1. Governance
May 23, 2016

Which British cities have the highest home ownership rates?

By Jonn Elledge

The latest instalment of our weekly series, in which we use the Centre for Cities’ data tools to crunch some of the numbers on Britain’s cities. 

We’ve done social housing. We’ve done private renters. There’s just one tenure left: which cities have the most owner occupiers?

Let’s fire up the map:

Some thoughts:

1) That’s quite a wide range of figures.

The city that – at least, as of the 2011 census – had the highest home ownership rate was Southend, with 74 per cent. The lowest was Oxford, with 49 per cent.

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Or to put it another way, households in Southend are 1.5 times more likely to be owner occupiers than those in Oxford. That’s a pretty big disparity.

2) City residents are less likely to own.

In 2011, a total of 64 per cent of UK households owned their own homes (down from a high of 69 per cent a decade before). In all, 28 homes had ownership rates above the national average – but more (35) had rates below it.

What’s more, the gap between the city with the lowest home ownership rates and the national average is 15 per cent; that’s against just 10 per cent between the city with the highest ownership rates and the average.

All of which implies that city residents as a group are less likely to own their homes than the average Briton. Which makes sense when you consider that urbanites are also younger, more mobile, and so forth – but, still, always nice to have common sense backed up by figures.

3) There’s no obvious regional pattern.

In the south east, there are cities with very low home ownership rates (London on 52 per cent; Slough on 54 per cent), but also others near the top of the league table (Aldershot on 71 per cent; the aforementioned Southend).

It’s the same in the north. Warrington is on 72 per cent, but nearby Liverpool is on 51 per cent.

This is nice, in so much as we’re bored of banging on about the north-south divide every week.

4) Except for viewers in Scotland.

Actually that last point isn’t quite right, as there is one part of the country where there is a more striking pattern. All four Scottish cities we have data for are well below average, from Dundee with 50 per cent to Edinburgh, at just under 60.

When it comes to home ownership, there seems to be some Scottish exceptionalism on the quiet.

5) There’s probably no single explanation here.

The cities with the lowest home ownership rates are Oxford, Cambridge and Hull – which is pleasing, if only because of this joke from Blackadder Goes Fourth:

More to the point though, it shows that there are multiple reasons why ownership rates may be low. In Oxford and Cambridge it’s almost certainly because of a) high prices and b) lots of students. In Hull, it’s something else.

6) The key determinant of home ownership rates doesn’t seem to be price

That’s a correlation coefficient of -0.23, which isn’t very correlated.

7) It’s probably not about population size either:

So, are people simply less likely to own homes in bigger cities? Well, no, 

Correlation coefficient of -0.25. So, still not very correlated.

9) Or wages.

And, just to complete the picture…



…it’s probaly not wages either. This time the correlation is -0.34, which is higher – but, as you only need to look at the graph to see, still pretty weak.

All these factors are in play, probably, but so are myriad others – tradition and culture, availability of social housing, local politics, and attitudes to Margaret Thatcher too, probably

So, to sum up: it’s complicated.

Next week in this slot we’ll be looking at how the picture has changed between 2001 and 2011. And (spoilers) that’s less complicated.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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