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Tenure Trends in the UK Housing System

An analysis of recent tenure trends in the UK, with projections for potential future changes over the medium term. The research also examines the implications of these changes and draws particular attention to the need to pay close attention to the needs of those living in an expanded private rented sector.

Analysis of tenure provides a powerful lens for understanding the UK housing system. Important differences can be identified between the three main tenures in the UK. The proportion of households in different tenures – tenure mix – has changed significantly over the last one hundred years. These tenure trends have been the result of a combination of political, economic and social drivers that acted over both the short and long term.

For the first time in a century the relative size of the owner occupied sector has declined and the private rented sector has increased significantly. If recent trends persist, the private rented sector would be larger than the social rented sector by 2013 and by the end of the decade, one in five households could be private renters. It seems reasonable to assume that some of the likely drivers of recent changes in tenure mix will continue and, therefore, that the private rented sector will continue to grow.

It is highly unlikely that the recent addition of one million households to the private rented sector is entirely driven by choice. Therefore, there is an urgent need to ensure that private renting is able to meet the requirements of the households who would prefer to live in other tenures. Otherwise private renting is in danger of becoming the tenure of last resort, an unsatisfactory default option for households who do not have the choice to access social housing or owner occupation.

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