Young people in low-paid, insecure jobs are being locked out of all housing options in the south east, including social housing, a new report has revealed.
More than half (51%) of people under 35 cannot afford the cheapest private rents in the south east. This rises to 76% for under 25s.
And, from 2019, a policy called the Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR) will be extended to include up to 35 year olds in social housing, capping their housing benefit.
The report, called Capping Aspiration: The millennial housing challenge, found the cap will affect nearly all under 35s (84%) living in social housing in the south east.
Jobseekers under 25 will have, on average, just £2.79 per week to live on after covering their rent.
But this will also affect young people on low and middle incomes too, such as nursery assistants and apprentices. It will apply to people already qualified for a council or housing association tenancy.
Housing associations in the region, who provide homes for over 15,000 people under 35, are therefore calling on government to reconsider the SAR and provide the freedoms and flexibilities for housing associations and local authorities to continue to meet the housing needs of this group.
Dr Kesia Reeve, from CRESR, said: “People starting out, such as those in apprenticeships or nursery assistants, are often on low wages and in the most insecure roles. With high housing costs in the south east, when things don’t go to plan, people may need housing benefit to take the strain.
“But what we found was the Shared Accommodation Rate, should someone find themselves out of work, would mean people would have just a few pounds a week on which to live.”
The research was undertaken by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University, on behalf of CASE, a group of ten south east-based housing associations.
Ann Santry, Chief Executive of Sovereign and chair of CASE, said: “Housing associations have a great track record of providing homes for young people, including those that need a bit of extra support.
“The Shared Accommodation Rate, along with the constraints placed on housing associations and local authorities, is putting even social housing, which is supposed to be there when we need it most, out of reach for this group.”
A young person from a focus group, living in private-rented shared accommodation, said: "I’m on a low income and so I can't afford to get a place of my own, it’s just too expensive. To be honest it just makes me feel anxious...it just feels like sometimes you don't count.”
Given the changes, housing associations are looking at ways to provide more shared accommodation, which matches the lowest private sector prices but at a much higher quality.
Paul Hackett, AmicusHorizon’s Chief Executive, added: “A secure home is the foundation from which people can succeed in life and we’re ready to work with national and local government to meet the needs of our young people.
“While there’s the option to exempt some people, this doesn’t go far enough. We need greater freedoms and flexibilities, so we can work with our local authority partners to provide the right type of homes at the right price.”
Some examples of how the housing crisis is affecting young people:
Mark, a 30-year-old labourer from Portsmouth, has been on the waiting list for a council or housing association home for ten years. In the meantime, he lives with his wife and two children in a privately rented home, struggling to cover the rent.
He said: “There just needs to be more affordable homes built, there’s so many people out there that need it. I have to take short-term work, contracts or zero hours, that pays a bit more to cover the bills – but there’s no security with that work. I really want to get an affordable home for my family then find a job that may pay a bit less but is stable so I can work hard and work my way up. I don’t like to my friends to know that we’re having it hard, I put on a brave face and pretend it’s all alright.”
Single-mother Gemma, 20, from Waterlooville, found herself homeless many times as she struggled to find an affordable and suitable place to live while getting an education and taking care of her son.
She said: “I looked at private rent first, but as I was a single mother and a student at the time I had hardly any money to cover the rent – I just couldn’t afford it. It’s been hard, maybe I didn’t get the help because I didn’t look homeless, I took good care of myself and my child. But I’m really lucky, in the last couple of months I’ve got a flat with a housing association and we’re happy living there now. I want to use my training and get a job in hospitality, hopefully one day getting my own place, maybe with garden.”