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Housing

Homelessness charity unveils new ‘innovative’ houses with capped rent

Centrepoint showcased the new development of modular homes, built to provide affordable, independent housing for young people.

A new development of self-contained, modular homes has been unveiled in Peckham, south London, to provide affordable, independent housing for young people experiencing homelessness.

The development will house 33 young people currently living in hostels with rent for the homes capped at roughly one third of the tenant’s salary.

“Young people are facing a real housing crisis, not just in London but across the country”, said Billy Harding, policy and research manager at Centrepoint: a charity supporting young people experiencing homelessness, which has developed the flats. “[This is] because of a critical lack of affordable accommodation, both in the social rented sector, but also in the private sector, where rents are too high.

“Young people really struggle to afford a deposit and the upfront costs of moving in, meaning that even for young people who are in work, affording housing is really, really difficult.”

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For a 20-year-old earning minimum wage, rent for one of the new homes would be around £350 per month. However, Centrepoint points out that in London they intend “to work with ethical employers to ensure young people are earning above minimum wage”, so someone “earning £18,000 per year would pay around £500 per month.”

The average household renting privately in England spent 32.8 per cent of their income on rent in 2018-19, according to official figures. Among 16 to 24-year-olds, this rose to 46.8 per cent and for those on the lowest incomes, over half (52.7 per cent) of their income was lost to rent.

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The looming cost of living crisis is expected to compound the issue, as the lifting of the energy price cap in April could see low-income single-adult households spending a staggering 54 per cent of their income on bills. Without more housing which is truly affordable for young people, experts have warned that many will be at risk of homelessness.

Katelin, 19, is currently living in one of Centrepoint’s independent living programme homes in east London and told The Big Issue the solid foundation had helped her make progress in other areas of her life.

“I moved into the independent living scheme because I lived in a hostel for two years, back in 2019,” she said. “It’s great for ambition: you get a stable foundation, it’s affordable. You can actually think of goals that don’t seem impossible. I mean, it’s great for your social life as well. You can have friends over, you have a nice place to invite people.”

Centrepoint provided a first look at the new homes ahead of the project’s completion at the end of April. Each flat has a small kitchen and living space, a sleeping area, and a bathroom. The development forms part of the charity’s independent living programme, which “seeks to provide 300 young people a home”, as well as entry level jobs or apprenticeships, eventually leading to full time employment.

Affordable, stable housing has given Katelin space to think about the future. “I can think about the possibility of buying a car, saving for a mortgage”, she said. “I think it’s incredibly important for there to be affordable housing for young people, especially people who have not had the easiest upbringing or the easiest background.”

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Harding said he would love to see the project scaled up and rolled out to other parts of the country, as well as a housing first scheme for young people. Housing first has been popularised in the US and Nordic countries, where people experiencing homelessness are given housing before other support services, rather than making it a reward or condition of other activities.  

 “But to do that, we need the investment; we need the public and the political will,” said Harding. “We are engaging with fundraising and external partners to free up land and ensure there are resources available across the country for these kinds of schemes.

 “We know from our youth homelessness databank that over 15,000 young people in London were either homeless or at risk of homelessness last year alone, and more than 1000 young people were seen sleeping rough in the capital.

“We really want to see that public investment, that public will from the government to ensure that that is affordable housing for young people. No young person should have to face homelessness.”

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