Devon's housing crisis has been laid bare as shocking Census figures reveal the number of mortgage-holders has plummeted.
In the Devon county council area, 29.8% of households are borrowing money to buy a home according to the 2011 Census, published yesterday.
But the figure stood at 35.2% ten years earlier, when the last survey was taken.
The 5.4% fall in Devon was similar to drops of 5.8% in Plymouth, 5.1% in Torbay and 4.5% in Cornwall – ending decades of unbroken growth in home ownership.
The Westcountry has witnesses an explosion in house prices in the last decade, with rural and coastal communities now as unaffordable to local people as parts of central London.
Meanwhile, the rise in the number of people owning their own home without a mortgage or loan – attributed to the ageing population, the Office for National Statistics said – has not risen at a sufficient pace to make up the fall.
The shift reflects a growing trend among young people and families who are unable to get a foot on the property ladder, and mirrored by an apparent boom in the number of people renting rising since 2001.
If current trends continue, the next generation will bring up their families in insecure rented properties or at home with their parents, housing charity Shelter warned.
Campbell Robb, the charity's chief executive, said: "These figures confirm that home ownership is slipping further and further out of reach, no matter how hard people work or save."