AirBnB as an antidote to the Bedroom Tax?

photo by Raj Kumar

Yesterday, I was at HouseMark‘s Digital Futures Club. This is a regular event that I am part of with a number of others, and it has become a growing club with more housing providers who want to explore the world of digital technologies joining all the time. Check it out here if you want to be part of it.

At this event, Paul Taylor and I kicked off with a joint presentation about what members had told us they wanted from the Club, and the kinds of meaningful activities we envisaged being facilitated to ensure that members could implement digital technologies in their own organisations. I was struck by something that Paul said during this session, namely that “there are no stupid ideas”.

So, after the event, a number of us congregated in the pub round the corner, the pub, of course, being the place where most great ideas are fostered. This is so true that I am thinking of launching an ideas generating app called Pub, except that it probably already exists. Anyway, after most other people had drifted away, Paul and I were still kicking ideas around, and I mentioned that I had stayed in an AirBnB apartment the previous night. And quite quickly, this thought got linked with another we had been discussing about the Bedroom Tax. So, I asked the question, why couldn’t we organise an AirBnB for Bedroom Tax; i.e. something which allows people subject to the bedroom tax, but who need to keep their “spare” room to rent it out for short periods to cover the gap in their Housing Benefit payments?

Photo by Duncan Morrow

Now, go on, I can hear you shouting already about all the reasons why this is impracticable, impossible, and even immoral. But, as Paul said, sometimes you have to act as if there are no stupid ideas. Throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. And, as we repeatedly said and heard yesterday, and at other times, the UK social housing sector has no choice but to change radically, so all ideas have to be considered.

Could we do this? Why not?

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4 thoughts on “AirBnB as an antidote to the Bedroom Tax?

  1. John

    I did a number of seminars back in late 2013 on the same issue, though not airBnB but explaining the position of lodgers and how they can be used to ameliorate the bedroom tax.

    The lodger position – and note well from the outset do not associate lodger with ‘stranger danger’ as a lodger can be someone you know and even family members can claim housing benefit for this so long as they are not a “close relative” which is a specific HB term.

    Your niece or nephew or aunt or uncle are not “close relatives” under HB terminology and they can rent a room in a tenants home and receive HB for that.

    The lodger position also varies as to impact dependent on whether you are on UC or not. If not you are only allowed to keep the first £20 each week of the lodgers rent before the rest sees a 65% reduction in benefit. More if the person is a boarder not a lodger and they are two separate issues.

    However under UC regulations you can charge a lodge £1 million per night and it does not affect your benefit 9although any income above £7500 per year from renting out rooms is taxable.

    The lodger is also treated as part of your housing need and thus you are entitled to a bedroom under the bedroom tax in the old system, yet under UC the lodger is not classed as part of your household and the bedroom tax is still applied.

    Under the airBnB system each time a tenant has someone saying for one night (a lodger) creates a change in circumstances and so the tenant would be liable for bedroom tax on the Mon, Tues, Wed, have a reduced bedroom tax or escape it on the Thursday, and then go back to being liable on the Fri, Sat and Sun and so on until the next one night airBnB customer came along.

    The admin nightmare for the tenant as well as the local authority (and for UC) under the airBnB idea would be so burdensome the system would crash and leave many without any HB at all and thus at greater risk of arrears and eviction – or precisely the opposite of what this ‘pub conversation’ set out to achieve.

    As such the airBnB idea is very much a non runner

  2. I note from twitter comments that instead of looking at the idea in a critical fashion, the responses concentrate on how ‘digital’ would do this. That typifies my many complaints over the digital digital digital focus as put in all the apps and IT you wish but if the original idea is a dog with fleas and in reality does the opposite of what it originally set out to achieve….

    • Thanks Joe, I hear what you say, but at the moment want to explore ways round the difficulties you envisage. I think there may be something in Annemarie’s comments which are now appended to the post

  3. John, there are some incredibly complex issues around HB and the fine line between contrived and contrivance which itself could take 1000 words to explain just in outline.

    UC tenants taking in lodgers – an very specifically lodgers they know – can most definitely work and was the underlying theme of my seminar presentations on this almost 3 years ago. It is also an idea (leaving aside apps and other digital routes for a second) that all social landlords should seriously consider promoting. It is also very beneficial to the social tenant too … once all an sundry get over the misconceptions and preconceptions of lodgers and ‘stranger danger’ etc.

    The system (again ignoring digital routes which only come after the basic idea is shown to work) works very easily and with very few if any risks for the tenant and landlord and is very practical too.

    So I am not against the idea, quite the opposite in fact, but the focus has to be on the idea and how it can readily work, and then but only then on how ‘digital’ can be used to promote and make more accessible and the rest

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