The Resolution Foundation has called for more protections for tenants, including limits to rent rises and indeterminate tenancies.
The think tank predicted that half a million millennials could be renting in their 40s and a third could be doing so in retirement, in its Home Improvements report.
Lindsay Judge, senior policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Britain’s housing problems have developed into a full-blown crisis over recent decades and young people are bearing the brunt – paying a record share of their income on housing in return for living in smaller, rented accommodation.
“While there have been some steps recently to support housebuilding and first time buyers, up to a third of millennials still face the prospect of renting from cradle to grave.
“If we want to tackle Britain’s ‘here and now’ housing crisis we have to improve conditions for the millions of families living in private rented accommodation. That means raising standards and reducing the risks associating with renting through tenancy reform and light touch rent stabilisation.”
The Resolution Foundation said ‘light-touch rent stabilisation’ was one solution, by limiting rent rises to CPI inflation for three year intervals.
Another is introducing indeterminate tenancies as a sole form of contract in England and Wales, following Scotland as well as Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.
The study concluded that landlords shouldn’t be able to end a tenancy for no reason.
And lastly it recommended for the creation of a ‘housing tribunal’ to enable landlords and their tenants to resolve disputes quickly.
The Foundation said government policy has failed to catch up with the fact that bringing up children in the PRS has now become mainstream.
In 2003, the number of children in owner-occupied housing outnumbered those in the PRS by eight to one. That ratio has now fallen to two to one.
David Smith, policy director for the Residential Landlords Association, said: “Ministers need to make pragmatic changes to their approach to private rented housing, with a series of policies that support, rather than attack, the majority of private landlords who are individuals to invest in the new homes to rent we need alongside all other tenures.
“This includes greater support and encouragement for those prepared to offer longer tenancies but who are concerned about being locked into agreements where tenants might be failing to pay their rent, not looking after their property or committing anti-social behaviour.”
Danny Belton, head of lender relationships at Legal & General Mortgage Club, said more support is needed to help would-be homeowners onto the property ladder.
He added: “Housing supply shortages remain a core symptom of the challenges facing prospective buyers, while the rising cost of renting continues to make it difficult for tenants to save for a deposit on their first home.
“Add to this the impact of landlords exiting the Buy-to-Let market over the next few years as tax changes bite, leaving renters with less choice and flexibility about where they live, and this has the potential to be a perfect storm that creates a real Generation Rent.
“There is help out there. Innovative solutions such as the Barclays Springboard scheme and the Bank of Ireland’s new Family Link proposition, whereby first-time buyers can raise a 10% deposit against a close relative’s property, are a step in the right direction.
“However, if we are to really avoid a generation of renters and create a fair housing market for now and the future, we need to see more innovation in the mortgage market and continued collaboration between government and builders to construct the thousands of new homes the UK needs.”