March 17 2014 Latest news:
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Householders in north Essex are being encouraged to take in a lodger as one way of overcoming homelessness in the area.
Mark Heaffey, a homelessness prevention officer with charity Solo Housing, wants more people to consider renting out a room to someone who needs it – a practice that at one time was commonplace but is less so today.
Mr Heaffey started working in Colchester last summer and has already found lodgings for 14 people.
He believes there are a lot more homeowners in the borough who could benefit from taking in a lodger and he wants to meet them to dispel a few myths and to put them in touch with people keen to rent a room.
Solo Housing helps single people who have nowhere to live. It has been working in parts of Suffolk and Norfolk for more than 20 years and is now expanding into Essex thanks to a government grant paid through Colchester Borough Council.
“One thing that puts some people off the idea of taking in a lodger is they have a preconception about what homeless people are like,” said Mr Heaffey.
“The vast majority aren’t living on the street – they are the ‘hidden homeless’ who may have had to move out of their home because their relationship has broken up or they have had an argument with a step-parent. They stay with friends, sleep on sofas but, really, they need a space to call their own.”
According to Mr Heaffey, there has been a rise in this sector of the community, most aged between 18 and 30 years, due to factors such as a downturn in the jobs market and the impact of recent welfare changes.
What he is offering is a matching service where potential landlords request the kind of person they are looking for and he finds a suitable candidate from his database of people seeking lodgings.
“People wouldn’t normally dare to rent to a stranger from the paper but we can vet people and make introductions,” he added.
The going rate for a room is about £70-75 per week and earnings of up to £4,250 from a lodger are tax free –money that could come in handy for many homeowners.
Mr Heaffey said: “I recently placed a lodger in the home of a middle-aged couple whose son had left home. They needed the extra money and were glad to have a young person around the house.
“In some cases people negotiate a little bit off the rent in return for some small jobs around the house –it’s a win-win for everyone.”
To contact Mr Heaffey, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07876 861155.