Seven out of ten families in England own their own homes, Government figures showed yesterday.
About 14.6 million households, the equivalent of 71 per cent, are owner-occupiers, while 18 per cent of households live in social housing and 12 per cent are renting privately, according to provisional results from the Survey of English Housing.
But the number of young people who own their own property has been falling over the past few years as rising house prices have made homeownership less affordable.
Just 36 per cent of households aged under 30 bought a house with a mortgage in 2005, down from 40 per cent in 2001, while the proportion of young people renting has risen to 40 per cent from 33 per cent. About 81 per cent of couples with dependent children are homeowners, compared with just 37 per cent of lone parents, 45 per cent of whom lived in social housing.
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said that in 2005 the average household was made up of 2.4 people, but it found that about 500,000 homes were overcrowded, with the problem worst in London and among people who rented their property from a social landlord.
Properties that were rented privately tended to be oldest, with 38 per cent of houses in the private rental sector built before 1919, compared with just six per cent of social housing and 20 per cent of properties lived in by their owners.
Just over eight out of ten people live in a house or bungalow, while 17 per cent live in a flat or maisonette.
The survey also found that only seven per cent of new home loans taken out in 2004/2005 were endowment mortgages, while 71 per cent were repayment mortgages and eight per cent were a mixture of interest only and repayment loans.
A growing number of young, working couples cannot afford even the cheapest properties in their local area, a separate report claimed.
About 1.25 million younger households in England, Wales and Scotland have incomes that would be too high for them to qualify for housing benefit if they lived in social housing, but are too low for them to afford a mortgage on the cheapest two and three bedroom homes where they live.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates that just under a fifth of households aged under 40 are affected by the problem, rising to 50 per cent in the worst affected areas. It said an estimated 60,000 newly formed young households each year found themselves in this situation.
The group warned that there was a "yawning gap" in the provision of shared ownership housing and affordable private rental accommodation, and it called on Government policy makers, regional planners and housing providers to rethink their strategies.
Unsurprisingly the situation is worse in southern regions, with all but one of the 40 districts in the south.
Property was least affordable in Weymouth & Portland and Bournemouth, both in Dorset, where 55 per cent and 52 per cent respectively of young working couples could not afford to get on to the housing ladder.
Overall 14 of the local authorities on the list were in the South-east, 13 were in London and 12 were in the South West, with Ryedale in North Yorkshire the only one outside of the south.
The overall ratios of house prices to working household incomes were at record levels.