Figures in the latest English Housing Survey, based on research in 2013-14, show that tenants paid an average of 47% of their net income in rent, while those who had taken out a mortgage faced repayments equal to 23% of their earnings after tax.
The report, which is the most comprehensive snapshot of England’s housing stock and how people are living in it, also showed that once housing benefit is stripped out of income, average rents are now more than half of average gross pay.
Across England, private renters paid 43% of the average gross income of the main householder and partner including housing benefit in rent, but without including the state payments tenants faced costs that were typically 52% of their earnings.
The figure has increased from 48% in 2003, while the proportion of pay plus housing benefit has dropped slightly from 44%.
“The increase between these years in the proportion of income (excluding housing benefit) spent on rent is consistent with the recent increase in housing benefit receipt among private renters in work,” the report said.
Tenants in London faced higher rents, with costs equal to 60% of their gross earnings with housing benefit, or 72% without it.
Among 16- to 24-year-olds – some of whom face losing access to housing benefit under government plans to scrap it for under-21s – rents made up a massive 88% of incomes without the state payments and 81% once it was included.
David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation said the figures were “yet another symptom of a very sick housing market that is carving ever-greater chasms between those who own a home and those who don’t”.
He added: “Private renters are having the hardest time of it, paying the most as a proportion of the pay cheques and in real terms. We need to bring an end to these extortionate prices and give people real choices, by building the homes this nation needs.”
Roger Harding for the housing charity Shelter said private renters “are bearing the brunt of our dramatic housing shortage”.
He added: “The result is an entire generation forced to give up hope of a stable future, and resign themselves to a lifetime of expensive rents.”
The survey, which the government has suggested might be scaled back from 2016-17 to cut costs, shows how the number of tenants of all ages has leapt up in the past decade.
In 2003-04, 2.1m households rented – a figure which had grown to 4.4m by 2013-14. The number of private renters almost doubled across every age group, although there was a larger increase among those aged 45 to 54.
In this age group, the number of tenants leapt from 217,000 to 662,000 over the period; the proportion of all renters it accounted for grew from 10% to 15%.
As a result of people staying in the private rented sector for longer, the number of families with children who are tenants has increased. In 2003-04, 23% of tenant households had dependent children, but by 2013-14 the proportion had increased to 35%.
The report confirms that the struggle to get on to the housing ladder is forcing first-time buyers to borrow for longer and turn to family for help.
Of first time buyers who had been living in their property for less than five years, 27% financed it with the help of a gift or loan from relatives or friends, compared with 20% a decade earlier, while 8% used an inheritance, compared with 3% in 2003.