Warning of under-35s housing crisis


Homeless people in LondonRebecca Naden/PA Wire

Homeless people under 35 are facing a serious housing shortage this Christmas after Government benefit cuts, a charity has warned.

Crisis, which is providing emergency shelter over the festive period, said 62,500 homeless adults aged between 25 and 34 received lower levels of benefit this year after the Government said they could only claim the cost of shared accommodation rather than more expensive individual flats.

Only 1.5% of available properties across the UK were willing to rent to benefit claimants aged under 35 and only 13% were priced within their benefit rates, according to a Crisis survey conducted by its staff who posed as claimants and tried to rent more than 4,000 rooms.

Leslie Morphy, the charity's chief executive, said: "This snapshot of a typical rental search for a single person builds a picture of desperate shortage, particularly for those restricted to lower housing benefits, and shows that landlords are reluctant to take on benefits claimants."

Housing benefit cuts in January this year led single people aged under 35 to receive lower benefits rates on the basis that they would rent shared accommodation instead of one-bedroom flats. Previously this restricted rate applied only to those under 25, but the new change has forced thousands more to rent in shared properties.

Among those Crisis is helping is Danny Coakley, 34, who has been homeless since 2010. He said he will live in hostels until he turns 35 when he will be entitled to £180 a week in housing benefit instead of his current £90. He became homeless after being kicked out of his family home and explained: "I'm kind of stuck in this 'Catch 22' for the next seven months. Obviously then I will qualify for the higher rate. If you are homeless and under 35 it is near impossible to find landlords who will accept you if you are paying your rent through benefits."

The Crisis survey found that in Birmingham only 10% of rooms in shared flats were priced with affordable ranges for benefit claimants, and in Lewisham, south London, only 0.9% of available rooms would rent to claimants under 35.

Mr Coakley was unable to rent a property in London even though he was earning £100 a day in his full-time sales job as he was unable to save up a deposit whilst paying daily for hostels. He said that on top of the difficulties of finding affordable properties willing to rent to benefits claimants, young homeless people also faced issues with saving deposits in expensive cities like London.

Ms Morphy said: "In terms of homelessness, it is going up on all the official indicators. The number of people sleeping rough has gone up by 43% in London and by 23% in the rest of England. The Government needs to change the benefit cuts currently making it extremely difficult for people with low income or unemployment. We also know there is not a lot of shared accommodation available and we know that in a whole number of areas that kind of accommodation is neither affordable nor accessible."

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman defended the benefit changes, saying: "The shared accommodation rate was all about bringing fairness to a system that was out of control, ensuring that we use our housing sensibly."

© 2012 Press Association