Could the War in Ukraine Impact the Housing Crisis in the UK?
In an incredible show of humanitarian compassion, over 200,000 UK householders have signed up to the Government’s campaign to provide a spare room to individuals or families fleeing the war in Ukraine. This is despite mounting anxiety over soaring global energy and food bills described as ‘catastrophic’ by ‘Money Saving Expert’, Martin Lewis.
Each household will receive £350 per month as a ‘thank you’, but this will only just cover the increased costs for many taking in displaced families. In other words, those willing to open their homes are undoubtedly showing the most wonderful British spirit of selflessness and generosity. Latest estimates suggest hundreds of thousands of desperate Ukrainians are expected to arrive in Britain as the war continues and we can be proud of our efforts to offer them sanctuary.
This powerful awakening in willingness to care for our fellow global citizens has restored my faith in humankind, and there is no reason why this goodwill would not be extended to others. We have our own home-grown housing crisis desperately requiring intervention. Impossible market rents, pay freezes and a lack of affordable homes mean that 3.4 million young adults alone (age 20–34 ) are unable to leave their childhood homes and move on with their lives, often impacting their mental health and wellbeing. Plus, with benefit freezes and the end of Covid eviction bans, Councils warn of a ‘tidal wave’ of people rendered homeless, raising numbers by a third over the next two years.
The question is, will a nation that has revealed itself to have a huge heart extend its goodwill to our own compatriots in need of help? In fact, ordinary UK householders and their 18.6 million spare rooms, are the group who could make one of the most dramatic impacts on the housing crisis. By offering some of those rooms at reduced rates rather than full market rents, they can still help mitigate their own rising bills whilst opening up affordable housing to potentially millions of people on restricted incomes. One scheme in particular provides an equitable exchange that benefits all parties.
Hapipod.com is a matching site connecting householders with lodgers willing to offer up to 8 hours of time or practical help per week in exchange for a room fee of no more than £81 per week (£350 pcm). Similar to the Government’s refugee hosting scheme, it offers householders a way to get a monthly income, but also tailored help with anything from upkeep to shopping, childcare, pet-sitting or just good company. Users search for ideal homesharers based on personality and shared interests, and all subscribers have passed an ID verification and background check.
It was born as a result of my watching the housing crisis for young adults continue to worsen, whilst witnessing many householders, particularly during lockdown, experience unwelcome isolation. I realised there were two groups who could benefit one another, but there was no way for them to meet. Initially the site was launched as an intergenerational scheme, but due to the variety of people registering, it soon evolved into a practical exchange of help for lower room rates, benefiting people of all ages in all circumstances.
The tragedy for hundreds of thousands of displaced Ukrainians likely to arrive here has unearthed an amazing momentum among our great British nation to offer help and shelter. Amongst a population with millions of spare rooms there is now an even greater opportunity. If we can capitalize on this spirit of mutual help, we can power huge positive change for the wellbeing of not just those fleeing conflict, but for people struggling closer to home.
Andrea Frankenthal is the founder of Hapipod.com. Visit the website or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.