Setting up home is a natural milestone for young people; however, for many it can be a daunting – and expensive – step into the unknown.
Having their own home – whether it’s a house, flat or a room in a shared house – generally means taking responsibility for their own living arrangements and their own household bills. While some young people may still need support from time to time, living independently is usually a good sign that they are ready for the challenges of adulthood.
No matter how well-prepared they are, leaving home for the first time can feel overwhelming for a young person. There are the practicalities to think about: getting together the deposit, furnishing the property, sorting out the utilities and managing a household budget for the first time.
If they are planning to rent, young people should be aware that since April 2017, there is no automatic entitlement to the housing costs element of Universal Credit for those aged 18 to 21 – and most under 18s are not eligible for benefits at all. There are some exceptions, including care leavers (who are entitled to financial support from their local council) but it’s always best to check first.
One of the biggest challenges for young people who want to live independently is finding somewhere suitable, i.e. in the right place and within budget. Many will choose to share with others as it’s cheaper; however, depending on their age and the reason they are leaving home, some may be considered to have a ‘priority need’ for social housing.
At 18, someone can legally buy a home and apply for a mortgage; however, they will need to have saved a deposit and must meet strict lending criteria.
When looking for their first home, it’s important for a young person to be realistic about what they can afford. Over-stretching themselves with unaffordable rent or, worse, sky-high mortgage payments is a recipe for financial disaster.
Regrettably, many young people end up without a permanent home at all. While they may not always be rough sleeping (and plenty are), homeless young people are frequently forced to move between friends’ homes, hostels and unsafe housing options. They might technically have a roof over their head, but they are without a home.