Raise the Roof updates
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VICTORY! Chancellor boosts Rent A Room tax threshold to £7,500
08 Jul 2015
Were delighted the Chancellor has raised the Rent a Room Scheme threshold to £7,500 in the summer budget. Its something SpareRoom has been campaigning for since 2009, so to see it finally happen is fantastic.
All too often housing initiatives benefit a select few, so this is a rare opportunity to do something meaningful for renters and homeowners alike. In the midst of a housing crisis, and with building levels behind all forecasted targets, its vital we make better use of existing stock and this will do just that.
With 19 million empty bedrooms in owner-occupied properties in England alone, this has the potential to unlock a huge source of affordable accommodation, which will help keep rents down and give renters more choice. By letting homeowners keep more of the money they earn by renting out a room it will also help people cope with interest rate rises, when they happen.
Well done to everyone involved - thank you for signing the petition, lobbying your MP and supporting the campaign in general.
Solihull MP, Julian Knight, urges Chancellor to increase the Rent a Room Scheme tax-free threshold
01 Jul 2015
Solihull MP, Julian Knight, has urged George Osborne to raise the Rent a Room Scheme tax-free threshold in his Budget statement on July 8.
Mr Knights Budget submission means this tax break is now on the Chancellors radar and anything that can alleviate the UKs housing crisis should be top priority for Government.
Raising the threshold to reflect room rents of today, not those of 18 years ago (when the threshold was last set) is a common sense move. It would boost affordable supply in the rental market something thats desperately needed as well as giving homeowners a safety net when interest rates rise.
Raising the Rent A Room Scheme threshold discussed in the House of Commons
17 Jun 2015
It was great to see that raising the Rent A Room Scheme threshold was on the agenda yesterday at Treasury Questions in the House of Commons.
Newly-elected Conservative MP for Solihull, Julian Knight, who was previously personal finance editor at the Independent on Sunday (and so knows all about household purse strings), suggested raising the threshold in a bid to help homeowners and boost supply of affordable rooms to rent.
So what was the response? Harriett Baldwin suggested a Budget submission to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which we know Mr Knight is working on right now. With George Osborne delivering his emergency budget on July the 8th, this is a great opportunity to finally address the out of date Rent a Room threshold and do something to combat the housing crisis.
The Green Party pledge to increase the Rent a Room Scheme tax allowance
14 Apr 2015
As part of our Housing Election we asked the five main political parties if they supported raising the Rent a Room Scheme tax-free threshold. Four out of the five parties supported the suggestion but the Green Party has been the first to commit to an actual proposal.
Today, in their party manifesto, the Green Party announced they would increase the tax-free allowance to £7,250 per year, a significant increase on the current £4,250 but not enough to cover Londons lodger rents, which average at £8,280. That said, the increase goes a long way to incentivise homeowners to rent out their spare rooms and the impact of the increase could be huge.
Itll be interesting to see if any of the other parties follow suit and suggest allowances in line with todays rents.
More support for Raise the Roof
22 Oct 2014
You may have noticed the list of Raise the Roof supporters has been growing over the last few weeks. We now have additional support from the Association of Residential Letting Agents, the British Property Federation, propertychecklists.co.uk, RentalRaters, Fixflo and Locatable.
Heres what Ian Fletcher from the British Property Federation had to say about the campaign:
We are not going to build our way out of a housing crisis over night and therefore we need a range of solutions that add homes, but also make best use of those we have now. Renting a room is a win-win, helping homeowners who may be struggling with their own housing costs and providing another person with a home. Government should do more to incentivise those who are looking to make the best use of spare rooms and increasing the tax free threshold is long overdue.
Read what the other supporters have to say about Raise the Roof on the Who supports Raise the Roof page.
Small but significant victory
14 Oct 2014
This week weve learnt that government has finally taken note of Raise the Roof.
A report on Access To Private Rented Housing For The Under 35s published by the All Party Parliamentary Group for the private-rented sector said:
The Group calls on the Government to increase the rent-a-room allowance to the levels suggested by SpareRoom.co.uk.
