Whilst colleagues tell me that the political flag waving in David Cameron's speech is not necessarily anything to worry about, yet; I can't help it. Especially coming only two weeks after we published a major report warning of the looming housing crisis facing young people in 2020. This is also the second time a marker has been put down about removing housing benefit from under 25s. That in itself is worrying. More worrying still is the distinctly abstract nature of discussions that talk about people staying at home until they're 25. Of course the reality is that many young people do stay at home - with an estimated 3.7 million young people under 30 who will be living at home in their parents owner occupied homes in 2020. To me they're the lucky ones who don't need to worry about finding somewhere to live or paying the rent.
Of course that's cold comfort to those 81,000 under 25s that we estimate will be homeless in 2020.
Personally, I'm constantly amazed at the resilience of homeless young people and how they cope with things that would make many an 'adult' I know crumble. Young homeless people have told me what a challenging process living independently is but also how rewarding they find it. Having worked with homeless young people who are trying to find or maintain their work and studies whilst dealing with the benefit trap they find themselves in; the work ethic that Cameron espouses is not missing from those who get pushed into homelessness, it's simply diverted.
Given that relationship breakdown is a major cause of homelessness it’s not safe to assume that people can stay at home – neither is it safe to assume that Government spending can be controlled by curtailing benefit entitlements. Homelessness is already on a worrying upward trend. Shelter recently estimated the cost of homelessness to Government as £6,679.88 per person evicted from council accommodation, and that’s assuming only two weeks in temporary accommodation. It's well worth taking this figure into account if we're going to properly assess the impact of removing housing benefit from under 25s.
Of course we need to look carefully at where savings can be made on the welfare bill. I also welcome the Government focussing on making work pay, particularly given the growing rate of 'in work' poverty. But if we're going to do both these things we need to look at all the angles; rather than using the blunt instrument of housing benefit to try and change people’s living arrangements.
The reality of the housing market is that those 400,000 young people under 30 living on low incomes in the bottom rung of the private rented sector probably won't be able to change their living arrangements.
To me that means we need to look at the whole structure of spending. The simple reality of saving costs can mean that pushing costs down in one place simply means they pop up elsewhere. Given the high cost of temporary housing and a 44% rise in the use of Bed and Breakfasts for homelessness households; we've really got to ask ourselves is that how we prefer to spend our money?