Manifesto - Accommodation

Not having access to quality housing can have a huge impact on the life of a young person. Poor housing increases the risk of a young person suffering from ill health, lower educational attainment, unemployment and poverty.

It is recognised that not enough new homes have been built over the past generation and this has contributed to a lack of low cost housing available for young people and first time buyers. As such there are now over 7.6 million households in England living in rented accommodation[i]. Such is the demand for housing that it is critical that the next government takes what will be bold decisions to address the supply of housing. For YMCA we are particularly concerned about the supply of housing for young people; their experiences within the rental market, and with soaring house prices how young people will ultimately be able to get on the housing ladder.

The next government needs to invest in the development of alternative models of housing to solve the current housing crisis in this country. YMCAs, recognising this as an issue, have already developed their own alternative models such as Y:Cube[ii].

The introduction of a ‘Help to Rent’ scheme nationally would give people who are not in a position to be able to save the initial deposit an important helping hand in moving into the private rented sector. There are excellent examples of these already being run by local authorities, housing associations and charities, but we urge the next government to be at the forefront of introducing a national scheme, similar to the concept of the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme.

In addition to the large deposit young people identified high charges by letting agents as a significant barrier to individuals being able to access the private rented sector. The recent upsurge in the private rental market seems to have exacerbated the situation and YMCA believes that this whole area needs to be regulated.

Housing benefit has become a vital component in allowing young people to access the private rented sector; acting as a safety net for those most in need of support by supplementing affordability. However low pay and increasing rent has meant that Housing Benefit is now also supplementing those in work to be able to sustain a home. There has already been public debate about the prospect of removing automatic Housing Benefit entitlement for young people and YMCA believes strongly that such a move would have a catastrophic impact upon young people.

YMCA has significant concerns that recent welfare reforms seem to be having a disproportionate impact upon young people. For example 26% of welfare claimants are under the age of 25, yet 41% of sanctions that are being applied are against young people[iii].

YMCA is not necessarily opposed to a form of sanctions. Indeed research undertaken by YMCA England has consistently shown that young people are in favour of a sanctions regime[iv]. However there are two clear issues at present within the system:

  • There is little consistency in how sanctions are being applied across the country. As a result young people have little confidence in Jobcentre Plus, who to them, seem to sanction on the basis of needing to deliver financial savings, rather than a thorough evaluation of the facts in each case. This is perhaps underlined by the fact that in nearly half of cases reconsidered, the decision was not to apply the sanction.
  • The level of sanctions is too severe and needs to be more graduated. Even for what is deemed a low level offence such as missing an appointment, benefits can be stopped for at least a month. This is having an immense impact on young people and YMCA argues that this needs to be changed. 


  • Promotion of further investment in building low-cost homes specifically targeted at single young people.
  • Introduce a national ‘help to rent’ scheme.
  • Introduce a rental cap to reduce the amount landlords can increase rents annually.
  • Reduce the upfront costs to tenants by regulating the fees letting agents can charge them.
  • Young people moving into the private rented sector from supported accommodation are assisted through a more graduated tail off in the benefit system.
  • Housing Benefit entitlement remains unchanged for young people.
  • The current benefit sanction regime should be reformed. New guidelines should be introduced to ensure a consistent approach is taken throughout Jobcentre Plus in the application of sanctions; together with changes to the length of sanction period to make them less draconian for first and less serious offences.
  • Funding to be made available to enable significant research and development in alternative models of accommodation.
  • Utilise previously occupied business spaces and redevelop them into suitable low-cost accommodation.


[i] DCLG, English Housing Survey, July 2014
[iii] Department for Work and Pensions, Sanctions statistics, June 2014
[iv] YMCA England, Feeling the Benefits?: Signed on and Sanctioned, 2014