We have seen in previous parts in this series that the population of the North East is, among other things, the second oldest, unhealthiest, least highly educated, most economically inactive, most likely to be health or social workers and least likely to be in top jobs. We now look at what these factors mean for the way we live our lives.
We find from the 2021 Census among other things that the North East has more social housing than anywhere outside London and the smallest private sector of all. More households than anywhere else live in semi-detached houses and more than average in terraces; comparatively few live in purpose-built flats. A third of us live alone, more than anywhere else in England, probably because in part of the relatively high numbers of people who are separated, divorced or widowed or their civil partnership equivalents.
Fewer households in the region than anywhere else outside London have access to a car or van yet more of us than in most regions drive to work. Fewer of us than average use trains or the Metro or equivalent for commuting than elsewhere but more than anywhere except in the capital use buses.
As in previous parts in this series, answers were correct on Census Day, 21 March 2021.
The proportion of people in the North East who own their own homes, with or without a mortgage, is virtually the same as the national average; in fact, the proportion of outright owners is exactly on the average, which is 32.5%. The proportion with mortgages, loans or shared ownership in 28.2% in the region and 29.8% nationally.
Home ownership is much more common in the North East and all other parts of England than in the capital. The region’s 60.7% level, with and without mortgages, and the national average of 62.3% are well ahead of the comparable figure in the capital of just 46.7%.
The rental market is very different. The North East has held on to its socially rented housing more than anywhere else in England except London, with 22% of housing being in this sector in the region compared with only 17.1% nationally but 23.1% in the capital. The private rented sector, on the other hand, is smaller in the North East than in any other region accounting for 17.3% compared with 20.6% nationally and not much more than half the London share of 30.1%.
The highest level of outright home ownership in the North East is in Northumberland with 38.6% and the lowest is in Newcastle with just 25%. Home owners with mortgages are most numerous is Stockton, with 33.5%, and least so in Newcastle with 24.7%. These figures are consistent with the Northumberland and Newcastle age profiles noted in Part 1 and suggest people selling up and leaving the city and moving to the county as they get older and pay off their home loans.
The North East’s proportionately largest social rented sector is in South Tyneside, accounting for 29.6%, and smallest in Darlington with 16.2%. The private rented sector, on the other hand, is largest in Newcastle with 23%, perhaps because of its large number of student properties, and smallest in South Tyneside with 13.3%
Most people in the North East, and well above the national average, live in either a semi-detached or terraced house. Detached homes, flats and conversions, on the other hand, are less common.
Forty per cent of households in the North East live in semi-detached houses, more than in any other region and considerably above the national average of 31.5%. Another 27.8% live in terraced houses, the second highest proportion and ahead of the national average of 23%. But only 17.7% live in detached homes, the fewest apart from London, an outlier, where only 6.1% of households occupy detached properties; the national average is 22.9%.
Only 11.3% of people in the North East live in purpose-built flats or tenements which is below the national average of 17.1% and far below the proportion in London, an outlier on 40.3%. It is not a surprise that 11.1% of cramped Londoners live in part of a converted or shared house, including bedsits. That is more than three times the national average of 3.5%. The North East figure is 2.1%, which is average excluding London.
In the North East the most detached houses are in Northumberland with 27.2% and the fewest in South Tyneside with 9.4%. The largest proportion of semis is in Redcar & Cleveland with 45.3% and the smallest in Newcastle with 34.6%. For terraced houses the most are 35.4% in County Durham and the fewest 21.8% in Stockton. Proportionately the area with the most purpose-built flats or tenements is Newcastle with 24.5% while the place with the fewest is County Durham with 4.1%.
Almost all North East homes have central heating, and it is usually gas. All but 0.8% of households in the region have central heating. London has the most homes without heating, 2.2%, and the national average is 1.5%. In the North East 79.2% s have mains gas heating only, the most of any region and compared with the average of 74%. Only 0.5% in the North East have two or more types of heating including renewable energy, the same as the national average, indicating how much is still to be dones to turn our homes green.
One-third of people in the North East live alone, the highest proportion in England and perhaps in part a reflection of our comparatively old age discussed in Part 2 as well as our partnership status referred to below. One-person households make up 33.7% of those in the region compared with the average of 30.1%. South Tyneside has the most single-person households with 36% and Stockton has the fewest with 31%.
