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National Homeless Advice Service

The social housing sector

Local housing authorities and Registered Providers (usually housing associations) can take steps to facilitate young people’s access to the social rented sector.

Access to social housing

Many young people assume that they will be offered accommodation in the social housing sector. However, not only is there an extreme shortage in many areas of suitable and affordable social housing, but with the Localism Act 2011, local housing authorities can end the main homelessness duty by arranging an offer of suitable accommodation in the private rented sector, without requiring the applicant’s agreement.

In most areas of England, it now far more likely that young people will move on into the private sector rather than into social housing. However, there are still actions which local housing authorities and Registered Providers (usually housing associations) can take to facilitate young people’s access to the sector, and to improve the sustainability of tenancies:

  • Choice-based lettings (CBL) schemes are increasingly prevalent, but these may prevent young people from registering until they reach the age of 18 and are able to hold a tenancy without a guarantor. A multi-agency move-on strategy for 16 and 17 year olds who have been homeless or are threatened with homelessness needs to provide a route to social housing for those who are high priority in the allocations system.
  • Introductory and fixed term tenancies offer a degree of assurance to social landlords concerned about the perceived risks of housing young tenants. If these are combined with more intensive housing management for an initial period of the tenancy, or with tenancy sustainment support, they can be an effective method of preventing repeat homelessness

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Further information

Research in 2011 by the University of Sheffield demonstrated that of all groups of homeless single people moving to settled accommodation, young people were the ones more likely to accrue debts and rent arrears, and more likely to be threatened with eviction and to become homeless again, but that they are less likely to receive tenancy support. Housing-related floating support can alleviate this and can provide an effective transition for a young person from (for example) supported accommodation to entirely independent accommodation.

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