Youth homelessness has increased alarmingly over recent years. This has been exacerbated by rising rents as a result of a shortage of housing stock, making it difficult for people to secure realistic long-term accommodation.

In a competitive rental marketplace for tenants, young people are at a disadvantage. They are unlikely to be earning enough to compete with older, and better financially equipped tenants, and if they are care leavers or unemployed, these problems are heightened further.

Youth homelessness can be devastating for the individuals concerned, leading to a breakdown in stability and structure. They may lose touch with family and friends, find it difficult accessing services, entering education or holding down a job. It can ultimately lead to further issues such as substance addiction and criminality.

The longer a young person spends sleeping rough, the less likely it is that they will ever be able to integrate back into society.

Studies have shown that the average life expectancy for long-term homeless people in the UK is at least 20 years less than the rest of the population.

An innovative solution to a complex problem

An innovative solution from the UK’s leading youth homelessness charity is promising to make a lasting difference.

Centrepoint’s Independent Living Programme looks to create a lasting, scalable solution that combines affordable housing with supported employment for vulnerable young people aged between 16 and 25.

The programme will begin with 300 rent-capped, secure homes in Manchester and London. These will be made available to young people who are at risk of homelessness and who have signed up for the Centrepoint Work Scheme.

This scheme aims to equip young people with the skills, further training and education they need to enter the workplace. They are then able to apply for jobs with an employer who has signed up for the scheme. Any young person who has secured work through the scheme will be able to apply for accommodation through the Independent Living Programme.

Crucially, the rent for accommodation through the programme is capped at a third of the young person’s salary. In practical terms, this would mean that a young person earning an average starting salary of around £18,000 would only be paying around £500 a month. The average rent for new tenants in both cities is considerably higher, making this an attractive as well as a realistic option for young people.

While the number of homes and geographical spread of the programme may initially sound small, there are plans for it spread nationwide as soon as its viability has been proven.

A bold vision for the future

The project is being backed by British entrepreneur and philanthropist Javad Marandi.

As the project’s co-chair, Marandi is acutely aware that it’s not just in the cities where youth homelessness is on the increase.

The number of rough sleepers in rural parts of England is also on the rise. However, he is optimistic about the project’s potential, hoping that in time it can become truly national.

“At the moment, the biggest hurdle to the growth of Centrepoint Independent Living is the novelty of the programme,” says Marandi. “It’s never been done before and, as with anything revolutionary, you have to prove the concept to all interested parties: potential investors, national and local government, and employers looking to sign up for the scheme. There is a chance for all to benefit and to be part of something truly extraordinary.”

Marandi is also quick to point out that Centrepoint has vast experience when it comes to delivering and managing accommodation, and helping young people build successful lives. Each home that is built by the scheme will cost up to £70,000. While this is competitive, Marandi believes that the unit cost will fall as more companies and investors get involved. As the price per unit decrease, the overall economic viability of the scheme will increase.

In fact, Marandi hopes that in time the project could be effective at tackling homelessness among all age groups.

Ambition and practicality combined

The key to the Centrepoint approach is its practicality. It provides a range of benefits for every stakeholder, from the young person themselves to the employers and investors. It’s hoped that once the model has been implemented and shown to be effective, it could prove to be highly successful.