Quick and Affordable Accommodation – Private Individuals to the Rescue

After a year of living on the street I finally stumbled across a means by which I was able to find quality accommodation – albeit temporary – in London for myself and my fiancėe, and at arelatively affordable price.

Accommodation in London of almost any type is at a premium and can be extremely expensive, particularly for those, such as myself, not fully meeting the Statutory Homeless criteria and not inreceipt of state aid.

Fortunately, as a The Big Issue vendor, I did have an income, albeit not sufficiently high to maketypical London rental or B&B prices affordable without subsidy.

The solution I came across, having researched all the usual channels without success, was Airbnb, the online portal through which thousands of UK homeowners (and millions worldwide) privately let spare rooms in their homes – sometimes even entire properties – typically to overseas tourists.

On this website I was surprised not only by the sheer quantity and apparent quality of the vacant rooms and properties available often for immediate occupancy – even in London – but also by the fact that many home owners were willing to offer substantial discounts to those wanting to book a stay of a month or more. Sometimes 50% or even more.

When it comes to payment it gets even better. Firstly, no deposit is required – which is otherwise  a major stumbling block to renting. Then there are a variety of payment options including PayPal,Debit and Credit Cards. In the case of the latter, resulting in the availability of up to about 6 weeksinterest-free credit. And whilst these payment options are not so so frequently accessible to manyhomeless people themselves, they are available to many support organisations and private sponsors.

The result is a quick, easy, and relatively inexpensive means of getting often vulnerable people off the streets without the need to jump through hoops as typically demanded by the various welfare organisations.

As I write, I am now into my second month of private rental accommodation through Airbnb. It has been an altogether positive experience, one which probably saved my life during the recent sub-zero temperatures to which the country has recently been subject.

Whilst awaiting a nationwide roll-out of the admirable Housing First initiative, a national portal along the lines of Airbnb through which private individuals can let spare rooms or even entire properties to the homeless at reasonable, or even zero, cost would seem to be a viable stop-gap solution.

In the meantime Airbnb itself could be used as a ready-made solution, although they do add their service fees in addition to the rental costs.

In implementing a national portal as proposed with the object being getting homeless people into housing as quickly as possible, one potential stumbling block capable of slowing down the process and inhibit its smooth running could be the current lengthy time it takes for the DSS to process benefits claims and adapt to changing circumstances.

One solution to this is a blockchain-type “smart contract” facility integrated into the platform which has the ability to create a three-way legal contract between the housing provider, the client (homeless person) and the DSS. This would eliminate the need for the copying, transmission, processing and re-processing of the related documents between all concerned parties, thus saving potentially weeks of delays and significantly reducing the manpower involved.

Easier said than done I hear you say. Nevertheless the technology is already with us in the form of the Etherium token currently being incorporated into the very latest systems being deployed where any form of contract, particularly involving multiple parties, is a key requirement. Such as in property and energy-related transactions, and of course Fintech applications.

The problem currently faced by Etherium type implementations (and indeed the Bitcoin model where it has its origin) is the slow speed of transaction processing and the related relatively high transaction cost. This is however solved by moving to the more recent DAG technology which eliminates most of the foreseen issues. Here is not the place for a detailed discussion of the technical details. But further information may be found in the following articles:

Is Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG) Blockchain’s New Competitor?

Such a system is already under construction by a social enterprise, Outcast Technology,  currently being inaugurated, which is creating an “Alt” currency for use in facilitating charitabledonations directly between donors and beneficiaries, whilst eliminating the risk of mismanagement,potential misappropriation, and other pitfalls of passing through intermediary organisations.

It is possible that the DSS and social services are already looking into their own implementat ions  of such technology. I have no idea whether they are or not. But they would certainly benefit from doing so, since the potential savings in both manpower, time and costs is likely to be considerable.

Tony Wood
Outcast Foundation

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