Youth homelessness: partnership and innovation

Support off the streets

27 March 2019

As part of its 150th anniversary fundraising drive last year RICS produced Solutions to youth homelessness, a collection of thought leadership pieces on this complex problem. This extract explains why partnership and innovation are vital

Youth homelessness has many causes and many associated issues. Any solution should be holistic. It should provide the range of help that young homeless people need, including support in terms of finance, mental health, well-being, education and more. We must provide housing that is connected to other services in order to give young homeless people the space to thrive.

‘Housing first’ – the policy of simply providing housing so other problems can be addressed from a stable living situation – is often touted as the most effective solution to homelessness. This is especially crucial for young people who, without a home, have little prospect of preparing for the workplace or managing their lives.

In relation to RICS recommendations, the solutions that the property profession can offer orientate around the provision of adequate housing. Given the state of the residential market and the public finance squeeze, it is very difficult for charities and local authorities to acquire and access suitable homes for vulnerable people, let alone provide the other support they need.

To bring social homes forward under difficult economic conditions, the government must be creative

To bring social homes forward under difficult economic conditions, the government must be creative. From using temporary modular or prefabricated buildings on ‘meanwhile’ sites – vacant sites awaiting development – to pursuing greater numbers of dormitory-style or co-living developments or covenants for building social housing on public-owned land without disposing of the land itself, the government has many avenues to explore when considering expanding stock in a cost-efficient way.

By encouraging downsizing – through tax incentives, for example – or providing jobs and infrastructure in areas that can accommodate more people or more homes, more effective use can also be made of existing stock to satisfy increasing demand and thereby reduce pressures on the sector.

Finally, turning to the construction skills crisis and the plight of homeless young people leads us to a clear and pragmatic solution. The government, charities and the private sector are already working together to provide training opportunities and homes for vulnerable homeless people, as well as training for the skills they need but may lack. More could be done to support these projects and connect them. For example, free or subsidised accommodation could be provided at scale for those training or gaining qualifications, and partnerships could be established between local authorities, employers, educational institutions and providers of shelter to support the supply of homes and training. The corporate relationship with young homeless people can and should be positive and constructive.

Ending youth homelessness – and homelessness overall – is possible and achievable. It requires us to be more innovative about how we provide and use our homes. Furthermore, it demands that we think beyond homes to the aspects of life that homelessness robs us of, such as employment, education and welfare.

Hew Edgar is interim head of policy at RICS

Further information