16 July 2014

Council’s house swap schemes free up badly needed homes

Thirty-five more families have swapped their council homes since April this year in a move which both frees up badly needed homes and helps tenants hit by the Government’s under occupation rules.

Hundreds of tenants are struggling with money after benefit reductions took effect penalising those deemed to have spare bedrooms under the so called ‘bedroom tax'. At the same time hundreds of families desperately need bigger homes.

Increasing numbers have signed up for the council’s Mutual Exchange and Tenant Incentive Scheme (TIS). In the last financial year alone almost 200 households have swapped.

Councillor Bill Randall, Chair of Housing, said: “Brighton & Hove is already facing a rising tide of homelessness and a growing demand for affordable housing. Now hundreds of council households are dealing with the added dilemma of whether to pay more every week for a spare room, find a lodger, or move.

“The council is doing everything it can to help these households: the Mutual Exchange Scheme and the Tenant Incentive Scheme are bringing a great deal relief, and in most cases families are really happy with their move.

“We are also working with a number of partners in the city including the East Sussex Credit Union, Money Advice and Community Support and the Citizens Advice Bureau, to offer free advice and support to tenants and residents who are struggling with growing debt as a result of government welfare reform. Too many council tenants are continuing to pay the Under Occupation Tax for empty bedrooms: an amount they can ill afford, as many are already in debt.

Margaret and Kerry swapped homes under the council's Mutual Exchange Scheme.

Margaret had been thinking about downsizing ever since her daughter left home. With two school age sons still at home she also found herself facing payment through the under occupation rule for the spare room in her 3 bedroom house. Margaret said: “I have been so happy here, living on this street for the last 12 years, but it’s too big for me now.”

Just a few doors away, in a 2 bed house, on the same street live Kerry and Lee with their two children, a teenage son and an older daughter, Kerry said, Kerry said:

”We love this area and want to stay because of the school, family and friends, but we are too squashed; the kids need their own rooms. We have been looking for a 3 bedroom house for ages, but nothing has come up locally”

A chance conversation between Margaret and her friend Mary provided the answer.

As soon as Margaret mentioned she wanted to downsize Mary introduced her to Kerry, her daughter-in-law, and the rest, as they say, is history!

Mary explained, “As soon as they visited each other they wanted to swap – it’s the perfect solution – everyone is happy – especially me because I still have my friend and my family in the same road!”

Mutual Exchange

A mutual exchange is where a tenant swaps their home with another council or housing association tenant. Tenants looking for someone to exchange with can use a service called Exchange Locate where they can list their current house and search for suitable properties. Once a property swap is found an application has to be made to the council.

Tenant Incentive Scheme (TIS)

The Transfer Incentive Scheme (TIS) is for council tenants who are living in accommodation suitable for families, have one or more bedrooms that they no longer need and are interested in downsizing or ending their tenancy. It is also available for tenants who have a wheelchair-adapted property they no longer need and who could move to a new home without adaptations. The tenant will be prioritised through the Homemove scheme will be eligible to receive a cash incentive of up to £2,500 following a move.