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What does the English Housing Survey reveal about the PRS?

Wednesday 31 January 2018

The Government has released the latest English Housing Survey. This comprehensive report for 2016-17 looks at England's housing stock, tenure types, the circumstances of people living in England's properties, and trends over time.

Covering over 23 million households in England, the data shows that the private rented sector accounted for 4.7 million household across England, in comparison to 3.9 million in the social rented sector.

Overall the private rented sector has seen a whopping increase in proportion of total households, having more than doubled since 2002.

The average (mean) rent in the private rented sector across England for 2016-17 was £192 per week, but this rose to £309 in London. The average length of tenancy was 3.9 years. 

Nine per cent of private renters were either currently in arrears or had been in the last 12 months. 22% of private renters were in receipt of Housing Benefit. 

The most popular tenure type in the private rented sector was purpose built low-rise flats, whilst the most common useable floor area size among the full range of privately rented properties was between 50-69 square metres. 

5% of private rented sector households were said to be overcrowded. This remained unchanged since the 2015-16 survey. 

London vs the rest of England

In London, private rental is the most dominant tenure type by quite some way, making up 30%. Even outright ownership combined with households with a mortgage only makes up a combined 47%, comprised of outright ownership (25%) and households with a mortgage (22%). This trend is not expected to end anytime soon.

These figures provide a stark contrast to the rest of the country, with 36% owning their property outright, and 30% with a mortgage, and 19% of people privately renting. 

Aspirations of renters

In 2016-17, 60% of private renters said that they expected to buy a property at some point in the future, a figure that remains unchanged from 2015-16. Perhaps surprisingly a great number of social renters expected to own their own home than in previous year, at 30%, up 3%.

Demographic of renters and the decline of the owner occupier

Over the course of just ten years, the percentage of people in the 35-44 age range renting in the private sector has risen from 11% to 29% and it is now the second most popular type of tenure.  

This is even more pronounced in the under 35s demographic, with the 25-34 age range now making up 46% of the entire private rented sector, a massive jump from just 27% in 2006-07. There is almost an exact correlation between the increase of 25-34 year old in private rented property with the decline in 25-34 years olds being owner occupiers (down from 57% to 37% in the same period). 

These trends are unlikely to be reversed any time soon with more and more people claiming that home ownership is beyond reach, despite various Government initiatives to increase home ownership, which some commentators claim is only exacerbating and prolonging the problem.  

Whilst there are less owner occupiers with a mortgage than there was previously, there has been an increase in the number of outright owners (currently standing at 34%). This can at least partly be explained by an ageing population, with large numbers of baby boomers reaching retirement age, paying off their mortgages and moving into outright ownership.

Families are also increasingly occupying property in the private rented sector, with there now being nearly a million more households with dependent children living in private rented property than in 2006-07. 

Economic status

Nearly three quarters of private renters were in work, compared to 91% in work who had a mortgage on their own place. Just 43% of social renters meanwhile were in work, but this can be partially attributed to the fact the older people (over 65) make up approx 27% of the, with 21% being 'inactive' - which could be due to illness or disability.  

Energy Efficiency

With buy-to-let landlords keen to secure energy efficient homes in the run up to MEES and with even more stringent regulation likely to be on the horizon for both rental properties and for sellers too, it's perhaps surprising that we haven't witnessed energy efficiency rates improving further for new build properties.  

SAP ratings are a requirement of the Building Regulations, and are required for all newly built dwellings in the UK. SAP works by assessing how much energy a dwelling will consume, when delivering a defined level of comfort and service provision. The assessment is based on standardised assumptions for occupancy and behaviour.

The average SAP rating for properties in 2016-17 was the same as for the previous year at 62 points, out of a possible 100. So whilst we've seen big shifts since 1996, is it a sign that builders and developers are getting complacent in the belief that they've reached a satisfactory level of energy efficiency?

Technology and apps are set to change the way we use and monitor our homes, so it probably comes as no surprise that the use of smart meters has increased. 9% of dwellings now have a smart meter for electricity whilst 8% had one for gas. How much of this is down to people genuinely wanting to curb their energy use and how much is down to people liking gadgets and wanting to be 'connected' - it's difficult to tell. 

Safety

There was a 5% increase in the use of working smoke alarms in privately rented properties up from 83% in 2015-16 to 88% in 2016-17.

A similar pattern can be seen with carbon monoxide alarms, with use up from 28% in 2015 to 33% in 2016.

Some of this increase could be down to legislative changes, and in anticipation a further increase in regulation to come.

We welcome any increase in tenant safety and these figures are encouraging, but there is still some way to go and until all tenants are afforded protection, and tenants are protected from rogue agents.

These trends are likely to continue on an upwards trajectory with the Government on a recent drive to prioritise safety, particularly for rental properties. For example they are currently reviewing of Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 and also conducting various safety reviews and inquiries which have come about partially as a result of high profile tragedies including Grenfell on 2017. It's a similar story in Scotland too, where the Scottish Government are also reviewing the use of Fire and Smoke alarms in Scottish Homes.

If you're not sure of your safety obligations, be sure to download our range of members' only fact sheets

Read the full report