The number of owner occupied homes has been falling faster in the West Midlands recently than in any other part of England.
Numbers published by Halifax yesterday showed that the number of West Midlands households living in homes they own or are buying slumped by 59,000 to 1,541,000 between 2005 and 2006, a drop of 3.7 per cent, far more than in any other region.
Allowing for increases in four regions the average decline was a marginal 0.2 per cent, Halifax said.
Over the five years from 2001, though, the opposite pattern emerges. The number of home-owning households in the West Midlands rose by 75,000 or 5.1 per cent against a national average of 12.4 per cent.
The number of West Midlands households renting their homes privately has been rising strongly all along - by 8.3 per cent to 191,000 in 2006 and by 44.5 per cent in the five years from 2001. That compares with national increases of 4.3 per cent and 22.2 per cent.
Overall Halifax's figures show that home ownership throughout England fell for the second year running in 2007, dropping by a record 83,000 to 14.538 million.
In percentage terms, that reduced the proportion of home-owners from 70.3 per cent in 2006 to 69.8 per cent - the lowest level since 1998.
Analysing Government figures, Halifax attributed the fall to high house prices increasingly pricing people out of the market.
During 2007, it added, the number of people buying a home with a mortgage fell by two per cent, while an increase in the number buying a property with cash, or who had paid off their mortgages, failed to offset the decline.
Martin Ellis, chief economist at Halifax, said: "The fall in the total number of owneroccupied households in England in 2007 largely reflects the increasing affordability difficulties faced by many potential purchasers as a result of the rapid rise in house prices in recent years.
"The figures for owner-occupancy clearly demonstrate that these affordability issues are most pronounced amongst younger people and in southern parts of England."
There was a 235,000 fall in the number of 16 to 44-year-olds who had bought their own home between 2005 and 2006, but a 211,000 increase in those aged over 44 who were owner-occupiers.
Halifax said the fall in young people getting on to the property ladder was a major factor in the overall decline, although there was also a 322,000 fall in the number of 25 to 34-year-olds living in their own home over the past five years.
At the same time, a new North/South divide in home ownership has emerged, with the level increasing by 5.1 per cent in northern regions while it fell by 1.2 per cent in the south.
In terms of individual local authorities, Castle Point in Essex had the highest proportion of homeowners at 88.5 per cent - with Staffordshire Moorlands not far behind in tenth place at 83.5 per cent.
The UK was in much the same position as Australia, the US, Sweden and Belgium.