People delay having children

18 January 2010

Mother and child

Shocking new research released today by Shelter shows that people are being forced to delay having children because of the lack of affordable housing.

The research reveals that 21% of 18–44 year olds, equivalent to 2.8 million people nationwide, are actively putting off having children because of high housing costs. This rises to 24% among 18-34 year olds.

One in five (19%) 18-44 year olds had waited for as long as six years to start a family, with over a third (36%) expecting housing costs to continue to delay their plans for another four years.

The figures come from a survey commissioned by Shelter to discover the impact of the lack of affordable housing across all areas of people’s lives. In particular, the research examines the impact on relationships and family life.

Kay Boycott, director of policy and campaigns at Shelter, said: 'These figures show just how pervasive the housing crisis is. Whilst it is responsible to ensure that you can afford to support a new baby, it is completely unacceptable that housing costs are changing important life decisions like starting a family in such a significant way.'

The rise in fertility problems

There are also fears that delaying starting a family could affect the fertility of women who put off having children until they can access an affordable home.

Susan Seenan from Infertility Network UK said: 'If people are delaying having children because of housing costs then this could have long-term implications for their ability to conceive.'

'It is extremely important that people are aware of the effects of age on their fertility, not only for the woman but for both partners, and particularly for women over the age of 35. Success rates for fertility treatment also decrease with age, from around 30% for women under 35 to 3% for women in their early forties.'

The number of women undergoing fertility treatment is rising. Almost 37,000 women were undergoing IVF treatment in the UK in 2007, a 5.8% rise on the previous year. Each cycle of IVF costs the NHS an average of £850, while private treatment can be as much as £8,000 per cycle.

Meanwhile, the average age of a first time buyer without financial help from family or friends is now 37 years old, up from 33 in 2005.

Ms Boycott continued: 'Housing affects so many areas of people’s lives. In this election year, it’s vital that all political parties make housing a top priority so that future generations can exercise choice in their family life.

'Shelter has today launched an online discussion forum so that people can have their say about the way high housing costs are affecting their lives. It’s time for people to make their voices heard and join the fight for affordable housing.'

Share your experience of how housing costs are affecting your life