Happily renting or resigned to it?

Over the Easter weekend, the Halifax brought out the latest instalment of its Generation Rent research, which it has been conducting with NatCen. The survey of 32,000 20 to 45-year-olds found that more people no longer want to own their own home - about a quarter of those who aren't homeowners already. This number corresponds to our poll finding that two thirds of renters want to buy but cannot.

Some have ascribed the trend to young people being more content to rent for the long term, and the research finds that fewer people (though still a majority) regard renting as a barrier to settling in an area or raising a family.

But the findings are not evidence of increased satisfaction among renters; they're a collapse in confidence that they will ever own their own home. As house prices rise by double-digit inflation, home ownership is a distant dream for increasing numbers of people, and high rents make saving for a deposit more and more difficult.

It’s one thing to say we need to be more like Europe, but another to actually offer renters European standards of housing. Far from having a sustainable private rented sector like Germany’s, we’re moving to a divided nation where a small number of people with growing property portfolios are milking a large herd of tenants and preventing them owning property themselves.

Renting should be a genuine choice and not a holding pen for frustrated would-be first-time buyers. Before people will happily surrender the dream of home ownership for a lifetime of renting, they need secure tenancies, professional landlords and letting agents, and much more affordable housing.

Generation Rent Director Alex Hilton explained this to Sky News. He also debated the issues on Radio 5 Live on Friday morning (available until Thursday 24 April).

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