The cost of flatsharing in the UK is set to keep on rising, according to research carried out by Easyroommate.co.uk. Average room rents are expected to reach an almost unaffordable £448 per month by December 2013, compared with the present £430 per month. Regionally, the West Midlands has seen the biggest increase in rents, with room rates in Wales actually falling. The research found that the number of bedrooms available for rent has fallen by nearly half (44%) over the last 12 months.
Although many homeowners have turned to letting out a room to help them make ends meet, demand for shared accommodation has also risen significantly. Buying a property is now out of reach of many, driving up demand for rental property. As rents have risen across the board, those at the lower end of the market have increasingly been forced to downsize, renting a room only where previously they might have stretched to a self-contained property. Added to this, the government’s housing benefit reforms have put pressure on claimants to downsize. Single people under 35 who rent from a private landlord can no longer claim the housing benefit rate for a one bedroom flat; payments have been restricted to the rate for renting a single room in a shared house.
But one of the most significant benefit reforms has yet to bite. The so-called “bedroom tax” will cut the amount of housing benefit tenants can claim if they are deemed to have a spare room in their council or housing association home. The new rules come into force from April 2013 with an expected 600,000 people affected nationwide. Tenants with one spare room will lose £14 per week on average. The aim is to free up larger council housing, which is in short supply, and often under-occupied. It is expected that many tenants with spare rooms will struggle to meet the shortfall when their benefit is cut. They will essentially have two options: downsize to a smaller property, or rent out the spare room to make up the difference. Expect the number of flatshares advertised to increase from April.