THE BLOG

Ebbsfleet: Start of a Housing Bloom or Shed at the Bottom of the National Garden?

18/03/2014 11:11 GMT | Updated 18/05/2014 10:59 BST

The Chancellor's plan to build Britain's first garden city in 100 years in Ebbsfleet has been welcomed by some with open arms. The promise of more homes in the south east is a good thing, but 15,000 new homes barely scratch the surface of the real number of properties needed across the country.

University of Cambridge research for the youth homelessness charity Centrepoint indicates the country faces a huge housing shortfall by 2021. Nearly a million homes will be needed and, within that, almost 150,000 council, housing association and private rented properties affordable on housing benefit will be needed when it comes to meeting demand from under-25s.

The 80,000 young people who will experience homelessness of one form or another this year will welcome the news that Chancellor George Osborne has identified a pot of £1 billion to fund infrastructure, including new homes and to boost employment.

Although youth unemployment is now falling, the number of young people who have been out of work and claiming benefits for more than 12 months remains stubbornly high at over 55,000.

Even a small part of that £1 billion pot could go a long way to addressing these twin problems of housing shortages and unemployment which prevent many young people on benefits and low incomes from achieving their potential.

The good news for the Chancellor, and indeed for politicians of all parties across the UK, is that spending money to end homelessness among under-25s is popular with voters.

A recent opinion poll by ComRes, commissioned by Centrepoint, found that 61% of British adults believe the government should make ending youth homelessness a priority, with only 8% disagreeing. Allocating additional resources for traineeships, apprenticeships and truly affordable housing is not just good for young people; it could be beneficial to MPs in marginal seats too.

The National Housing Federation estimates that for every £1 spent on housing, £2.41 is generated in the wider economy, and that every new home creates 2.3 jobs.

At the same time, allocating taxpayers' money to enable charities such as Centrepoint to work with young people to overcome health and skills barriers to employment and independent living, has been found to reap a net benefit to the public purse of £2.40 for every £1 put in.

Investing in homeless young people, through direct services, job creation and affordable house building is clearly not only the right thing to do, but also makes for sound economic policy.

Given Budgets are always a balancing act between the need to win votes and sound economics, surely making ending youth homelessness a priority is a political no-brainer for all parties.