Housing

Young people to the next government: Make homes truly affordable

Youth homelessness charity Centrepoint also says young people need to be included in policy decisions

build social housing to end the housing crisis

Building social housing can bring both short-term and long-term benefits, according to housing campaigners. Image: Matt Seymour / Unsplash

Young people are expecting the next government to provide truly affordable housing, according to research by UK youth homelessness charity Centrepoint.

Of 1,000 people aged 16 to 25 surveyed by Opinium for Centrepoint, 86% said it was important for the next government to make private renting more affordable. Some 81% also said building more social housing should be a priority.

Labour, which looks set to win the election this week, has promised to build 1.5 million homes over the course of the next parliament. As part of that manifesto pledge, it also vowed to deliver the biggest increase in social and affordable housebuilding in a generation.

And it’s needed. Almost 1.3 million people in England are on the social housing waiting list and almost 136,000 young people faced homelessness last year – a record high.

In London, 11,993 people – another record high – were seen sleeping rough by outreach workers during 2023/24. That’s a 19% increase on the previous year’s and 58% higher than a decade ago. 

Labour has not yet offered set targets on social or affordable housing, or plans on how to achieve its promise. There have long been calls for controls to tackle sky-high rents for private tenants, including by London mayor Sadiq Khan, but the party leadership does not support the measure.

Centrepoint wants to see 90,000 social homes on the market each year, with 40,000 created for young people or single people on waiting lists.

The charity’s policy director Balbir Kaur Chatrik said: “This crisis needs to be addressed once and for all as too many young people, especially those with experience of homelessness, are seeing their lives held back by a lack of truly affordable housing”. 

The survey also suggests young people are still struggling with the cost of living, with two thirds saying it should be a priority for political leaders.

A young person is going to their council presenting as homeless every four minutes in this country – officially.

Centrepoint’s head of policy, research and campaigns Alicia Walker told the Big Issue the true number is likely to be twice as high because many can’t go to their council due to their legal status or safety concerns.

She said the next government needs to ensure young people are included in policy decisions.

“I would say from conversations I’ve had with politicians from across the spectrum that they do have a sympathy and understanding of youth homelessness,” she said. “But also I would say young people are often left out of any national strategy for supporting vulnerable people, even though they are at the sharp end of most crises.

“As a country, it’s really important to prioritise the next generation. There’s a lot of people experiencing street homelessness today who experienced youth homelessness when they were younger. We’re only going to start moving forward as a country if we recognise that.”

Walker said there is often a “misunderstanding of what it means to be a young, vulnerable person”. For example, you’ll often hear ministers saying youth homelessness can be tackled by young people staying at home for longer, despite the fact family breakdown is the leading cause of youth homelessness.

“There’s a misunderstanding of why young people need homes in the first place,” she said. “It’s not just young people saying: ‘I don’t want to be at home anymore, I want my own place.’ It’s often deeply traumatic for them.”

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