Three ways to give young Londoners more control over housing

jimmintonAlmost half of all Londoners aged 18-24 who don’t currently own a home don’t believe they ever will. And they are supposed to be the most optimistic – polling shows that the older you get, the less likely you are to feel that getting on the housing ladder is possible. In a city so full of opportunity and possibility, something is badly wrong in London when people see their ambitions curtailed so early in their lives.

Of course, the number of people who expect to own a property is not the only way to measure the success of housing policy. But whichever way you look at it, housing is a massive challenge for young people, particularly in London.

The London Fairness Commission has identified that Londoners pay 53% more in rent than people in the rest of the UK. This hugely affects young people, for whom private renting is the only option since social housing has been squeezed even for those in the most need. And poor housing has other impacts beyond affordability. Young people in our member clubs are telling youth workers every day of their housing challenges. I spoke to a young woman recently who described how through her teenage years she’d shared a room with multiple siblings and her family had been forced to move communities numerous times, taking them away from friends and networks. You can imagine the impact of the instability or unsuitability of the housing situation on her chances of successful study or employment as well as on her wellbeing.

‘In an era when services for young people are vastly reduced, we must

work with developers to build youth provision into regeneration plans’

In this situation it is no wonder that many young people are pessimistic, particularly as all the forecasts say that London will keep growing, and prices will keep rising. But for those of us who work with young people, and claim to advocate on their behalf, we cannot ignore housing as an issue. This is one of the core themes of A Vision for Young Londoners, which over 40 organisations have been involved in developing.

In October 2015 London Youth convened a group of youth organisations to meet with policymakers, housing associations and funders to look in more detail at the challenges – but more importantly at what we could do about them. The consensus was that we do have some levers we can pull – and more now than ever we need to make the case powerfully to others who can help make this change.

Three key steps we could take:

  1. Influence the provision of services to young people, particularly as new estates or developments take root. Just one example is The Money House in Greenwich where Hyde Housing provide a space and resources for young people living locally to learn to manage their finances and get support where needed. In an era when statutory services for young people are vastly reduced, we must work with developers to build youth provision into regeneration plans.
  2. Push locally and across London for young people to be consulted on plans for housing developments as they take shape. Youth organisations can provide a mechanism for bringing young people to the table – but there has to be an appetite and openness from local authorities and those leading regeneration to consult young people as part of their development process.
  3. Collectively be more demanding of the London mayor. With mayoral elections less than six months away, we need whoever emerges as the next mayor to show genuine leadership around housing for young people. The challenge (and the market) in London are so different from the rest of the country that we do need a solution that meets the capital’s need now. And we need our new mayor to champion this, and if necessary, wrestle more control from Whitehall. We want the next mayor to commit to a long-term plan for housing young Londoners, aligned to the strategic London Plan, with partners in local authorities, housing and regeneration all signing up to support it.

There is no shortage of opportunity in London. And most people would surely agree that to live in a thriving city and deal with the challenges of growth and success is better than to be somewhere with fewer prospects and options. But unless urgent action is taken to provide better housing options for young people, far too many will miss out on those opportunities, and future generations will pay a heavy price for this.


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