UNISON has called for “more joined-up” polices to help young people facing high rents in poor-quality housing in the private rented sector.
A new report from the union – A new housing benefit deal for young people - reveals that young people under 35, whether they’re working or not, are now the largest group living in private rented housing, due to a lack of social housing and finance for home ownership.
Those in work are struggling to pay high rents and save for deposits for mortgages, while many young people who are unemployed, or on low pay and receiving housing benefit, are struggling to pay their rent due to the introduction of “shared accommodation rate” for housing benefit.
UNISON says that this rate is set too low, while there is not enough good-quality or appropriate shared accomodation available for young people. The union is calling for this rate to be abolished.
The restrictions are driving up rent arrears and debts for young people, who face an ever-widening gap between the amount of housing support they are receiving and rising rents.
Rather than enter poor-quality and unsafe shared accommodation with strangers, many are staying put.
The shared accommodation rate has also increased homelessness, as more and more young peole are evicted. At the same time, landlords are refusing to renew shared accomodation tenancies for those on housing benefits.
The report was launched at the House of Commons this week, with members of UNISON young members’ committee and women’s committee.
UNISON women’s committee chair Eileen Best said: “Unless we begin to join up how to lower housing costs, improve low pay and make welfare support work – in particular for young working women – we may be risking scarring a generation of young women’s career ambitions, aspirations for housing independence and the individual confidence that come from these”.
The report calls for better long-term solutions to reduce the housing benefit bill, while raising the living standards and employment opportunities and conditions of young people.