The private rented sector supplies 19% of all homes in England – ahead of the social sector at 17%.
The figures are in the latest English Housing Survey, published yesterday by the Department for Communities and Local Government and covering the year 2013.
Back in 1996, just 10% of housing stock was privately rented, according to the report.
In comparison, the number of local authority dwellings fell from 3.5m in 1996 to 1.7m in 2013.
The report says that between 1996 and 2013, the total number of homes in England increased from 20.3m to 23.3m.
Much of this, it says, was due to the huge growth in private rented housing which more than doubled in size from 2m to 4.5m.
Over the same period, the number of socially rented homes – local authority dwellings as well as housing association properties – decreased from 4.4m in 1996 to 4m in 2013.
The number of owner-occupied homes also rose in the same period by 800,000 to 14.8m (or 63% of total housing stock).
In London, the figures look very different, with 49% of homes in owner occupation and 27% of homes privately rented. Flats are also far more common, comprising 49% of housing stock, compared with 16% of homes outside the capital.
The report notes that the rise of the private rented sector was due to a number of factors, including a fall in the number of people getting on to the housing ladder due to high house prices, tighter mortgage lending and relatively low wage growth. The average tenant in 2013 spent 43% of their gross income on rent.
The decrease in the supply of local authority housing has also contributed to the growth of the private rented sector.
Matt Hutchinson, director of flat and house share site SpareRoom.co.uk, said: “This paints a bleak picture for renters who had any hope of buying. For rent to be classed as affordable it has to be less than a third of a person’s income, so spending 43% on rent makes budgeting extremely hard.
“Rents are now so high that many will find saving is close to impossible, putting home ownership still further out of reach.
“The situation for renters is becoming more and more indiscriminate. We’re not just talking about young professionals who can’t buy – families who crave stability for their kids are impacted too.
“The housing crisis is transforming the whole country, moving us towards becoming a nation of renters.”
The lengthy report also delves into other issues, including empty properties; condition, age and type of properties; how many have water meters; first-time buyers; and homes suitable for disabled people.