Hammersmith and Fulham Council is to allow its 17,000 tenants and leaseholders to run businesses from their own homes. The authority is proposing changes that would make it one of the first in the country to actively encourage tenants to set up on their own without shelling out for costly office space.
Tenancy agreements currently prevent many of the country's eight million social housing tenants from using their home for any form of trade or business and H&F Council has vowed to do away with the barmy rules to unleash a new generation of entrepreneurs in the age of austerity.
Housing Minister Grant Shapps says:
"I want all social tenants with the ambition, drive and vision to set up their own businesses to be given all the help they need to do so.
"Without the money to get their own new premises, tenants too often feel unable to get their projects off the ground as any homeowner would normally do.
"Tenants should have the same opportunities as anyone else, and landlords have the key to unlocking this untapped entrepreneurial talent. So I am delighted that Hammersmith & Fulham is taking this step to give tenants the same opportunities as homeowners to set up their own businesses."
Mr Shapps called for councils to use "common sense" and consider the potential impact of any business on neighbours. H&F will not allow residents to set up fast food outlets or motorcycle workshops, for example.
Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh, H&F Council Leader, who set up a publishing company withh his father- called BIBA Medical – said:
"I started my own business and know how hard you have to work to get it off the ground and keep it viable. We want to sweep away the barmy rules that hinder council tenants.
"Our proposals will set every entrepreneur, from the teenage computer whizz to the grandparent who makes exquisite crafts, free to plot a path to business success from the comfort of their own living room. We could have the next James Dyson or Alan Sugar in our borough but the tiresome red-tape of the past stops many people from ever getting their ideas off the ground."
Cllr Greenhalgh's comments were echoed by the Chartered Institute of Housing and Federation of Small Businesses. Sarah Webb, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said:
"CIH has produced new guidance on how social landlords can actively promote opportunities for tenants to run a business from home, and it is great to see Hammersmith and Fulham doing just that.
"This is a positive step that could offer employment opportunities to a significant number of people looking for work, particularly tenants who are looking after their family or have a long-term sickness or
The move could see residents setting up firms dealing in anything from web design to public relations, becoming virtual personal assistants or even full time sellers on eBay.
Residents will be fully consulted on the proposed change to the tenancy agreement, with tenants and leaseholders being invited to have their say in the coming months.
Hannah Holdroyd, from the London Policy Unit of the Federation of Small Businesses added:
"We are pleased to see this move by Hammersmith & Fulham Council and hope that they will also look to provide advice and support on the practicalities of running a small business from home for residents in the borough."