurprisingly, people in London were most likely to live in a flat at 54%, compared with 21.6% in the South East and just 11.4% in the East Midlands.

Do people have enough space?

When recording the Housing Census, the number of ‘rooms’ a property has doesn’t include kitchens, utility rooms, bathrooms, WCs, conservatories, halls or landings.

With that in mind, the study found that three-quarters of people lived in a home that had between three and five rooms, while 13.9% had six to eight rooms.

Just over 1% had nine or more rooms.

At the other end of the scale, one in 10 households are living in properties that have only one or two rooms.

In terms of bedrooms, 40.4% of homes had three bedrooms, with 27.1% having two bedrooms and one in five properties having four or more.

Around 11.4% of properties – the equivalent of 2.8 million households – had just one bedroom.

Despite more than one in 10 properties having just one bedroom, only 4.3% of households said their home was overcrowded and they had fewer bedrooms than they needed, although the proportion rose to 11.1% in London.

Meanwhile, seven out of 10 households reported having more bedrooms than they actually required.

How many homes have central heating?

Nearly all homes in England and Wales had central heating in 2021 at 98.5%, although this still left 367,000 households in properties without central heating.

The majority of homes were heated with mains gas at 73.8%, while 8.5% had electric heating.

Just 99,000 properties were heated using solely renewable energy, but a further 135,000 used at least one renewable energy source, alongside other sources, such as gas or electricity.

People living in the Isles of Scilly, off the coast of Cornwall, were most likely to be using at least some renewable energy at 6.1%.

By contrast, just 0.2% of homes in Blackpool used at least one renewable energy source.

How many cars do people have?

More than three-quarters of households owned a vehicle, with 41.3% households owning at least one car or van, while 26.2% owned two vehicles and 9.2% owned three or more.

But 23.3% of households did not own any cars or vans, down from 25.6% in 2011.

Unsurprisingly, the highest concentration of households that did not own a vehicle was in London at 42.1%, rising to 77.2% in the City of London.

At the other end of the scale, households in the South East and East were most likely to own two or more vehicles at 42.3% and 41.6% respectively.

Key takeaways

  • The number of people renting a home in the private sector in England and Wales has jumped by 28% during the past 10 years
  • A third of people own their property outright, while 29.7% have a mortgage or own a stake in a shared ownership property
  • The majority of people live in a house or bungalow, but the number living in flats has seen the biggest increase since 2011