The National Housing Federation brought together young leaders from the sector to discuss how housing associations could improve their offer to millennials.
In September 2016, I was one of five young leaders presenting at the Annual Conference and Housing Exhibition on what housing associations need to do to prepare for the future.
It was the second time I’d met the four brilliant colleagues who sat beside me on the stage. From different organisations, and each with entirely different roles, we probably wouldn’t have ever met if it wasn’t for the 24Housing Young Leaders competition. The competition gave us the opportunity to present our ideas on the stage at a big national conference.
In January this year, we visited the National Housing Federation to discuss our ideas in more detail with their top team, including Federation Chief Executive, David Orr. We spent the day discussing and debating who are millennials? What do they want from housing associations? What do housing associations need to do to prepare for their future?
One thing we all agreed on is that millennials are not a homogenous group. As an entire generation, we’re a huge group of people with all sorts of needs, wants and hopes for the future. What’s more, we’re a divided generation. In the mix of the millennial crowd are some of the advantaged and some of the most disadvantaged people in our society, from tech-savvy, status-conscious professionals to young people struggling to find a bed for the night, facing housing benefit cuts that will make that struggle even harder.
So, what did we conclude? Well, one thing for sure is that lots of younger people want help stepping onto the property ladder and housing associations need to put more options on the table for these people. Innovative rent to buy models might be a way forward.
The lesser known agenda is that of millennials who are shut out of the rental market. So many people are not even close to thinking about home ownership in any shape or form, people for whom “affordable” rent, never mind an “affordable” home, is a distant dream. Housing associations must be there for these people first and foremost. There is no ‘help to rent’ scheme for these people. They get little government support or national outrage about their situation in the press. But their housing needs are a national priority. What are housing associations going to do about it? Innovative shared living arrangements might be a way forward. As Young Leaders, we talked about housing associations offering shared living between students and older people who are socially isolated. We also looked at supported housing schemes where volunteers receive discounted housing in return for a number of hours of volunteer support to their housemates with health/care needs.
The Young Leaders competition was an eye-opening, inspiring and (slightly) petrifying experience that has also been one of the most exciting in my housing career so far. It allowed me to build contacts, ideas and friendships that have already lasted far beyond the competition.
It’s been nearly a year since I was first nominated as a Young Leader. I can’t wait to see how the ideas from the 2016 Young Leaders candidates challenge and change our sector in the year ahead.