Our Perspectives

Cambridge property industry coming together to ensure no young person is left behind in the UK’s most unequal city


Howard Group is a third-generation family-owned property investment and development company based in Cambridge. Chief Executive Nicholas Bewes explains why tackling youth homelessness is key to the future of Cambridge.

We talk a lot as a family about being long-term stewards and contributors to our community and society through our position as custodians of the Howard Group business. It touches on our core purpose of improving and enriching lives through responsible investing in people, places and ideas, and it’s the people element which sits firmly and squarely at the heart of that.

Positive social impact is one of the three strands which make up Howard Group’s Centenary Vision, alongside environmental and financial impact. None of those things work in isolation and all three need to be in balance in order for us to pass on the business to the next generation in a better shape. “In better shape” doesn’t necessarily mean more profitable, it means using what we do to better society and make a real difference to the communities around us.

We adopt a very long-term view as a family and a business and therefore we want to do things that make a lasting impact for future generations. Sometimes this means getting involved in things that aren’t quick wins and don’t have quick fixes, that actually need long-term commitment and engagement.

Addressing youth homelessness is one of those long-term commitments. Cambridge is a city of great prosperity, amazing innovation and unique creativity. We talk about the number of Nobel Prizes and other accolades that have been awarded to people and companies from Cambridge, we look at the growth of Cambridge, and we look at the success of Cambridge across so many metrics. Yet, figures show that Cambridge is also the most unequal city in the UK. That inequality is very evident when you look at it through the lens of youth homelessness and yet it is something that often goes unnoticed.

It is not as easily observable as sleeping rough on the streets; it’s hidden. It’s about young people who cannot afford housing, who are sofa-surfing, who are in hostels, who don’t have support, who haven’t got a home to call their own.

Across the UK, more than 120,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 25 faced homelessness before the covid-19 pandemic struck according to Centrepoint’s Youth Homelessness Databank. It’s an uncomfortable truth and a most worrying concern. To put that number into perspective it is equivalent to roughly one and a half times the capacity of Wembley Stadium.  My concern is that this is a whole generation of people who are being forgotten.

The LandAid SleepOut on 10 March is an opportunity for property professionals to come together as a sign of unity and intent to help solve the issue of youth homelessness collaboratively. It’s a call to action and serves as a very real reminder to us all that there are thousands of young people not knowing where they will sleep that night or the next.

As well as raising awareness, it’s also about raising crucial funds that will be put to good use by frontline charities, projects and agencies working right in the heart of our communities to alleviate youth homelessness, such as YMCA Trinity, which will be a beneficiary from the funds raised from the Cambridge event. One night of discomfort for us during the SleepOut is a small price to pay and I would encourage everyone in the property community to take part.

LandAid is the property industry charity and acts as a focal point to support life-changing projects for young people facing homelessness. It’s a complex problem but working together can make a difference; we have a lot of tools, skills and resources at our disposable that can deliver real impact.

The LandAid Eastern Board has already received so much support from local property businesses, for example offers of pro-bono specialist support on large and small projects that deliver positive social impact.  The Board has also supported the development of FutureIn, a  local construction apprenticeship programme to provide young people facing homelessness an opportunity to learn new skills, gain employment and be part of the future success of Cambridge.

We will look back on this period of growth and progress in Cambridge in years to come as a time of immense success, prosperity and inventiveness, but this must not come at a societal cost. We want this generation, and the next, to look back on our generation and see that we have been responsible stewards and used our resources, skills and determination to support young people and create a society where no young person is left behind.

The LandAid SleepOut in Cambridge is being held at the Cambridge Rugby Club on Thursday March 10th. Find out more and SIGN UP here: https://join.landaid.org/event/sleepout/location-cambridge

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