Many people will have lived in shared housing as a choice either as students or when first leaving home. However, with changes to the welfare system and rents for 1-bedroom properties rapidly rising throughout most of the UK, sharing has increasingly become the sole housing option for many single people.
We know that shared housing can provide a vital and affordable stepping stone for people moving out of homelessness. Whether you are a social housing provider, private landlord or a Help to Rent project we want to make it easier for you to offer shared accommodation and to make this work. Successful sharing programmes follow key principles whether the property is in the social or private sector.
Why a focus on sharing?
In 2012 UK-wide welfare reform changes raised the age that people in receipt of Local Housing Allowance (LHA) were expected to live in shared accommodation. This Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR) now applies to anyone under 35 rather than 25.
As a result of this change, we have seen a significant rise in the demand for shared accommodation and expect this to rise. This demand is exacerbated by the following:
- there is often a large shortfall between the SAR level and market rents being charged for rooms in shared houses. Help to Rent schemes have told us that it is virtually impossible to find shared accommodation in their area within the SAR. This leaves tenants with large shortfalls to make up which they cannot afford
- expensive agency fees, large deposits, and landlords' reluctance to rent to sharers receiving LHA present further obstacles
- our own research showed that less than 1% of the shared rooms advertised were accessible to those receiving the SAR (source: No room available, 2012)
- the welfare restriction applies across the UK and yet in many places there isn’t a culture or supply of shared housing.
In response to this increased demand, we have supported a number of projects to set up shared housing programmes and drawn from their experience to produce best practice guides to help others.
We will continue to campaign for a change in the law to better reflect the challenges faced by people under 35 looking for affordable housing. (See our work on housing affordability.)
However, whilst we press for this, we know that many people will be struggling to find a home. We want to support housing providers, both private and social, to create housing solutions which helps meet this growing need.
The Sharing Solutions Programme
The Sharing Solutions programme was initially funded by the English Government and ran for 18 months from October 2013 to March 2015. Eight Help to Rent schemes, operating in a variety of different housing markets around the country were funded to set up and deliver projects of shared accommodation.
The aims were to increase the supply of shared housing and support the creation of sustainable shared tenancies, as well as gather learning about different models of sharing. The programme was evaluated by Sheffield Hallam University. The Evaluation of the Sharing Solutions Programme looks in detail at the effectiveness of different approaches.
Spare to Share
Throughout the Sharing Solutions Programme we gathered learning and collated best practice from the schemes, which we used to create a Sharer’s Toolkit. This is a guide for practitioners hoping to set up a scheme for sharers, or improve their provision for those subject to the SAR. The toolkit also includes lots of useful and downloadable document templates.
We used the learning from Sharing Solutions as a basis to produce Spare to Share (PDF) This toolkit supports social housing providers and their partners to create and support shared tenancies in the social housing sector. It is aimed at local authorities and registered social housing providers who are proposing to use, or already using, their housing stock to house sharers.
This area of work is developing rapidly so we would welcome your input and any information you have on projects in your area.
We have funded a number of projects, in different housing markets, in North London, in Hull, in East Wales and in Stoke who are piloting approaches to sharing in social housing and we will be sharing their experiences. See our Sharing in Social Housing Report for a summary of the findings.
We can help
If you would like to share your own best practice or want to see if there are areas of your work others have had success with, then please get in touch and we can see if we can help. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org Please also visit the Help to Rent Forum.