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Press release

6 NOV 2018

‘Solutions to youth homelessness’ paper outlines strategy to help cause

As figures show, a staggering 86,000 young people have been homeless at some point in 2018, with no idea where their next meal or safe place to sleep will come from. RICS have produced a unique paper that pulls together answers from every quarter to bring an end to this stain on our society.

Rather than trying to create a one size fits all solution, RICS has brought together the leading thinkers from charities to housing associations, developers to politicians, to present a full range of solutions that tackle the short, medium and long term causes of youth homelessness.

‘Solutions to Youth Homelessness’ highlights a range of innovative solutions including reform of the PRS (private rented sector); an overhaul of the support structure provided to young people; new ways to help younger residents sustain tenancies that improves their well-being and mental health; social housing options beyond the traditional; and ways industry can positively help with labour and skills. Recent funding and trials of rent flexibility on mental health and well-being, and contributions such as funding and new policy additions are also discussed.

The launch of the RICS paper coincides with the organisation’s 150th anniversary and its campaign with property industry charity, LandAid - known as Pledge150 - to raise funds for the young homeless across the UK in their anniversary year.

RICS highlights the need to be creative with housing use – including utilising modern methods of construction for temporary accommodation on meanwhile sites, pursuing dorm or co-living developments and the industry working together to provide training opportunities within the construction industry. It also highlights the need to think beyond the physical homes.

Summary of Recommendations

  • Construction: Successfully addressing youth homelessness requires both immediate targeted help for those suffering from homelessness, and the construction of many more homes of all types and tenures.

    Self-build: Offer homeless young people the opportunity to get involved in the construction of their own homes using off-site models.

    Factory construction can deliver homes at twice the speed, employing a workforce that uses a much lighter skillset.

    Build-to-Rent can accelerate housing delivery at a time when the UK desperately needs huge numbers of new homes.

    Cluster flats: As housing associations identify shared accommodation options, we must stretch ourselves to include studios and other options, such as cluster flats, in our development plans.

    Shared Accommodation Rate levels should return to the 50th percentile in the face of evidence that it is not serving its purpose of enabling people under 35 on low incomes to access private rented accommodation. This could considerably increase supply for the prevention and relief of homelessness. In addition, supported accommodation should be exempt from the rent reduction, protecting services, especially those of small specialist housing associations.

    Existing stock: Ending youth homelessness immediately requires society to secure accommodation for those affected within the existing stock of housing.

    Normal housing: There is increasing evidence that rapid access to ‘normal’ housing with support in place to enable people to sustain that accommodation and build a home is the best response to homelessness. For young people, this could mean quick access to independent tenancies, or ‘community hosting’ models where young people have a room in the homes of vetted and trained households.

    Flexible rent: Recently, Optivo trialled ‘supported rent flexibility’ for low-income tenants that allowed for over and under-payments when appropriate.

  • Co-ordinated approach: History tells us that we can reduce or even eliminate homelessness, but it does require a co-ordinated approach – that means government investment, funding for affordable housing and a concerted effort across the housing and homelessness sectors.

    Multi-agency collaboration: The most successful solutions are those that incorporate accommodation, support services, training, welfare advice and education. And that requires close multi-agency collaboration.

    Professions: Those working with children, young people and their families – including schools, colleges, health service providers, Jobcentres and the police – should be trained and empowered to respond to early warning signs of homelessness risk.

    Community: In July 2018 Empty Homes launched ‘Coalition for Community Investment’ to draw attention to the funding needs of areas with high levels of empty homes and call for more government investment. The coalition unites private sector bodies including the Residential Landlords Association, Federation of Master Builders and Propertymark, with social housing organisations the National Housing Federation and Northern Housing Consortium and campaigning bodies Crisis, Shelter and Empty Homes.

  • A holistic approach: Many solutions are fixated on bricks and mortar, but we want to see a return to a more holistic approach. A home is more than just a roof over your head, so we have a strong sense of purpose that ensures we provide a support environment that will benefit an individual’s health, piece of mind, safety and security. Essentially, their total wellbeing.

    Welfare system: Every person’s route to homelessness is individual but there can be wider system factors involved. The government has now recognised 18-21-year-olds should be automatically entitled to support for their housing costs in the welfare system if they need it. But are young people, and indeed landlords, aware enough about their entitlements? Could more be done to publicise this?

