Where are we supposed to live?

Today I came across this article on a local newspaper website, and was immediately struck at how inflammatory language is used to present a case in the worst possible light.
The headline says “Residents of an award-winning West End block of flats are trying to scupper a proposal to turn one of the apartments into student accommodation.”

Student accommodation – what horrors does that only bring to the mind of a peaceful resident of an award winning block of Dundee flats? Hundreds of nineteen year olds, tanked up on booze, running riot all night, setting off fire alarms, leaving take away boxes in the hallway and partying into the early hours to loud music, perhaps?

Yet closer reading of the article reveals a totally different reality. The proposal is for a single flat to house “up to 3 people”, who would either be student nurses or trainee doctors. Hardly hell-raisers, and much more likely to be studying hard into the early hours, than turning up the volume.

The owner has reassured residents that they have no intention of turning the block into a student block, and that it is not to his advantage to lower the value of the property either.

What is evident is a certain type of knee-jerk response to shared living – “it isn’t like how we live, therefore we don’t like it”. Residents are worried that the unique nature of their design award winning property would be somehow altered by allowing three unrelated people to live there. Comments on the piece seem to infer that in order to be considered ‘decent’ you must be a single resident or a family, and preferably not renting either.

Students, young professionals, low-earners, recent divorcees and anyone else who lives in flatshares may very well be asking the question: “So, where exactly are we supposed to live?” Councils up and down the country are using their powers to limit the number of HMOs (houses in multiple occupation – normally shared between 3 or more unrelated people). Neighbourhoods deemed to have “too many” houseshares are off-limits, as are areas that don’t have any, just in case a single flatshare should lower the tone, or house prices. Would they prefer that renty-somethings move to the depths of the countryside, or live on ships moored just off the coast, so as not to offend home-owning incumbents with their presence?

Priced out of home-ownership, and rapidly hitting the rental affordability ceiling, many people have no option but to live in shared accommodation. Councils have a duty of care to house the homeless – do they not also have a duty to make a balanced case for housing for everyone? Or will they continue to allow the haves to ride roughshod over the have-nots, depriving many of the last affordable housing options? Have they not noticed there’s a housing crisis going on? Or are they only concerned about issues that concern the people most likely to vote them back into power? Answers on a postcard please.

Posted in hmo

World’s biggest houseshare is forming in London

Some of us live on our own, some have family to share with and some live with friends. Some, however, find themselves in a position where they can’t have a house to themselves and don’t have enough friends to share with so they have to seek new housemates – often people they wouldn’t have chosen to share with otherwise. Enter David Cameron, desperate to fill the House of Commons with enough new friends to be able to take charge.

OK, that’s a fairly glib intro but the point is this – for the UK to have a stable and secure government over the next four years the main political parties will have to learn to work together and decide on some house rules. If not, we could see a long period of squabbling over whose turn it is to buy the toilet roll with very little real governing being done.

As with any form of share the parties will have to carve out a balance between themselves and strange and unexpected alliances may start to form. Suddenly, the calm, quiet person in the middle of the argument who isn’t fighting either extreme becomes hugely important as a mediator and is in a position of power over the other two who want to secure their support. Step forward Nick Clegg. If the Lib Dems play their cards right they could secure the electoral reform they’ve been seeking for years, setting themselves up well for the next election. Last night may have been a disappointment for them but it may just prove to be the stepping stone to the 3 party race they want to see in future .

With many existing house shares that involve new housemates moving in there’s a danger of the biggest room going to whoever was there first – step forward (or step down) Gordon Brown. It’ll be interesting to see how the Prime Minister (he is still PM for now) approaches the situation and what he’s prepared to give away to the Lib Dems in order to try and hang onto power. If he’s forced to step down then the others (and the rest of us) could find themselves with a new housemate nobody chose to live with, let alone be governed by.

Whatever happens over the next days and weeks let’s hope the country emerges with a government ready to steer us out of financial difficulty and address the serious problems faced by the housing market in the UK. With a serious shortage of housing something needs to happen to help homeowners who want to rent out a room and clear up the confusion surrounding the HMO situation for landlords (although I think a house with 650 in it is an HMO in anyone’s book).

At least if they’re all sharing it’ll cut down on expenses.


Multiletters issue 3

Issue 3 of our free landlord newsletter Multiletters is now on its way to subscribers and is available to download free from SpareRoom.

The lead article is a strong response from the National Landlords Association to new government HMO legislation set to come into force on April 6th – more on this next week.

The newsletter is free to download plus you can get back issues and sign up to automatically receive new issues as soon as they come out at SpareRoom/multiletters