There is a problem accessing affordable housing to buy all over the country. However, the problem is significantly more acute in London, with homes 75% more expensive here than in cities such as Liverpool and Glasgow.
YMCA is the largest provider of safe, supported accommodation for young people in London – providing almost 1,600 beds every night in the capital. As such, YMCA is well aware of the challenges young people face in accessing housing – especially for those who become homeless.
First-time buyers in London are finding it incredible difficult to get on the first step of the property ladder with the average home selling for £449,700 – about 11 times the average London wage and 16 times the national average wage.
For those young people in low-paid employment, the chances of owning a home in their local area are increasingly unrealistic and, even for those earning an average income, it is estimated that it will take more than 29 years to save enough money for a deposit.
Previous generations who found themselves at the lower end of the housing market had the affordable option of social housing available to them; however, a failure to replenish this stock across London has meant that, for many, this door is now closed.
The percentage of people in social rented accommodation across the capital has fallen by 13% over the last 30 years and the extent of the difficulties now faced accessing social housing is demonstrated by more than 250,000 households being stuck on local authority housing waiting lists within London.
Without an immediate and comprehensive housebuilding programme, young Londoners will be growing up in communities where they have no hope of leaving home and finding independence.
In order to increase the numbers of affordable houses being built, the Mayor in conjunction with local authorities must be given more powers to take on unused land, access brownfield sites and have the ability to impose higher targets of low cost or affordable housing on new developments.
Traditional building practices are insufficient to meet the growing demand for affordable housing, especially in London. Accordingly, the Greater London Authority (GLA) needs to invest in alternative models of housing to solve the current housing crisis. YMCAs across London have recognised this as an issue and have already developed their own alternative models such as Y:Cube. These alternative models, can provide the housing London needs at a fraction of the price and time of traditional builds.
Issues with affordability of housing in the private rented sector in London, means that those looking to rent a property will often have to seek out some of the lowest quality housing simply to be able to afford to live. The safety and decency of a property should not have to be sacrificed for low rents, but across the capital this continues to be the case. In 2012, a third of all private rented properties failed to meet the decent homes standard with no evidence to suggest landlords have improved their practices.
A number of local schemes have been introduced across the country to highlight those landlords who offer a good service to their tenants. Despite this, young people are often those most vulnerable to living in poor standards of housing. In order for the private rented sector to be regulated sufficiently enough to ensure young people are not exposed to such poor standards, the Mayor and the GLA must ensure that more landlords and letting agencies are signed up to the London Rental Standard.
The introduction of a Help to Rent scheme supported by the Mayor 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 London has a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of introducing a scheme, similar to the concept of the Help to Buy.
For some young Londoners the daunting challenge of renting or owning a home is far outweighed by the fear of not having somewhere safe to stay from one night to the next. The No Second Night Out project has been successful in supporting the capital’s rough sleepers into accommodation. However, as the number of rough sleepers increases, the project should be invested in further to support more young people who may find themselves living on the streets.
Many homeless young people are supported through YMCA accommodation. This service offers a lifeline to thousands of young people across the capital. However, the planned introduction of a cap on social rents to Local Housing Allowance levels would significantly limit the ability of providers, such as YMCA, to deliver this vital support. If the Mayor and GLA are serious about tackling homelessness they should add their voice to calls on government to protect supported accommodation providers.
The Mayor and the GLA should also expand provision and invest in alternative models of supporting homeless young people. This could be through Supported Lodgings schemes that place homeless young people within family homes across the capital or through adopting a Housing First model.
- Utilise previously occupied business spaces and redevelop them into suitable low-cost accommodation.
- Influence central government and secure additional powers to tackle private rented sector issues within London.
- Invest in the development of alternative models of accommodation and provide opportunities for land to be used to deploy such models.
- Introduce a Help to Rent scheme across London.
- Build on the London Rental Standard to ensure more landlords within the Private Rented Sector and lettings agencies are signed up to the scheme.
- Invest more funding to support the No Second Night Out campaign.
- The Mayor and GLA should lobby government to ensure the introduction of a cap on social rents to Local Housing Allowance levels is not implemented.
- Invest in alternative models of supporting young people who are homeless, such as Supported Lodgings and Housing First.