THOUSANDS of young people are trapped in privately let properties with unscrupulous landlords as renting becomes the "new normal" for an entire generation, according to new research.

A report commissioned by the Scottish Government reveals a gap between the housing aims of younger and older householders, with those under 35 now more likely to rent property, while older people continue to strive for ownership.

According to the research, doubt over finances acts as a key driver for the shift in attitudes as people worry about having the necessary income and job security to sustain a mortgage.

However, as many more younger people turn to the private rental market, a large number are being left frustrated by the high costs and prevalence of poor and illegal activity by landlords.

Dr Kim McKee, author of the report, which was carried by the University of St Andrews and the University of Sheffield, said: "This research challenges much of our taken for granted understanding of people’s housing aspirations.

"It draws attention to the way in which changes in the wider economy have impacted upon the housing preferences of young people in particular, leading to a generational shift in attitudes.

"This is reinforced by housing statistics which highlight a continued decline in levels of home ownership in Scotland, and growing numbers of households living in the private rented sector."

Figures published last month in the 2014 Scottish Household Survey revealed a six per cent fall in home ownership between 2009 and 2014.

The figures also showed that private renting was at a 15-year high - prompting demands for more affordable housing.

The Understanding the Housing Aspirations of People in Scotland report shows that many private tenants now have to put up with landlords being unwilling to carry out repairs, unlawfully retaining deposits and turning up announced for inspections.

This is a particular problem for those on low or insecure incomes who the researchers said were in a "more vulnerable" position than those with more money, who tended to have more positive experiences of private renting.

The report also highlights a lack of enforcement of current legislation to tackle law-breaking landlords.

The Scottish Government says it hopes to address many of these problems with its new Private Tenancies Bill and by investing £1.7 billion in affordable housing.

A spokeswoman said: "The Bill aims to modernise the private rented sector to make it a more professionally managed and better regulated sector that provides good quality homes and is attractive to those who want to live, work and invest in it.

"Housing is a priority for the Scottish Government and we on track to exceed our target of delivering 30,000 homes by 2016, including at least 20,000 homes for social rent."

The research highlights that there is a growing number of "frustrated renters" in private lets who want to either buy their own home or move to a social tenancy.

However, the report also reveals that some young people, especially those in the social sector, actually prefer to rent due to affordability and not having to take responsibility for repairs and maintenance.

It says: "Frustrated aspirations to own were most evident amongst ‘the squeezed middle’ (economically active households on low to moderate incomes).

"Here the link between housing opportunities and the wider economy was strongly evident, with young people in particular despondent that they could not save enough for a mortgage deposit, or indeed, lacked the income to sustain mortgage payments.

"Economic precariousness was a key driver shaping aspirations."

The report shows that further public sector investment is needed to help people get the home they want and makes a number of policy recommendations for the Scottish Government to consider, including enforcing existing legislation on renting and giving more consideration to the importance of location for tenants, rather than just the size of house they need.

Dr McKee added: "Our findings also highlight the importance of location as a key aspect of people’s aspirations.

"This relates not only to the physical, infrastructure dimensions of where people live, but also social attachments to place and important networks of social support.

“Whilst home ownership remains an important stated goal for many people, our findings underline the positive value attached to renting from a social rented landlord in Scotland.

"Further public sector investment in social housing is needed in order to enable these households to realise their aspirations."

The report adds that overall, the housing aspirations of people in Scotland are "complex and multi-faceted" and are shaped by their perceptions of what opportunities are available and what constraint they have.

Dr McKee believes this should be considered in housing policy debates, rather than just looking at what people say they want.