So many of the issues we’re all grappling with right now are of utmost importance to young tenants: the economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis and what that means for training and employment; the supply of genuinely affordable housing; climate change. Yet, housing providers still struggle to engage with this group.
Young people today are half as likely to own a home as they were 20 years ago, found a study by the Local Government Association. Meanwhile, in light of coronavirus, youth unemployment in the UK could rise by 640,000 this year – taking the total above one million, concluded a report from the Resolution Foundation think tank.
It’s ridiculous to think that young residents don’t care about the issues that are having such a massive impact on their lives and futures. Of course they want to be part of any solutions, it’s just that as a sector, UK housing hasn’t found a way of capturing their attention.
As summed up in this research on tenant involvement by The Hyde Group, HQN and Heriot Watt University: “Historically, ethnic minorities, young people and families with young children where both parents were working have been underrepresented.”
What young people want
At a time when we’re all doing things differently, we need to seize the moment and tune into what our young people want. Whether they’re growing up in our homes, or already have their own tenancies, we must empower these residents – the future advocates of our work – and enable their voices to be amplified through our organisations.
For example, any future Greta Thunbergs out there amongst our young tenants should know that the homes we live in consume about 30% of the UK’s energy and produce 20% of our greenhouse gas emissions. By becoming an involved resident, and having a say about the ways in which the homes owned by their landlords are managed, young people can potentially make a much bigger impact on climate change than they ever could on their own (or as someone growing up in a private rented or owner occupied home, for that matter).
Almost 4 million households – 17 per cent of the national total – live in social housing. Instead of being something that could lead to feelings of stigmatisation, spending their young lives in social housing could empower this group of tenants, enabling them to speak up about the issues they feel passionately about – and to make a worthwhile contribution early on.
Involved young tenants
Older involved residents often talk about how working with their landlord has led them experiencing new levels of confidence in other areas of their lives – let’s get in there now and set young people up for success in the future.
It’s heartening to see ‘Youth driven innovation’ on the agenda for Inside Housing’s Disruption & Innovation Summit, which takes place online in November. A whole session on embodying the “excitement and enthusiasm of what it is like to be young“, covering points including: “Why work with young people to solve your biggest problems?” and the “Best way to get the best out of young people“.
We’ll definitely be logging into that one – but in the meantime, can we think about how to begin talking with our young people about what they want from their social landlords?
As Mary Harrison, an involved resident at PA Housing, explained during a Fusion21 and Tpas session on resident engagement at the Virtual Housing Festival: “There are barriers to getting people involved, sometimes they’re about time, sometimes about location, so it’s good to have been able to meet via Zoom – we can all get together without having to travel to a meeting – so more people can get involved.”
Make a difference
There’s an assumption that Generation Z – those born between the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2010s – need instant gratification, but this is not the case, fundraising consultant and trainer Nikki Bell told charity sector magazine Third Sector: “Young people have emotions and needs,” she said. “They have their own personal experiences that upset them and make them angry. They want to make a difference in the world.”
In fact, Third Sector’s report Donating Trends in the UK 2019 gathered anecdotes from young volunteers which highlighted the “intensely personal motivations that lead them to get involved“. What could possibly be more personal than the home you live in and the community you grow up in?
So, let’s get moving on this by setting up virtual conversations with this important group of stakeholders, exploring options around the government’s Kickstart programme, through which organsiations can offer six-month paid work placements for 16-24 year-olds on Universal Credit, and thinking about ways we can work with local youth organsiations that are already engaged with young members of our communities.
Please get in touch with See Media if you’d like to talk about options for communicating with young tenants. We know that UK housing organsiations are already throwing themselves into innovation – let’s ensure revisiting ways in which we can engage with young residents is part of this.
Did you like this blog?
For more blogs like this, sign-up to our monthly newsletter, here.
Lydia Stockdale is Public Relations Director at See Media