Since then, however, something strange happened. For the past decade-and-a-half it has been ratcheting down relentlessly year after year. We are now down to just 64.8pc, according to the latest statistics from Eurostat. What is shocking is how low that is compared with the rest of Europe.
Most Europeans are far more likely to own their home than we are. The statistics show that 96pc of Romanians own their own home, and 89pc of Lithuanians. Eastern Europe may be exceptional, but we are now behind France and the Netherlands as well. In France, hardly a hotbed of swivel-eyed neo-liberalism, the rate is 65.1pc, and in the Netherlands it is 66.9pc. Only Denmark, Austria and Germany have lower rates of home ownership than we do, and even then not by very much. Denmark is only a single percentage point behind us. In reality, Germany, where ownership is remarkably low for quirky historical reasons, is the only country likely to stay below ours on current trends.
If you look beyond Europe, the picture hardly gets better. In Australia the proportion is 67.5pc, despite a property crash far worse than ours. Ireland? It is on 71pc, again despite a collapse in values. In effect, we are checking out of the club of property-owning democracies. Almost every other major developed economy has more home owners than we do.
Of course there is nothing inherently wrong with having a large rented sector. There are good reasons why the balance between owning and renting may have shifted slightly. We have far more migrants than we used to. We also have a lot more students, as well as – thankfully – a far more flexible, mobile workforce. Students and short-term contract workers have a preference for renting.
Even so, the levels of home ownership are clearly sinking too fast. It hardly seems right that we are below France, Italy or Sweden. Not only do we not own our homes, they are also too small. The average size of the British home shrunk from 98 to 96 square metres in the decade from 2003 to 2013, and on average our homes are now the smallest in Europe. Even the Greeks have bigger houses than us, and are more likely to own them as well (the ownership ratio is 74pc, in case you were wondering).
As Thatcher quite rightly recognised three decades ago, owning property is the bedrock of liberal free-market democracy. Shares and others assets are all very well, but it is always going to be very hard to persuade most people to invest their cash in those. People might be able to see the intellectual attraction of an open market, where property rights are respected, and everyone is encouraged to take responsibility for themselves. But if you give them an actual stake in the system, they are going to grasp the point a lot more quickly, and support it a lot more enthusiastically.
What happens if fewer than half the population owned their own home? It is very hard to believe the appeal of populist, brain-dead redistributionist politics of the sort pushed by Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters wouldn’t grow and grow.
So how can we reverse that? Penalising buy-to-let landlords might make a small start but it is hardly the best way to go about it. Instead, the Government should be doing two things. Firstly, strip away the layer upon layer of meddling regulations that have made our housing market one of the most distorted in the world.
There are vast quantities of brownfield sites – the Ministry of Defence alone is sitting on more than 600,000 acres – while much of the protected green belt is occupied by mechanised farming of no great environmental benefit.
Empty high streets could be converted to homes, as could the out-of-town shopping centres where the likes of B&Q and Argos are closing stores. With a lot more space, let developers decide where their customers want homes.
Secondly, why not re-introduce mortgage interest tax relief, abolished in the 1980s? That was the one policy that kick-started home ownership and it makes getting on the property ladder dramatically more affordable. True, it costs money. But owning property is what ties people into a free-market system. If we don’t work harder to promote it, the system will be in trouble – and that will make us all worse off.