Blog: How private renting can play a part in ending youth homelessness

Rock Trust property officer Tammy Reilly details a new Rent Deposit Scheme project which aims to help young people secure tenancies in the private sector.

What are the causes of homelessness? We ask again and again. We share evidence. We share reports. Some of the answers change, some stay the same.

Amongst young people we know that family and relationship breakdown is the single biggest reason for homelessness, though it is rarely ever the only reason. Young people that come to us may be struggling with their mental health or with a learning disability. They may have had negative experiences of coming out as LGBTQ. They may have been abused.

None of the above factors should increase the risk of a young person becoming homeless. But addressing these known causes and working to prevent young people from ever becoming homeless, will not be possible if there is nowhere that those young people can afford to live.

The Edinburgh council recently cited the loss of private sector tenancies as a major cause of homelessness in the city (Local Government and Communities Committee Report on Homelessness)

The private rented market in Edinburgh is increasingly competitive and showing no signs of slowing down. This is a huge issue for many young people who we would not usually expect to be at risk of homelessness.

A shortage of affordable private rentals in Edinburgh, and the resultant competition to secure a tenancy has resulted in an application style system being introduced. This system increasingly results in individuals on benefits and lower incomes being denied a home in favour of more ‘reliable’ tenants.

Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, leaving home for the first time with no savings, no family support and no landlord references, will struggle to access social or private housing even if they are in receipt of the income and/or benefits that would enable them to maintain a tenancy.

If they are allowed to view a property despite being on low incomes or in receipt of benefits, they will then face the mostly impossible task of paying a large deposit and providing references from landlords when they have no history of renting.

We know that something has to be done about the shortage of affordable social and rented properties in Edinburgh, but in the meantime the Rock Trust are working with a number of local landlords and Housing Associations to provide a solution to this very preventable cause of youth homelessness.

The Rent Deposit Scheme was set up in 2017 by End Youth Homelessness with funding from Yorkshire Building Society to help young people gain access to the private rented sector. End Youth Homelessness is a movement of grassroots charities committed to working together at a local level to end youth homelessness. Rock Trust is one of these charities, and is delivering the Rent Deposit Scheme in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Since the end of last year we have been identifying 16-25 year olds we work with who could benefit from this scheme. They are young people who are in a position to move into the private rented sector and support themselves, but who need the initial support and advice to get them set up.

As well as helping these young people to find an appropriate and affordable tenancy, we help them by providing landlords with a guarantee certificate in place of a traditional cash deposit. This security bond (a formal agreement) protects the landlord from damage or rent arrears, while helping young people to secure a home.

In addition, the young people receive the advice and practical help they need to turn that property into a home and sustain the tenancy as long as it is required and wanted. The support available includes grants for essential home furnishings, support with claiming benefits and progressing in employment or education, and financial advice.

Since we launched this project we have engaged 25 Landlords, and have successfully supported 7 young people into accommodation.

‘EYH’s rent deposit scheme is an innovative and effective way of helping young people secure a property. LAR’s aim is to provide quality homes at affordable rents across Scotland for an increasing number of people who can neither afford private rents, nor have a realistic chance of being allocated social housing… We are delighted to support EYH and Rock Trust’s efforts to help young people secure a home. We look forward to working with them to help tackle a major housing issue.’ Ann Leslie, Chief Executive of LAR Housing Trust.

A shortage of private rentals is just one of the reasons young people find themselves at risk of homelessness. It seems such a simple problem, so easy to understand as a private-renter, and so easy to solve, that it seems ridiculous. Yes it is ridiculous. But it isn’t funny.

If you are interested in getting involved or supporting the Rent Deposit Scheme, please email Tammy on or call 0131 524 9870.

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