THE BLOG

Finally, A Step in the Right Direction for Housing

08/07/2015 14:13 BST | Updated 08/07/2016 10:59 BST

There was a small but significant announcement for housing in George Osborne's summer budget. The tax-free amount people can earn by taking in a lodger is going up from £4,250 a year to £7,500.

It's something we've been campaigning for at SpareRoom since 2009 and, while it may seem like small potatoes compared to the wider housing crisis in the UK, it represents something significant - an understanding that the houses we have already are just as important to solving the crisis as building new ones.

With building levels behind all forecasted targets, it's vital we make better use of existing stock and this will do just that. There are an estimated 19 million empty bedrooms in owner-occupied properties in England alone. Freeing up just 5% of them would accommodate almost a million people - the equivalent of a city the size of Birmingham.

In contrast to many current housing policies, which are often focused on smaller initiatives and only help a select few, the increase to the Rent a Room Scheme threshold has the potential to affect millions of people. With a spiraling need for affordable rented accommodation, not just in London but across the UK, making better use of empty rooms in existing properties frees up an untapped supply of housing.

As rooms let by homeowners are generally cheaper than those in more traditional flatshares it will make a real difference in terms of keeping rents down and increasing choice. It's also great news for homeowners who are worried about what will happen to their mortgage payments when interest rates finally rise.

The UK's housing crisis will take a generation to fix but measures such as this will be a huge help in terms of widening our options right now, without having to build on greenbelt or re-skill an entire workforce. That's something to celebrate.