This response to our Raise the Roof campaign is a great step forward. Thanks to each and everyone who has signed the petition already. Without your support we may not have attracted the attention of the MPs involved in the Group.
But the battle isnt won yet the Groups recommendations have to wade their way through political debate and red tape. Its really important that we keep the campaigns momentum going at this stage.
If you havent already signed the petition, please do so today.
The more noise we make, the more government will have to take note.
Thanks again for your support,
The SpareRoom team
Support from across the private-rented sector
13 Aug 2014
Weve been busy behind the scenes of Raise the Roof in recent weeks, working hard to boost the campaign from all angles.
From one side, weve been drumming up support from our friends and colleagues in the private-rented sector. Since our last update weve been working with the National Landlords Association, Generation Rent and Endsleigh insurance, who all support Raise the Roof.
Their support is significant - it proves that raising the Rent a Room Scheme tax threshold has positive consequences for both landlords and tenants. It really is a win-win situation for everyone.
From the other side weve been developing awareness for the campaign in Westminster. Lord Best, former director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the National Federation of Housing Associations, (who originally helped implement the Rent a Room Scheme in the 1990s) is confident theres appetite to increase the tax threshold and has been working with us to raise awareness.
Weve also spoken to the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Governments Valuation Office about Raise the Roof and our wider aims.
Its important government realises the importance of a proper incentive for the Rent a Room scheme, especially as interest rates are set to rise soon. Rental income could be the lifeline many people need to keep up with their mortgage payments.
What happens next?
Our next challenge is to get more signatures on the petition. We need 100,000 signatures to have a chance of getting the issue debated in the House of Commons. If just 3% of SpareRoom users signed the petition wed reach this goal. But we want to go further. We want to show the Government that EVERYONE who uses SpareRoom believes in the importance of tackling the housing crisis..
If you agree, please take a moment to add your support to Raise the Roof .
More support in Westminster
21 Mar 2014
It's great to see Raise the Roof being discussed in Westminster. This time Tim Loughton (MP, for East Worthing and Shoreham) brought it up with Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch).
"The hon. Lady is making some good points about the shortage of affordable housing. Does she support an increase in the threshold of £4,250 for the rent a room scheme, in which landlords can rent out a room or floor of their house tax-free, which has not changed for many years, and does not reflect current rental values? I do not see such a measure in the Budget, but would she support an increase?"
"I completely support that. Only last night, I was talking to tenants in Haggerston about rent a room and the ability to take in a lodger. They worried about getting into tax and so on, and they were worried about the threshold. That is exactly the concern. In my constituency, someone could legitimately rent out a room in their home for £200 or even £250 a week, so they would quickly reach the threshold."
A missed opportunity
21 Mar 2014
George Osborne missed a great opportunity in this week's budget to use the Rent a Room Scheme to ease the housing shortage and help people struggling with the cost of living crisis.
Don't worry though, we're still pushing Raise the Roof and are in discussions with several MPs about how best to progress.
As part of the ongoing campaigning work we're doing we sent all MPs some further information in support of the campaign.
We focussed on three key points:
1 - The current threshold is a deterrent, not an incentive
In February 2014 SpareRoom polled 600 homeowners who had previously downloaded information about taking in lodgers to see whether they had actually rented a room. We found that 65% hadn't - of those 52% said they were put off taking in a lodger by potentially having to fill out a tax return. This means a tax break intended as an incentive has now become a deterrent.
2 - Homeowners are currently being taxed on money that isn't theirs
The current threshold includes all charges, including utilities. This means people renting out rooms potentially end up paying tax on money that isn't income but expenditure.
A single person benefitting from a 25% council tax reduction loses this if they take in a lodger, they also see their utility bills rise. They can charge their lodger an amount to cover these increases in the rent, which is what is overwhelmingly expected by the market, but if it takes them over the threshold they'll be taxed on it.
3 - Demand for rooms is rapidly outstripping supply
In January 2014 SpareRoom saw a 19% increase in people looking for rooms compared to January 2013. Yet the increase in rooms available was just 0.5%. That's a stark contrast with the previous year's increase where both supply and demand rose by 16% year on year.
