'We could lurch from a housing crisis to a homelessness disaster'
Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing
New housing campaign to help 70,000 children living in temporary accommodation
Kathleen Kelly is the Programme Manager for Place at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation
For some people renting is a stop gap on the way to buying a home, for others it’s a scary prospect forced on them by a lack of other options. A new JRF study looking into young people’s housing options in 2020 shows that things will only get worse unless we do something about it now.
In just eight years’ time an extra 1.5 million people under 30 will be pushed towards living in a private rented sector that simply doesn’t work for them. Whilst young people in the study saw some benefits in private renting, such as better locations and flexibility, they also saw major problems.
No prizes for guessing that young people raised instability, high rents and poor conditions as particular issues. But there is a danger that some young people could get locked out of housing altogether.
Some 400,000 vulnerable young people, including families, will find themselves on the bottom rung of a three-tier system which will develop in the crush to find a place to rent. With median incomes of £13,000 a year, they will struggle to compete with the middle and top rungs to find tenancies - never mind affording to pay the rent.
With 81,000 people under 25 expected to be homeless by 2020, up from 75,000 in 2008, there is worrying scope for the problem to become worse. We could lurch from a housing crisis to a homelessness disaster without prompt action and a political desire to reform renting. The challenge is to make it work for everyone.
The first hurdle is to manage young people’s expectations: many don’t actually want to share but the reality of the housing market and the benefit system means there is no other choice. Services such as Threshold Housing Advice have embedded this in their approach creating referral forms that young people sign, to acknowledge the reality of their housing options. Schools can also do more to prepare young people, with services such as the Prodigals Education Trust in Lambeth doing great work linking information about housing to the school curriculum.
The study also challenges social landlords to create more shared social tenancies. A recent study estimates that there simply isn’t enough shared housing available for young people, even before the single room rate is applied to those under 35. Landlords such as St Vincent’s in Manchester are already developing shared social housing in response to this problem. There are also good examples of local letting agencies that broker private rented tenancies between landlords and vulnerable people. We need a roll out of these services in many areas.
In reality though, many services are struggling to survive funding cuts. The Budget highlighted the need to save another £10bn from the welfare bill and this has generated talk of removing housing benefit altogether from anyone under 25. Although a recent study by BSHF argued that much of the increase in the housing benefit bill was from working households, suggesting reductions in hours or pay were driving an increased benefit bill.
It all means today’s report could be a precursor for something more damaging eight years’ down the line, where young people’s housing options are squeezed even further. We have an opportunity now to change that – but time is running out.