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Anna Leszkiewicz has published 42 articles

Bed in a shed

Landlord attempts to rent a garden shed, which has no running water or electricity
Anna Leszkiewicz on Thursday 26th January 2012
Photograph: South West News Service

Demand for Oxford rooms has become so high that, for £450 per month, people were prepared to live in a garden shed.

A landlord tried to rent out the 8ft by 8ft shed, with no running water or electricity, as a “double room in a garden house” on the website Gumtree.

Although tenants would have been permitted to use the kitchen, bathroom and washing machine in the main semi-detached house, Homeowner Greg Farkas was forced to withdraw the advert after realising it fell foul of planning laws.

Mr Farkas, 34, told the Daily Mail he had more than 20 inquiries before he withdrew the advert in an area where the average house price is £230,000. He said, “I had no idea about the planning laws when I advertised the garden house.

“I only had the advert up for two days but I must have got over 20 inquiries from people interested in renting it out. Some were students currently living in Oxford but many were professional people with full-time jobs who just can't afford to live in their current properties.

'If you put insulation in it I think it should be fine. If people want to live in that shed that's their choice.'

Oxford City Council said he would have to apply for planning permission for a new dwelling before he could rent the shed out to tenants.

Councillor Joe McManners said, 'I think this demonstrates how dire Oxford's housing crisis is, that people are charging a large amount of money for what essentially looks like a shed. 'It is indicative of the shortage of housing to be rented at affordable rates. But it is not acceptable in the 21st century for people to be living in sheds.'

Currently, there are 6,338 people in Oxford on the waiting list for council housing. While the council has about 8,000 properties, each year less than 600 become available for rent.

Daniel Stone, OUSU Vice President for Chairties and Community, told Cherwell, “Oxford is an attractive location for commuters, families, young professionals and students. Market forces dictate that this level of demand met with a limited supply of housing will naturally lead to a rise in prices.

“It is the responsibility of Colleges and the University to provide affordable, good quality accommodation and to publicise the support available to students who might find themselves in financial difficulty.”

One Lincoln undergraduate, Leanora Volpe commented, “It’s ridiculous that we pay more than a lot of other students for their university halls, and considering our terms are shorter and we're not allowed to work during term time it seems really steep.

“Having nothing left over from the loan to live on makes it hard to cope, especially towards the end of term.”

However, Simon Tyrrell, associate director of Finders Keepers in Cowley Road, felt that the case was not a common one, acknowledging the situation as “indicative of greed rather than the state of the housing market. If they were trying to rent it for £150 a month it would be different.” English student Cassie Davies agreed, saying, “It just seems absurd that he’d try to rent out a shed for that much, when for £20 more a month I can be living in a spacious en-suite room in college in the heart of Oxford.”

First-year Ellie Rendle opposed the council's move to put a stop to the tenancy, commenting, “I was shocked and horrified by the council's decision. It's blatant discrimination against those massive lads like me who find the shed lifestyle liberating.”

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