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Finding accommodation

This content applies to England

Housing options for young people and the related issues.

Housing issues for young people

It can often be particularly difficult for young people to find accommodation. Many private landlords are reluctant to let to younger people, especially if they are claiming housing benefit. Young people typically have low incomes and a lack of resources, which can make it very difficult to access and pay for private rented accommodation. There are also specific legal issues concerning the granting of tenancies to young people under the age of 18 (see the page on Tenancies for minors).

In some areas, there are specialist agencies that can help young people find accommodation.

Social housing

A young person can apply to any local council for a council home. Councils are no longer required to keep a housing register,[1] but in practice most still do so. It is no longer lawful for councils to have blanket policies, such as one that would exclude all young people aged 16 or 17, or all people not resident in the area, from an allocations scheme. Statute now defines who is not a qualifying person for an allocation.[2] For more information see the section on allocation of local authority housing.

The Code of Guidance suggests that when providing accommodation for homeless young people, housing authorities should recognise that support must be provided if needed, and that most 16- and 17-year-old applicants are likely to benefit from a period in supported accommodation before moving on to a tenancy of their own.[3]

Young people can also apply for housing through a local registered social landlord. Although most housing associations and other registered social landlords will require nominations from the council's list, many will accept direct approaches.

Private rented sector

The private rented sector often provides young people with their first step to independent housing. Private renting can offer easily accessible accommodation, although financial barriers can make it difficult to find and keep this sort of housing, particularly for young people on benefits. For more information on housing benefit for young people, please see the page on Paying for accommodation. Conditions can also be less than ideal, especially in houses in multiple occupation. For information about how safety issues, overcrowding and poor management in houses in multiple occupations (HMO) can be challenged, please see the section on HMOs.

Supported housing

There are different types of specialist supported accommodation for young people. They generally provide accommodation for those who require a certain level of support to help them make the transition to independent living, although there are also schemes for young people with specific support needs. There are cluster schemes, which comprise a number of self-contained flats with a support worker available, and group houses where residents have their own bedrooms and share other facilities. Such schemes are often run by housing associations. Foyers and some hostels are a form of supported housing. The provision of schemes varies from one area to another.

Foyers

Foyers provide accommodation linked to training and employment and usually have an age limit of 25. They require residents to sign an agreement covering all aspects of their residence, including a commitment to remain involved in training and/or employment during the length of their stay. They offer professional and peer group support for residents. The length of stay is normally up to two years. The Foyer Federation can provide information about schemes. Foyers are not suitable for young people with multiple or high support needs.

Hostels

Hostels are usually run by social landlords or charities and can often offer accommodation at short notice.

There are a number of direct-access and emergency hostels specifically for young people. There are hostels that offer accommodation to young people who need support around independent-living skills. There are also hostels that are specifically for young people who are leaving care, most of which will require social services referrals. Many mixed-age hostels will not take young people under the age of 18. See the section on Emergency accommodation for information on different types of hostels and for sources of information about hostels in different parts of the country.

Lodging schemes

Lodging schemes operate a register of people willing to rent out a room in their home. Local authorities or voluntary agencies may manage schemes. It is usually difficult for ex-offenders, people with drug or alcohol problems, or people with mental health problems to get accommodation through a lodging scheme. Many schemes also find it difficult to place 16- or 17-year-olds. Low-level support may be provided on some schemes.

Nightstop

Nightstop schemes provide accommodation in the homes of volunteer hosts for young people aged 16 to 25 for up to three nights. This emergency provision may give the referring agency the opportunity to find suitable long-term accommodation, or can provide time and space to enable families to resolve their difficulties if that is the reason the young person left home.

Generally, nightstops cannot provide for people with serious psychiatric problems, those who may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol when referred, or those who have a serious criminal record or a recent history of violence, arson or sexual offences. Also, due to the nature of the provision, nightstops are unable to provide accommodation for young people on bail.

Nightstop UK can advise groups on starting and operating a local nightstop scheme and can also provide information on existing schemes. There are over 30 nightstop schemes in the UK.

Wales

The information on this page applies only to England. Go to Shelter Cymru for information relating to Wales.

[1] s.14 Homelessness Act 2002.

[2] s.160A Housing Act 1996, as amended by Homelessness Act 2002.

[3] para 12.13 Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, July 2006.

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