Shaff Prabatani, founder of Storemates.co.uk asks whether 'Storage Sharing' can help those experiencing housing difficulty.
This month the Government rolled out its wide-ranging benefit reforms. Controversially, one of the corner stones has been the “Under Occupation Penalty” (dubbed the “Bedroom Tax” by its opponents), which targets the 660,000 tenants of under-occupied council properties and social housing who are in receipt of housing benefit.
Under the new rules, housing benefit will be reduced by 14% if residents have a spare bedroom, or by 25% if they have two or more extra rooms. Critics say this unfairly puts financial
stress on vulnerable families, and in particular on disabled residents who have lived in their homes all of their lives. They will now face a £15–£25 reduction a week in benefits and risk falling into arrears or facing eviction if they cannot make up the shortfall.The government says the policy is designed to encourage people to move into accommodation appropriate to their needs, to free up larger properties for many families who need the extra space.
However, many housing charities have highlighted the fact that there are limited smaller properties available to move into. So, even if households did want to downsize, they may not be able to do so due to the lack of supply; plus they could face additional costs of over £100 a month in reduced benefits – a significant amount for low earners which could tip them into rent arrears.
So how can those affected by the cut make up the shortfall? Well, besides working longer hours or sub-letting a spare room, an easier option for many could be to rent out a spare room as storage space to people looking for cheap storage.
Storemates provides a platform for people with a little extra room to advertise this to people seeking storage, but not at expensive self storage prices. Those affected by the bedroom tax could feasibly rent out a spare room, loft or garage if they have one and make back in monthly rent enough to cover their shortfall. This will also benefit the many overcrowded families who could benefit from a little extra space to store their belongings, and who often live side by side with those who are under-occupying their property.
Do the sums
Those seeking to rent out their space will have to work out how the additional income will affect their benefit entitlement, but with careful price-setting they may be able to make the arrangement work for them. Besides the financial benefits, there are also the “community benefits” as neighbours realise that by collaborating in this way can help both sides take back control of their circumstances and their living spaces.
Storemates hopes to promote this opportunity widely to Local Authorities, social landlords and individuals who could benefit. For many households, listing their additional space for free viaStoremates.co.uk could be the only way they avoid being evicted from their family home.
by Shaff Prabatani, Founder and Co-Director of Storemates
helter, or seek advice from your Local Authority’s housing advice services or social landlord.