Changing tenure patterns in UK cities

  • Published: Dec 18, 2014

One of the big trends in housing over the last decade or so has been the rising number of people living in the private rented sector. By 2014, more people were in private rented housing than social rented housing. That number had doubled in ten years.

We were interested in finding out how these changes play out geographically. The maps below use census data from 2001 and 2011 and look at the changes in three major urban areas – London, Greater Manchester and Greater Glasgow. In order to zoom in a little, we use ward level data, rather than borough level.

The analysis begins with a map of London, shown below. For both 2001 and 2011, you can look at the proportion of people in each ward living in the private rented, social rented or owner occupied housing. The higher the proportion, the darker the colour. Light orange represents under 15% of the population, deep red over 75%. You can zoom in on the map and hover over the wards to see the specific values. 

A couple of things leap out. Firstly, private rented accommodation has really shot up, moving from being a largely Inner London tenure to taking up at least a fifth of most of Outer London too. It is interesting to see that the areas with the lowest levels of private rental are in the outer south and outer east – Bromley, Bexley and Havering. Hillingdon, Harrow and Hounslow tend to be a bit higher.

Social renting has declined, but not by a lot. That is because it was only ever a minority tenure in any case. By 2011, the number of wards where a half or more of people lived in social rented accommodation, which were mainly in Inner London, had fallen.

But the change in owner occupancy is much more substantial. What was previously a pretty solid ring of dark red around London now has many more patches of orange. Enfield in the north and Hillingdon in the east are the most obvious changes. While Bromley and Havering are still pretty solidly owner occupied, overall the difference between the tenures in Inner and Outer London is closing.   

So what has happened in other cities? The first thing we need to think about is what we mean by “city”. London is massive – the population is around 8 million. It is made up of 32 different boroughs, and it is pretty common for people to live in one borough and work in another, or move between those boroughs. Also, we have noted a big difrerence between the centre of London (private and social accommodation) and the suburbs (more owner occupied housing). So we need to include the suburbs when we look at other cities too.

There is no perfect way of doing that, but we can group different local authorities together. The next map looks at Manchester, but not just the city – it covers the Greater Manchester area, including places like Wigan, Salford and Rochdale too. So what do the patterns look like? 

There are some big differences. The share of owner occupancy is higher in Manchester than London, and while the private rented sector has spread, there are very few places where it makes up over a third of the stock.

But the similarities are possibly more interesting. There are more people in the private rented sector, fewer owner occupiers and social renters. And, again, the outer ring of Greater Manchester has a far higher proportion of owner occupiers than in the inner core. While that core is much smaller than in London – essentially just Manchester itself, plus Salford and Trafford –the fall in owner occupancy in the outer areas means the difference between the core and the suburbs is closing.

The third city we look at is Glasgow. Again, we look at a wider area – Greater Glasgow, including Renfrewshire and Lanarkshire. 

Glasgow is quite different to Manchester and London. Firstly, some of Glasgow’s suburbs are actually quite sparsely populated, meaning that wards a can take up large areas. There are some huge wards in the south east of the map, in South Lanarkshire. They can visually distort the picture by being one solid block of colour so bear that in mind when looking at the different areas.

Secondly, there is still very, very little private rented accommodation in Glasgow, compared to the other cities we looked at. There are only two wards in the whole of greater Glasgow where over 30% of the population is in the private rented sector, both in Glasgow City itself.

Thirdly, there has been no big fall in owner occupancy. Some areas in the North West have seen falls, but there have been rises elsewhere. Likewise, the fall in social renting has been moderate, and mainly outside the city of Glasgow itself. So in greater Glasgow, the difference between the core and the suburbs remains as strong as it ever was.