Research into flatsharing couples

A survey by SpareRoom has found some couples are living with flatmates in order to save for a deposit. Other couples are moving back to the family home to reduce living costs, while others enjoy the social aspect of living with friends.

Researchers at the University of Leeds would like to speak to people who live with their partner and other adults.

Do you live with your partner and housemates or lodgers?
Do you live with your partner and your parents or ‘in-laws’?
Are you aged 18-35?

Taking part in this project involves speaking with University of Leeds researcher Liz Bridger about your experiences. Anyone who takes part in a research interview will be thanked with a £15 shopping voucher.

If you would like to find out more about taking part in this research, please get in touch with Liz directly.
tel: 07583 307 760

How to solve the Housing Crisis in London

SpareRoom attended the Future of London Housing debate hosted by the Evening Standard on Wednesday 20th March, in a packed room of over 1000 attendees. Housing is clearly a subject that is close to the hearts of many Londoners and the debate and following Q&A session became quite heated – showing the passion and emotion involved.

All of the panellists, including thinkers and politicians from all sides of the political spectrum, agreed that more housing supply was needed to relieve the housing crisis enveloping London. Deputy Mayor for Housing, Richard Blakeway called for London’s share of stamp duty to be ploughed back into a massive house-building programme. Whilst the MD of Berkeley Housing proposed a simplified planning process, the former London Mayor, Ken Livingstone’s call was to provide council housing for mixed communities, so there is less segregation between rich and poor in London. Alain de Botton, philosopher and writer, suggested a blueprint for attractive, affordable design that could be repeated easily and efficiently across London, removing some of the hurdles in the planning process, whilst the broadcaster and architectural graduate Janet Street Porter called for high density building, across railway lines and over car parks, like in New York. Possibly the biggest applause of the evening went to Evening Standard columnist Rosamund Urwin’s suggestions of disbanding Foxtons, banning Kirsty Alsopp and deporting the Candy Brothers. Standing up for ‘renty-somethings’ she focused on her own case of being shut out of home ownership, and renting with family members.

Whilst many of their suggestions were valid and probably will help to resolve the housing crisis in a few years to come, if more intensive building programmes do get underway (we’ve only built half the number of homes we need for the last 20 years and have a lot of catching up to do), there was a distinct lack of focus on the here and now. With so many thousands of people on housing lists in London, and the capital attracting workers and students like never before, there is an imperative need to offer practical solutions to today’s housing crisis, before London becomes a place that no real people can afford to live and work in.

Sharing existing resources seems to be the elephant in the room that nobody would mention. Amongst the talk of pressing empty properties and even offices into homes for the needy, there is no mention of the thousands of under-occupied properties that can help to ease the crisis. This is already happening – as teenage children grow up and move away, ’empty nesters’ are starting to rent out their spare rooms in their thousands – but we need to see more of this, to make an impact. What could the policy makers do to help encourage this trend?

We would suggest a raise in the tax free limit homeowners can earn through the Rent a Room scheme for starters – it’s been at the same rate since its introduction in 1997, whilst rents have been rising dramatically. Why not make it more attractive for people with spare rooms to take in a lodger, and help to remove the pressure on the limited supply in the private rented sector, and the social rented sector too? We’ve been pushing for this with our Raise the Roof campaign for some time, and hope that the Chancellor may see fit to increase the tax benefit in his next budget, even if it wasn’t included in last week’s.

Other ways to increase supply include removing some of the hurdles involved in turning a property into an HMO. This will promote more efficient use of existing property, and help young people to find somewhere affordable to live in the here and now, rather than being told to wait for houses yet to be built.

Do you agree? What do you think could be done to help solve the housing crisis sooner, rather than later?

Bedroom Tax or Spare Room Subsidy – What’s in a name?

Yesterday’s spat between David Cameron and Ed Milliband at Prime Minister’s Questions included a squabble about the under-occupancy penalty, about to come into force on 1st April. The PM tried to shift the terms of the debate by using the phrase ‘Spare Room Subsidy’ to counter the opposition’s use of ‘Bedroom Tax’ to describe the penalty. Whilst the two parties can argue till kingdom come about the naming of the measure, its effects will be the same – to put more pressure on low income families who live in social housing, and who are reliant on benefits to pay their rent.

The intention was to save some expenditure on the £23bn housing benefit bill, as well as reducing under-occupancy in the social sector. It’s becoming ever clearer that the measure will achieve neither of these aims – as there aren’t enough smaller houses for people to move to, and many of those affected will have few options to raise the funds to pay the penalty, simply racking up arrears instead. This will put further pressure on the stretched resources of social landlords, who won’t be able to invest in more house-building – the one thing we’re all agreed is most needed.

Whilst party leaders squabble about the words they use to describe the measure, its implementation draws ever closer and anyone who is likely to be impacted needs to understand how it affect them. We’ve put together a concise guide to the Bedroom Tax, which you can download for free.

How the Benefit Cap will affect private sector landlords and tenants

With the government’s Welfare Reform on the horizon, we take a look at the Benefit Cap and how it’s likely to affect the Private Rented Sector.

Starting this April, and due to be in place nationwide by the autumn, the cap aims to prevent households on benefits earning more than those in work, (and to cut the Housing Benefit bill). But what will the impact be on landlords who rent to tenants on benefits?

The full details of the Benefit Cap and how it will affect tenants and landlords are outlined in our Info & Advice section.
Not all claimants will be affected, and some will only suffer a small shortfall, which they’re expected to cover by rearranging their finances, and budgeting well. They could avoid it altogether by working a minimum number of hours. How likely these outcomes are to happen in reality is another matter.

We expect many landlords faced with a shortfall in rent will simply reduce their rents accordingly to keep good and long-term tenants, whilst less impeccably behaved tenants or those in short term accommodation will probably get moved on. We’ve seen reports recently of homeless families being moved into hotels due to a lack of suitable short-term accommodation. This is not likely to do much to cut the welfare bill.

Do you rent rooms or whole properties to tenants on benefits? Is the Benefit Cap going to affect you? Get in touch and tell us your views.

A lesson from EastEnders

Anyone who saw last night’s episode of EastEnders (and apparently there were 8.1million of us!) will have seen Dot Branning get into trouble over renting her home to a lodger without permission, and is now being investigated for housing benefit fraud.
Dot Branning is quizzed at Walford Council

As Cora Cross failed to pay the rent and unauthorised lodgers were staying under Dot’s roof, the council is seeking a full explanation of exactly what happened, and is threatening legal action.

If you’re thinking of taking in a lodger, or who have already done so, those scenes might have struck a worrying note with you. If you’re worried about how taking in a lodger might leave you open to issues with your local council, your mortgage lender or your insurance company, there’s a wealth of information on the SpareRoom website to help you. SpareRoom guides you through every aspect of taking in a lodger, and explains what your obligations are. You can also download a free copy of our Guide to Taking in a Lodger, which will get you off on the right foot.