Talkin' about my generation: 50 years of growing up and moving out

For the past five decades Centrepoint has supported homeless young people to turn their lives around. In 2019, no young person should find themselves homeless yet we are supporting more young people than ever through our accommodation services and national Helpline.

Executive summary

Young people are experiencing the most challenging situations of their lives, at a time when they are taking their first steps into adulthood. As we mark our 50th year, we look back across the generations. Our poll of over 1,600 UK adults reveals the changing experiences of young people growing up and leaving home; from those who came of age in the 1970s to young people today.

Young people across the country are increasingly reliant on their family for financial support and housing. Homeless young people and those who are at increased risk of homelessness such as care leavers do not have this option.

These trends is hugely concerning for young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Traditionally, social rented housing offered security to the most vulnerable, but the decline of social tenancies means many young people look to the private rented sector. Their vulnerability is often held against them with landlords being unwilling to let to tenants who have experienced homelessness.

Only 21% of private landlords would be willing to let to a young person moving on from homelessness accommodation. Lower minimum wage levels mean that young people are paid less for doing the same work while their costs of living are the same. Similarly, the standard allowance of Universal Credit is lower for someone under the age of 25.

Key findings and recommendations


The last five decades have seen massive change to the UK housing market. No age group has been more affected by these changes than young people as they transition to adulthood and independence. Our national poll documents the growth of the private rented sector over the past five decades:

  • More children are growing up in rented housing and also moving out and into rented housing than ever before. 3 in 10 young people today grew up in private rented accommodation.
  • There is a decrease in the proportion of young people moving into social housing or a property they own. A quarter (24%) of young people today have never moved out of their family home.
  • Record numbers of young people are now leaving home to attend university, moving in with people they did not know before. 80% of the young people today who moved into halls of residence moved in with people they did not know, compared to 14% of those not moving into halls.
  • Fewer young people are leaving home to move in with a partner.
  • Young people are now spending a greater proportion of their income on rent and experiencing higher levels of debt.
  • The prevalence of rough sleeping and sofa surfing has increased over the decades


This research highlights the changing experiences of growing up and moving out over the last 50 years. It is clear that things are more challenging for young people looking to leave home. The cost of living independently is higher, meaning that young people are more reliant on their families than ever before for financial support and a roof over their heads. Renting is so often the only choice now, leading to much higher housing costs in the long term. Debt is increasingly commonplace.

While young people all across the country experience these challenges, it’s so much more difficult for vulnerable homeless people without the support of a family to rely on. A hidden crisis is unfolding across the UK.

In the last 50 years, Centrepoint has been there for thousands of young people when they had nowhere else to run. To provide a safe, warm place to sleep – but also help with physical, emotional and mental health, education and skills to build brighter futures. We want a society that builds houses but also builds up young people when they hit rock bottom. That opens doors for the next generation, not forces them onto the street.