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Flatshare website highlights London housing 'crisis'

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Rupert Hunt appeals for flatmates in his online video.

[LONDON] The founder of a flatshare website is opening up his own plush London home to lodgers paying whatever they can afford in a bid to help ease the pressure on London housing.

Rupert Hunt, founder of SpareRoom.com, said he hoped that by taking in his own lodgers, others would be inspired to do so, helping ease demand for housing in Britain's capital.

His firm puts the price of average monthly room rent in London at £710 (S$1,455) per month.

"Demand has increased massively. At the moment it's not unusual to see 10 or 12 people for every room especially in some parts of London," Mr Hunt told AFP.

Demand for Mr Hunt's two spare rooms has not been slack.

His house in the trendy Spitalfields part of the British capital has a music room, a garden room and a "disco lounge" and comes with two stuffed peacocks.

"I've been pretty overwhelmed by the response, it's been incredible. I've had over 7,000 applications," he said.

"In England there's something like 19 million spare rooms, empty rooms and if we just convinced three per cent of that to take a lodger that's the size of a small city in extra housing."

Official figures from November showed the average London house price was £506,724 (S$1.04 million), compared to £186,325 across the whole of England and Wales.

The price of housing is likely to be a major issue in May's London mayoral election, which will decide who replaces Conservative Boris Johnson in the job.

At a debate on Thursday, the two leading contenders, Conservative Zac Goldsmith and Labour's Sadiq Khan, both spoke of the issue.

Mr Goldsmith called the situation a "crisis" and said transport links must be improved to "reflect the reality of more and more people living on the outskirts of London".

Mr Khan vowed to build more "genuinely affordable homes" within London and clamp down developers selling property to investors in the Middle East and Asia.

AFP