McKee K & Hoolachan J (2015) Housing Generation Rent: what are the challenges facing Housing Policy in Scotland? . The Carnegie Trust. St Andrews.
Funded by the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, this qualitative research study investigated the challenges facing ‘Generation Rent’. It situated young people’s housing experiences within the broader social, economic and political context in Scotland. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 19 key actors drawn from housing policy and practice communities at the local and national scale. The project identified 7 key findings:
• The housing problems faced by young people cannot be understood in isolation from the wider economic and social context. Youth (un)employment and parental support substantially determine an individual’s housing ‘success’ in becoming a homeowner or accessing a private rented sector (PRS) property at the higher end of the market.
• The PRS is unaffordable for many young people. This is the case across the whole of Scotland but is mostly problematic in ‘hotspot’ areas such as Aberdeen, Edinburgh and St Andrews. There are few incentives for landlords to keep their rent levels down due to high demand in certain locations. Some landlords may be reliant on rental income to cover their housing costs and therefore cannot afford to reduce rent levels.
• Low-income households, especially those reliant on social security benefits, are vulnerable in the PRS. They are likely to be unable to meet their full housing costs and some resort to using food banks, living in fuel poverty and/or using payday loan companies to avoid rent arrears.
• The flexibility of the PRS may be attractive to young professionals, students and migrant/seasonal workers but even within these populations, problems of affordability persist. It is assumed that these groups do not want to settle down in a particular location for lengthy periods, whereas often they cannot afford to remain.
• The insecurity offered through short assured tenancies is problematic for some young people, especially those with children, who wish to create a home and put down roots in their community.
• Young people’s housing and labour market experiences vary by place. Housing affordability, supply, quality and infrastructure as well as job and educational opportunities substantially differ between and within urban and rural locations. Understanding the micro-geographies of housing markets is important in explaining differential experiences amongst young people.
• Whilst the attractiveness and positive benefits of the PRS were recognised, it was nonetheless acknowledged it was not a suitable tenure for all young people. Landlord rights must be taken into account but not at the expense of tenant wellbeing.