Most households, 62.2% in the Norh East, consist of single families and there is little difference from the national average of 63% and all other regions except London which has only 58%. Nor is there much difference between districts within the region with the single exception of Newcastle which has only 56.7%, probably another consequence of a large number of shared student properties.
The relatively large number of people in the North East living alone, discussed above, is partly a reflection of the comparatively large numbers who are widowed or surviving a civil partner. Divorce, separation or the dissolution of civil partnerships is also a factor. More of us in the North East than average are in one of these sad situations.
In the North East 43% of people over the age of 16 are married or in a civil partnership, not markedly different from the national average of 44.7%. However, 2.5% are separated, the highest proportion of any region; 9.5% are divorced or have had a civil partnership dissolved, which is above average; and 6.9% are either widowed or surviving a civil partner. The respective averages for these three categories are 2.2%, 9.1% and 6.1%. The last of these is skewed downward by London, where only 4.2% are widowed or survivors of a civil partnership.
Within the North East, the largest proportion of those married or in a civil partnership in 49.3% in Northumberland and the smallest is 39.4% in both Middlesbrough and Newcastle. The highest proportion of separated is 2.7% in Darlington and South Tyneside and the lowest 2.4% in Redcar & Cleveland; the highest proportion of those who are divorced or have had a partnership dissolved is in Darlington with 10.8% and the lowest is in Middlesbrough and Newcastle with 8.5%. The area with the most of those who are widowed or surviving a partnership is Redcar & Cleveland with 7.8% and those with the least are Middlesbrough and Newcastle with 6.4%.
These figures should be considered in conjunction with the age profiles of different parts of the region discussed in Part 2 of this series.
We saw in Part 2 of this series that the proportion of people in the North East in paid employment is the lowest in England (just 50.6% aged 16 and over) and disproportionately few of those who do work are in top jobs. It is not surprising therefore that fewer households than anywhere else in the country outside the capital have access to a car or van.
The proportion of households in the region with access to at least one car or van is 72.4%, compared with 76.5% nationally. London, where public transport is much better developed, is an outlier and only 57.9% of households have at least one car or van.
Vehicle ownership in the region is highest in Northumberland, where 80.2% of households have access to at least one car or van, and lowest in Newcastle – focus of the Metro – where 63.4% have vehicle access. In County Durham 75.9% of households have access, which is above the regional average but still significantly below the 80.2% in Northumberland. Given that both Northumberland and Durham have large rural areas, this supports the popular perception that the former is the more prosperous of the two.
Travel to work
Even though fewer households than anywhere in England outside London have a car or van, and that Tyne & Wear has the Metro, more of us still use our vehicles for travel to work than any region except London and the East and West Midlands. The proportion of people driving to work in the North East is 52.1% compared with the national average of 44.5%, a figure which is skewed downwards by London, an outlier, with only 20.6% of people using their cars or vans to get to work.
Disappointingly, only 0.9% of North Easterners use the Metro for work compared with 1.9% using equivalent systems, including trams, elsewhere. London is again an outlier with 9.9%. Even fewer people in the region use trains, presumably because the service is so inadequate. Only 0.6% of people take the train to work compared with the average of 2.0%.
So it is the bus that has to take the strain, and more people commute by bus in the North East than anywhere in England except – yet again an outlier – London. The figures are 4.8% in the region, 4.3% nationally and 8.9% in the capital.
Finally, it is to be noted that 7.7% of people in the North East walk to work compared with 7.6% nationally while 1.4% cycle compared withs 2.1% nationally.
The part of the region where most people drive to work is Redcar & Cleveland, which has a large rural area, where the proportion is 60.9%. In Newcastle, served by the Metro, it is fewest with 38.8%. Those making most use of the Metro for work are in South Tyneside with 3.6%. That figure may rise further since the recent £100mn “Metro Flow” increase in capacity to the track between Pelaw and Bede.
Commuting by train is highest in Redcar & Cleveland but still only 1% and lowest in County Durham at only 0.3%, which campaigners doubtless regard as one good reason for re-opening the Leamside Line linking parts of the county to the Metro at Pelaw.
Buses are used for work by 9.5% of people in Newcastle, the highest, and 2.6% in Stockton, the lowest. In Darlington, a small town, 10.1% of people walk to work, the highest figure in the region, while in Stockton it is only 6.3%, the lowest. In Newcastle 2.3% cycle, the highest proportion, while in County Durham it is only 0.7%, the lowest.
*In Part 7 we will explore how people in the North East spend their disposable income.