Regardless of the political make-up of the next government, two huge challenges that will undoubtedly face them are the twin scourges of young people – high unemployment and a shortage of truly affordable housing.
At Centrepoint, our vision is for all young people – particularly the 80,000 under 25s who experience homelessness in a year – to be able to secure sustainable employment and find affordable accommodation. That is why we welcome many of the ideas set out by the Local Government Association.
We agree that putting councils on an equal footing to housing associations when it comes to investing in new homes is absolutely crucial. Delivering a total 160,000 new affordable homes of five years would be a hugely positive step in the right direction.
But in its first 100 days the new government will need to go much further. Research carried out for us by Cambridge University found that the shortage of sub-market (council, housing association or private sector properties available on housing benefit) homes will reach nearly 150,000 by 2021 for under-25s alone; one million when looking at the population as a whole.
Whilst new homes will be part of the solution, it is vital the government looks to solve our country’s housing crisis through a range of options, taking regional variations into account. Increasingly what works in Sunderland will not provide more homes in London and vice versa. We need a balance of investment: from private developers, from local authority and housing association borrowing, from accurately matching housing benefit to local rents, and from investing in charities to train young people in construction skills to bring empty homes back into use.
Training our next generation of young people and making sure they are ‘work ready’ is key to our mission at Centrepoint. The Local Government Association hit the nail on the head when they called for employment and skills services which focus on the individual. As we know from more than 40 years of working with homeless young people, every individual has different talents and ambitions. Whether it is the Claimant Commitment with Jobcentre Plus or accessing a traineeship or apprenticeship, the new government will have to move towards much greater personalisation. We need to match the potential of young people, including those furthest from the labour market, with creating an economy that is fit for the challenges of the 21st century.
In the first 100 days, a new government will need to get away from a rhetoric of benefit savings to garner votes and back to an agenda which offers independent, high quality face to face careers advice; rewards young people who seek new skills; and makes work pay.