The government is planning a £3m programme to combat the housing shortage by opening up unused rooms in properties across the country for rental. It will be supported by an ambitious Linux-based IT project.
The Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship will begin a nationwide audit of the number of spare rooms in the UK later this year. It plans to use an open source database to analyse the results.
Homeowners with more than 10 sq ft of unused space will be offered incentives to offer the space, classed as a "spare room", for rent.
"Providing affordable housing in the face of a rising population and the time it takes to build new developments has made the measure necessary," the department said. "Getting it right will depend on a rigorous analysis, which is why we have invested heavily in IT to support the project."
The database will be run and maintained outside current government contracts. An independent startup, Datadrive Information Computers, will manage the project. The database will run Microsoft Access on a customised version of Linux with specially designed middleware to manage data portability between the applications.
"The project has the means to create real social difference. The database and analysis software should help us house 200,000 people by the end of the year," said the company's chief executive Helen Back.
The department said it was looking to offer council tax breaks to homeowners who rent out rooms. It is also examining proposals to make renting compulsory. "We are examining the legal implications of compulsory renting," said a spokesman.