Not being able to access quality housing can have a huge impact on the life of an individual, increasing the risk of them suffering from poor health, educational under-attainment, unemployment and poverty. However, this is the reality being faced by growing numbers of people in Wales.
The challenge being faced by young people is demonstrated by the increase in the numbers having to remain at home. In Wales, 27% of 20 to 34-year-olds now live with their parents, an increase of 6% in the past 10 years.
For those unable to remain at home, the consequences can be devastating. More than 14,100 people were accepted by Local Authorities as being homeless last year.
However, these statutory figures only provide a partial picture of the true levels of homelessness, with many thousands more sleeping rough or sofa surfing every night.
At the heart of the problem currently confronting communities in Wales is the lack of low-cost housing available, which is pushing up the costs of renting and buying.
In the past five years, less than 800 new one-bedroom properties have been built in Wales, meaning much more urgently needs to be done to create additional low-cost housing specifically targeted at young and single people in housing need.
Responding to this issue, YMCA developed Y:Cube, which, through its unique off-site construction and design system provides high quality, one-bedroom accommodation. These can be built quicker, and for, typically, 25% less than the average building costs and it is low-cost housing models such as these that the Welsh Government needs to invest in.
In contrast, in many other areas of Wales a focus needs to be placed on bringing existing houses and buildings back into use.
While Houses to Homes scheme has made a positive start by bringing more than 7,500 properties back into use, we hope the Welsh Government will further incentivise schemes that turn the 23,000 currently empty houses and buildings in Wales into homes.
For those looking to buy now, it is vital that schemes such as Help to Buy Cymru are taken forward over the next five years so young people and first-time buyers can continue to receive help paying for a deposit.
However, as well as helping those looking to buy, it is important that help is given to those for whom even renting a home seems impossible.
The waiting lists remain too long for those looking to access social housing and the needs of young and single people are too often overlooked. With individuals reporting a wait of anywhere up to five years for a home, YMCA believes the Welsh Government needs to progress a review of the current way social housing is allocated.
Rising letting fees and deposits now worth an equivalent of six weeks rent, on top of a month’s rent required in advance, mean that prospective tenants moving into the private rented sector can be faced with up-front costs in excess of £1,100 before they are able to move into even a one-bedroom property.
These upfront costs were raised as one of the largest concerns by those participating in the development of this manifesto. To overcome this barrier and build on initiatives already running, YMCA is calling for the introduction of a national Help to Rent scheme, which gives individuals a deposit that they can then pay back over a 12-month period.
Finally, it is important that the Welsh Government continues to support individuals in most housing need – those who find themselves homeless.
Often these individuals will come from some of the most marginalised and vulnerable groups in society, including care leavers and former offenders, and it is important they are able to access adequate support.
Speaking to people who are homeless highlights the vital role that Supporting People funding plays in helping them to secure a safe and supportive place to live; however, in the past three years, funding for this programme has been cut by more than £12 million.
YMCA believes it is critical that Supporting People funding is maintained and protected over the next five years so that providers of homelessness services can meet the increasing demand and needs of the individuals they support.
Alongside protecting Supporting People funding, it is important that investment in suitable supported accommodation continues. With hundreds of individuals and families still being placed in inappropriate housing such as bed and breakfast accommodation, action still needs to be taken to ensure those who find themselves homeless have a suitable place to stay.
However, this need to assist individuals into independent living does not, and should not, stop the moment they move out of supported accommodation, and the individuals we work with often highlight their need for continued support.
This is why YMCA is calling on the Welsh Government, local authorities and charities to work together to establish support schemes in every area of Wales for those leaving supported accommodation and looking to enter the private rented sector.
- Promote further investment in building low-cost, one-bedroom homes specifically targeted at single people
- Invest in the development of alternative models of housing such as Y:Cube.
- Further incentivise schemes that utilise disused housing and business spaces to redevelop them into suitable low-cost homes to rent and buy – in particular schemes that upskill young people as part of the redevelopment.
- Maintain the Help to Buy Cymru scheme.
- Commission a national review of the system for allocating social housing.
- Introduce a national Help to Rent scheme.
- Protect funding for the Supporting People programme in Wales.
- Incentivise the development of a wide range of supported housing and floating support available for people who find themselves homeless.
- Establish a private rented sector scheme in each local authority area, which supports individuals in need with advice and guidance such as tenancy training, funding for furniture, a guarantor and floating support.