English Housing Survey 2016-17

The English Housing Survey (EHS) is a national survey of people’s housing circumstances and the condition and energy efficiency of housing in England.

It was first run in 2008-09. This latest report provides the findings from the 2016-17 survey and was published in January 2018

The report is split into two sections. The first, on households, covers tenure (owner occupation and the social and private rented sectors) and the demographic and economic characteristics of the people who live in the three tenures. It then explores how affordability varies between tenures and how this has changed over time, buying expectations among renters, average rental costs in the private and social rented sectors and the extent to which private and social renters claim Housing Benefit to help meet the cost of their rent.

Rates of overcrowding and under-occupation by tenure are then examined, followed by analysis of personal well-being and the extent to which this varies by tenure.

The second section, on homes, provides an overview of the housing stock in England including: the age, size, and type of home; energy efficiency of the housing stock; decent homes; homes affected by damp and mould; and smoke alarms.

Main findings

Owner occupation rates remain unchanged for the fourth year in a row.

Of the estimated 23.1 million households in England, 14.4 million or 63% were owner occupiers. The proportion of households in owner occupation increased steadily from the 1980s to 2003 when it reached its peak of 71%. Since then, owner occupation gradually declined to its current level. However, the rate of owner occupation has not changed since 2013-14.

While the overall rate of owner occupation has not changed in recent years, the composition of the group has: there are more outright owners while the proportion of those buying with a mortgage is down.

In 2016-17, 34% of households were outright owners while 28% were mortgagors. Since 2013-14 there have been more outright owners than mortgagors, and the proportion of mortgagors has declined (from 31% of households in 2013-14 to 28% in 2016-17). The increase in the number and proportion of outright owners is at least partly explained by population ageing, with large numbers of baby boomers reaching retirement age, paying off their mortgages and moving into outright ownership.

Over the last decade, the drop in the proportion of 25-34 and 35-44 year olds in owner occupation has been particularly pronounced.

In 2006-07, about three quarters (72%) of those aged 35-44 were owner occupiers. By 2016-17, this had fallen to half (52%). While owner occupation remains the most prevalent tenure for this age group, there has been a considerable increase in the proportion of 35-44 year olds in the private rented sector (11% to 29%). The proportion in the social rented sector did not change.

While the under 35s have always been over-represented in the private rented sector, over the last decade or so the increase in the proportion of such households in the private rented sector has been particularly pronounced. In 2006-07, 27% of those aged 25-34 lived in the private rented sector. By 2016-17 this had increased to 46%. Over the same period, the proportion of 25-34 year olds in owner occupation decreased from 57% to 37%. In other words, households with a HRP aged 25-34 are  more likely to be renting privately than buying their own home, a continuation of a trend first identified in 2012-13. As with those aged 35-44, the proportion of 25-34 year olds in the social rented sector did not change.

The private rented sector remains larger than the social rented sector, and is now the most prevalent tenure in London.

In 2016-17, the private rented sector accounted for 4.7 million or 20% of households. The social rented sector accounted for 3.9 million households or 17% of households. There was no change in the size of either sector between 2015-16 and 2016-17.

In London, private renting was the most prevalent tenure (30%), followed by outright ownership (25%). A smaller proportion of households were buying with a mortgage (22%) or renting in the social sector (22%). Outside of London, outright ownership predominated (36%), followed by buying with a mortgage (30%), and renting in the private (19%) and social (16%) sectors.

The composition of the social sector has changed in recent years, with more households renting from housing associations than local authorities; although this is not the case in London.

In 2008-09, the social rented sector accounted for 18% of households with 9% (2.0 million) renting from housing associations and 9% (1.9 million) renting from local authorities. In 2016-17, 10% (2.4 million) rented from housing associations, 7% (1.6 million) from local authorities.

In 2016-17, in London, an equal proportion of social tenants rented from a local authority as rented from a housing association (11% each). Outside of London, a greater proportion of social tenants rented from housing associations (10%, compared with 6% renting from local authorities).

The proportion of social renters who expect to buy has continued to increase. No such increase was observed among private renters.

In 2016-17, 60% of private renters (2.7 million households) and 30% of social renters (1.2 million households) stated that they expected to buy a property at some point in the future.

Between 2015-16 and 2016-17, there was no change in the proportion of private renters who expected to buy however the proportion of social renters who expected to buy increased from 27% to 30%.

Rates of overcrowding did not change but remained higher in the rented sectors.

In 2016-17, 7% of households in the social rented sector (268,000) and 5% of households in the private rented sector (231,000) were living in overcrowded accommodation. Just 1% of owner occupied households (183,000 households) were overcrowded.

Meanwhile, about half of owner occupied households are under-occupied.

The number and proportion of under-occupied households in the owner occupied sector increased between 1996-97 and 2016-17 from 39% (5.4 million households) to 51% (7.3 million households).

In contrast, the proportion of under-occupied households in the rented sectors decreased over this period. Under-occupation amongst private renters decreased from 17% in 1996-97 to 15% in 2016-17 and under-occupation amongst social renters decreased from 12% to 8%. At 8%, under-occupation in the social rented sector is the lowest it has been in the last 20 years.

The energy efficiency of English homes has increased considerably in the last 20 years, but did not increase between 2015 and 2016.

In 2016, the average SAP rating of English dwellings was 62 points, up from 45 points in 1996. This increase was evident in all tenures. However, the increase appears to be slowing and there was no change in the average SAP rating of homes between 2015 and 2016 (in any tenure).

The number of dwellings with smart meters has increased.

In 2016, 9% of dwellings with mains electricity had an electricity smart meter and 8% of dwellings with mains gas supply had a gas one, up from 6% and 4% respectively in 2015.

The number of homes with working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms has also increased.

In 2016-17, 90% of households had at least one working smoke alarm, up from 89% in 2015-16 and 84% in 2008-09. The increase between 2008-09 and 2016-17 was observed across all tenures.

The increase since 2015-16, was driven by a significant increase in the proportion of private renters with a working smoke alarm, from 83% to 88%.

In 2016, 33% of all dwellings had a carbon monoxide alarm, up from 28% in 2015. Dwellings with a solid fuel appliance, such as a coal fire or wood burning stove, were more likely to have a carbon monoxide alarm than dwellings with no solid fuel appliance (37% compared with 32%).


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