Aviva’s latest Family Finances Report showed that the current level of homeownership compares to 67% a year ago and 70% in winter 2014/15.
The fall has been driven by an annual decline in mortgaged homeownership, from 49% of all families to 46%.
This could be a sign of difficulties getting a mortgage for first-time buyers or families not considered ‘prime’ borrowers. With typical incomes falling, others may be falling foul of affordability rules or struggling to raise a deposit.
Paul Brencher, managing director, individual protection at Aviva UK, said: “While homeownership has increased among high income families, fewer low income families are now on the property ladder. Although mortgage rates are at record lows, qualifying for these deals and getting a deposit can be difficult for those with limited household income or unusual circumstances. Britain’s broken housing market means becoming a homeowner is a distant dream for many families and government plans must swiftly be turned into action to stem the tide of inequality.”
More than two in five (43%) families now say significant increases in the price of basic necessities is one of the biggest threats to their standard of living in the next three months, up from 36% last summer.
This fear looks justified given that consumer price inflation (CPI) rose to a high of 1.8% in January – a level not seen since June 2014.
Having dipped in 2014, household debt – excluding mortgages and student debt – has steadily been growing as low interest rates give families greater access to low-cost credit.
Average debt, tracked by Aviva since 2011, has now surpassed its previous record of £14,950 (summer 2013) to reach £17,630 in winter 2016/17: an increase of 18%.
Personal loans are the single biggest contributor to household debt, with families owing an average of £2,770: an increase of 33% since last winter (£2,080).
This borrowing has overtaken credit card debt, which remains the second biggest contributor to family debt.
Families owe the largest average amount on credit cards (£2,680, up from £2,370 a year ago) since Aviva began tracking this data.
“With inflation climbing fast, families are understandably concerned about the impact of rising prices on the household purse. Poor returns on savings and rising inflation means families could well see their safety net eroded if they don’t keep up regular contributions and try to boost savings pots whenever possible,” said Brencher.