    Incentives, on behalf of those in housing trouble, can make a big difference: rent guarantees, payment of deposits, as well of course as Housing Benefit (or the housing element within Universal Credit) covering the whole of the market rent in the PRS.

    Personal development: Accommodation options need to ‘work’ for young people, supporting their personal development, not hindering it. Young people on low incomes need to have access to good quality accommodation at low rents, combined with employment opportunities that enable them to live poverty-free.

    Housing First: This works so let’s halt the trials and implement it properly. Housing First is the initiative which moves the homeless individual immediately from the streets or homeless shelters into their own accommodation. The premise behind this approach is that the individual needs to obtain stable housing first and that other issues can be addressed once they are in their own homes. 

  • Local Housing Strategies: Government must take long-term measures to secure sufficient housing supply accessible to young people on low incomes who cannot live with their families. This could be done by requiring local authorities to explicitly assess and plan to meet the housing needs of young people on low incomes within Local Housing Strategies and Local Plans.

    The Rough Sleeping Strategy outlines proposals for a new Social Impact Bond called the Young Futures Fund aimed specifically at young people not in education, training or employment.

    Positive Pathway Framework helps councils and agencies work together to provide a clear, planned approach to ensure those at risk of homelessness are assisted with cost-effective solutions to get them permanent accommodation.

    Universal Credit: the government needs to act quickly and reinstate regulations to ensure 18-21 year olds will be entitled to housing support under Universal Credit. This will help vulnerable young people feel they do have options to leave a home where they might be at risk without threat of homelessness and rough sleeping.

Contributors include Heather Wheeler (MP, Minister for Housing and Homelessness) and Bob Blackman (MP Harrow East, member of the HCLG Select Committee), alongside Lord Best (Vice President of the Local Government Association); Paul Hackett (Chief Executive of Optivo – one of the largest housing providers in the UK); Michael Newey (Chief Executive of Broadland Housing); Jon Sparkes (CEO of Crisis); Lord Kerslake (Chairman of Peabody), Phil Spencer (Broadcaster and property expert) and Philip Barnes (Group Land and Planning Director at Barratt).

Sean Tompkins RICS Chief Executive said: “This year 86,000 young people in the UK will be homeless – enough to fill the London O2 arena four times. Sadly, changes in our industry such as the fall in social housing provision, along with the ending of assured shorthold tenancies mean this number stands to increase further if the wider industry and government do not come together to collaboratively provide consensual solutions, and a long-term strategy.

The truth is there is no magic bullet to this – but by working collaboratively and being bold in every area we can make a real and lasting difference.

Sean Tompkins
Chief Executive, RICS

It is so inspiring to see such an influential group of contributors unite together to give their solutions to such an important problem.

Paul Morrish
CEO, LandAid

“Our ‘Solutions to Youth Homelessness’ paper is a step in the right direction as the advice and insight in it from leaders in their field, can help form a policy approach that is truly the result of sectoral collaboration. The truth is there is no magic bullet to this – but by working collaboratively and being bold in every area we can make a real and lasting difference.”

Paul Morrish, CEO of LandAid – also a contributor to the ‘paper – commented: “It is so inspiring to see such an influential group of contributors unite together to give their solutions to such an important problem. LandAid has been proud to partner with the RICS in its 150th year on the Pledge150 campaign, which aims to actively encourage the wider property industry to unite together to help end youth homelessness.

“This new paper will prove an exemplary tool to kick start a strategy to help to find real and sustainable solutions to the problem of youth homelessness. These do not just include improving the supply of genuinely affordable housing, but also prevention, which is always better than cure, training and employment opportunities and so much more. Homelessness is not inevitable. it can be prevented, and it can be ended. Now let’s all play our part.”

Sean Tompkins adds: “As a professional body, we are committed to influencing positive change and encouraging industry professionals to help address rising homelessness. Youth homelessness is a problem that can be solved with the right players around the table, and we’re delighted that our Pledge150 campaign and new ‘Solutions to Youth Homelessness’ paper are stimulating the urgent need to do just that.”

About Pledge150

As part of our 150-year anniversary in 2018, we want to highlight our public interest responsibility and the value of the surveying profession in developing influential solutions to society’s challenges in the UK.

Our fundraising programme will enable our partners LandAid to fund the provision of 150 bed spaces across all 12 RICS UK regions. RICS professionals will also have the opportunity to register their interest to provide pro bono support to local front line charities.

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