Middle-aged renters now make up more than a quarter of the PRS, debunking the myth that the sector is the preserve of young professionals and students.

Over the last decade, the number of 45-54-year-olds renting privately has grown from 11% to 16%, according to the latest English Housing Survey, while owner-occupiers in that age group fell from 74% to 65%.

Those aged 55-64 living in the PRS also increased from 6% in 2010-11 to 11% in 2020-21, with a fall in owner-occupiers from 79% to 70%. Last year, the sector accounted for 4.4 million or 19% of households in England, unchanged from 2019-20, but lower than in 2015-16 (20%).

The survey reveals that fewer private renters are working full-time (58%) compared to 2019-20 when 67% were in full-time work, while more now work part-time – up from 10% to 15% – and the number unemployed increased from 3% to 7%.

In 2020-21, 25% of private renters reported finding it either fairly or very difficult to afford their rent, similar to the number in 2019-20 (27%), while the proportion receiving Housing Benefit went up from 20% to 26% between 2019-20 and 2020-21.

Sobering figure

Graham Cox, founder of the Self-Employed Mortgage Hub, says the fact that nearly one in six 45-54-year olds now live in private rented accommodation, up from one in nine a decade ago, is a sobering figure.

“This is presumably due to high property prices and insecure employment,” says Cox. “The average first time buyer deposit to buy a property is now a hefty £44,294, which also illustrates the difficulty that this cohort has in getting on the housing ladder.”

Mark Hayward, chief policy advisor at Propertymark (pictured), adds: “The steady decline in the size of the private rented sector over the last five years should act as a warning sign to the UK government that more needs to be done to protect the sector, especially at a time when rented homes are needed more than ever.”

Read more about the UK’s ageing tenant population.


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