Ben Pattison, Doctoral researcher

‘Generation Rent’? Why has the Private Rented Sector (PRS) in England grown rapidly for the first time in a century?


Professor Karen Rowlingson and Professor David Mullins


Ben PattisonThe recent growth of the private rented sector has become popularised as ‘generation rent’. One of the most common explanations for this rapid growth of the private rented sector from 2001 onwards is that potential owner occupiers have been ‘priced out’ of the tenure and have instead become private renters. My research is investigating the extent to which ‘generation rent’ and the ‘priced out’ thesis can account for the recent growth of private renting.

The conceptual framework for the thesis clarifies different types of drivers for tenure change by drawing on Fligstein and McAdam’s notion of Strategic Action Fields (2012) and Bourdieu’s description of the social structures of the economy (2005).

My research uses a mixed method approach to provide detailed analysis of three key limitations with the ‘generation rent’ and ‘priced out’ account of the growth of the private rented sector. This account fails to:

  • Recognise the role of a range of other potential drivers (ranging from global to individual). These drivers are investigated using multivariate analysis of socio-economic changes      between 2001 and 2011.
  • Recognise the diversity within the private rented sector. This is investigated using geo-demographic analysis to identify different niches within the tenure in Birmingham.
  • Explain changes in supply and demand across all tenures (particularly social housing). Wider political drivers that shape tenure change are investigated using secondary analysis  of qualitative data sources including parliamentary records and housing policy. 

Research findings indicate that the private rented sector is highly diverse – both spatially and demographically – and taking on a range of different roles within the housing system. This leads to a more nuanced understanding of why the growth of private renting may be considered to be problematic than some, popular accounts of ‘generation rent’. It suggests that greater attention needs to be paid to the polarisation of housing wealth and provision of affordable accommodation for low income, working households.


Twitter: @bmpattison