‘Taking the right risk to provide sustainable futures for Under 35s’

A year on from winning the ‘Capturing Creativity’ award at last year’s One Big Housing Conference, Newydd’s Hazel Davies assessed how the Rooms4U project is going.

We all talk about the lack of one bedroom accommodation, limited housing options for young people, a new generation which we struggle to understand and how welfare reform is having a huge impact on young people. However, the question we really need to ask is, ‘What are we all doing about it?’

We know that the Private Rented Sector is currently inaccessible for young people whether they are in receipt of benefits or on a low income, yet we still don’t have an answer as to how we can best support and nurture them so they are able to independently manage a tenancy of their own.

Rooms4U was originally designed to combat the effects that the introduction of the Local Housing Allowance would have on single, under 35’s and it quickly became a project that organisations across the UK were keen to know more about.

The first few months flew by, as we tried to find other similar projects who had already developed shared accommodation and could give us an insight into not just the challenges ahead but also the success stories. And there were actually many of them, they are just not talked about enough as we always seem to focus on the negative.

The project quickly developed a number of properties for shared occupation across the Vale of Glamorgan and we had to adapt to the ever-changing environments and situations of our tenants living in our properties. There was laughter, tears and quite a few tantrums but despite all that, these young people just wanted somewhere to call home where they felt safe and could build relationships.

We wanted to shout from the rooftops that we had found a solution (albeit a very small one in the grand scheme of things) so we applied to the CHC ‘capturing creativity’ panel to consider our project as one that was innovative and had an impact not only to the lives of our tenants but also to the sector. We were fortunate amongst other amazing projects to take home the award and we were over the moon!

It’s been nearly a year since we received the award, and lots has happened since then. There has been a big change too as Teresa May announced that the implementation of the LHA for the Social Rented Sector was being reversed, which put us in a position where we questioned the demand from applicants for shared accommodation and the commitment from RSL’s to identify properties to convert or build but also left us curious as to how the sector would react.

Many organisations scrapped their shared housing plans. It would be too intensive to manage, not financially viable, not a priority – just some of the reasons why, as a sector, we could no longer go ahead with our plans to develop a solution for young people.

It’s fair to say that these reasons are all valid in some shape or form, due to increased pressure on budget’s and the Universal Credit rollout due to commence, but Rooms4u soldiered on, determined to test the waters so we could give the sector an evaluation that could drive forward any future plans to develop similar projects.

We’re coming to the end now which means soon we will be able to share with you what we’ve learnt, what the challenges have been but most importantly, the positive stories. You’ll have to wait for the evaluation to get all the juicy details – but hopefully it will leave you asking, ‘What is our offer for young people?’

Good luck to all the entrants for this year’s award!

Enter by clicking here