Spare to share
Crisis, the national charity for single homeless people, is 'deeply concerned' about the impact the LHA caps could have on single under 35 year-olds. But social landlords can still help under-35s if they’re willing to provide shared housing, says Rebecca Derham, shared housing best practice officer at Crisis.
What is shared housing - and what could it mean?
We might typically think about shared housing as provision for students or young professionals, but Sharing solutions - a funding programme administered by Crisis piloting different models of shared housing - has shown how shared living can work for single people in housing need.
For some, shared housing will not be suitable because individual needs make living with others difficult but for many, the companionship and financial benefits of sharing can offer a pathway to independent living. Shared housing can take different forms – co-housing, lodging, training flats where tenants receive support to become ‘tenancy ready’ while in situ, sharing for single parents with visiting children and the more traditional ‘stranger shares’ where previously unknown individuals come to live together.
Why do you think the social housing sector hasn't had much involvement in providing shared housing?
Shared housing has been a facet of the private rented sector for a long time, but it's an emerging area of provision for the social sector. Typical housing management approaches need to be customised to make shared housing work, and there may be a perception among social landlords that this is too costly.
Through our conversations with providers, however, we've come across a selection of landlords successfully using their stock to house sharers. As well as adapting management practice to suit the more transitory nature of shared housing, these innovators are making it stack up by partnering with specialist agencies to provide management or support services, or operating at a sufficient scale to provide a dedicated service.
Why should social landlords deliver shared housing?
Crisis is deeply concerned about the impact the LHA caps could have on single under-35 year-olds. Without access to social housing, low income people under 35 will be forced to compete for the limited supply of private shared tenancies. But the shared accommodation rate is already wildly out of step with market rents in many areas, and in others there is simply not the supply of suitable shared housing.
Unless social landlords are prepared to provide shared housing, there is a risk that this change will exacerbate the recent trend of rising homelessness. Reports suggest that as many as one in five young people ‘sofa-surfed’ in 2013/14, and 60,000 sleep rough or stay in some form of temporary accommodation per year. Social housing providers are the safety net for young people who cannot access the private market – what happens if this safety net is removed?
What are the benefits of delivering shared housing?
As well as retaining an offer to under-35s, there is a business case. Delivering shared housing provides an opportunity to make better use of hard-to-let, decanted or obsolete stock. It also allows providers to continue to contribute to local authority homelessness strategies and deliver on nomination agreements.
By providing shared housing, social landlords are not only providing an option to under-35s, but one which is conducive to finding and keeping employment, building important life skills and increasing social networks – all key to creating healthy and engaged communities.
What can make shared housing tenancies succeed?
There are some key principles which make sharing work. Appropriate matching of tenants where tenants have a say over who they live with fosters ownership over housemate relationships.
Pre-tenancy training covering how to live with others gives the relevant living skills to overcome issues that might arise. Tenancy support bolsters sustainability for individuals and as a household. Finally, clear move-on options give tenants the sense they are progressing along a ‘housing career’ to independent living.
What does Crisis need from the sector?
Crisis is keen to gather examples of practice to further influence our work on sharing and help support and promote best practice across the UK. If you are a social landlord delivering or developing a model of shared housing, please get in touch with Rebecca. For more information and resources see the Sharing solutions evaluation, and toolkits aimed at facilitating shared tenancies in the private and social sectors.
You might also like. . .
- Blog: How do you solve a problem like LHA?
- Blog: Still not tackling the causes of homelessness
- Event: Introduction to homelessness (16 September, London / 28 November, Coventry / 14 December, London)
- Save the date: Allocations, lettings and homelessness conference and exhibition 2016 - 29-30 November, Leicester