The imbalance between supply and demand demonstrates the importance of reforming the Rent a Room scheme and encouraging more people to enter the room rental market. Increasing stock is a slow process, improving our use of existing stock isn't.
We've had a positive response so far - the next step is to look at how we can best put our case to Treasury. Neither crisis (housing or cost of living) will end at any point soon so neither will Raise the Roof.
Questions, quesions - Raise the Roof is making noises in Westminster
05 Mar 2014
We've sent information on Raise the Roof to every MP as well as selected peers and advisers. We've had some supportive feedback already and it's also good to see the issue has thrown up a couple of questions in parliament.
Jeremy Lefroy, conservative MP for Stafford, asked how many people have taken advantage of the Rent a Room Scheme in the past 10 years.
Jonathan Reynolds, Labour MP for Stalybridge and Hyde (and also Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change) asked what it would cost to raise the threshold to £7,500 per year.
Neither got a full answer to their question. We've submitted a Freedom of Information request asking for similar figures so we'll see what comes back.
SpareRoom's new partnership with Shelter
03 Mar 2014
Today sees the launch of a new partnership between SpareRoom and Raise the Roof's main supporter Shelter. We've pledged to raise £75,000 a year to help fund Shelter's free advice line, through a combination of SpareRoom donations, staff fundraising and contributions from our 3.8 million users.
Find out more about Homes for Good and why we're keen to support Shelter in their work.
One week in...
17 Feb 2014
Raise the Roof has been up and running for a week now and we're off to a great start. Our petition on Change.org has gained 7,348 signatures in just 7 days, making it the most popular petition on Change.org in the UK over the weekend. That just shows how big an issue housing is right now.
After the coverage we got in The Daily Mirror on launch day, Mail Online also covered the campaign on Wednesday.
Matt was also asked to write a blog piece on Raise the Roof for The Fabian Society.
Spreading the word We went to the Social Market Foundation round table on housing on Wednesday and Matt had the opportunity to bring up the campaign with Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron and Toby Lloyd, Shelter's Head of Policy. Shelter are supporting Raise the Roof so were unsurprisingly in agreement. Tim certainly recognised the importance of using current stock better and has promised to read through our campaign documents.
What next? There's plenty more to be done in the weeks ahead but we're off to a great start. Thanks to everyone who signed the petition last week. Don't forget, there's still more you can do to help spread the word. Why not email your MP, asking them to get behind the campaign? You can tell them they already have SpareRoom's briefing document on the issue - we emailed it to them on Monday 10th.
That's all for now - check back for more updates over the course of the campaign.
10 Feb 2014
Raise the Roof is up and running.
Before we even got our press release out this morning we got a mention in The Daily Mirror.
We also had supportive tweets from Labour's leader in the house of lords Janet Royall and Andy Love, MP for Edmonton.
We've got plenty more planned for the coming days so check back for updates. Meanwhile, if you haven't signed our petition yet what are you waiting for?
It's time to Raise the Roof
03 Feb 2014
Keeping a roof over your head - whether you're buying or renting it - is getting more and more expensive. We desperately need more houses to be built in the UK but, until that happens (and it'll take time), we also need to use the ones we've got more effectively.
With under-occupancy amongst homeowners at almost 50% it makes sense to encourage more people to rent out a spare room in their homes. Not only will they benefit from a little more cash in their pockets (helping them cope with the cost of living crisis and, ultimately, avoid repossession if things get worse) it could also free up thousands of rooms for people struggling to find somewhere affordable to live.
That's why we're launching Raise the Roof, asking the government to increase the tax free amount people can earn from renting out a room. The Rent a Room Scheme lets people earn up to £4,250 a year but the threshold hasn't been updated since 1997 and is seriously out of date.
Over the coming weeks and months we'll be talking to MPs to raise awareness and set out the benefits of a change to the threshold. We'll also be pushing our message to the media and spreading the word amongst renters and homeowners (and anyone else who thinks we need to sort out the housing situation sooner rather than later).
Renting out rooms isn't the long term fix to the problem but it's the perfect short term solution. You can help by signing our petition and by contacting your MP to let them know housing is important to you.
This is the first update of many so check back to follow our progress.
Thanks, Matt & the SpareRoom team