Council tenants may be offered cash to move to smaller home
Crawley Homes tenants living in large properties could soon be offered a cash incentive to move to a smaller council-owned home.
The proposal, which was put before a meeting of Crawley Borough Council’s Cabinet on Wednesday (October 10), would see tenants receive £500 for each bedroom released plus £500 to help with moving costs.
For example, a tenant living in a three-bedroom home who then moved to a one-bedroom home would receive £1,000 for the two rooms plus £500 costs.
The plan was put forward in an attempt to free up larger homes which had been under-occupied, such as those lived in by older tenants whose children had grown up and left home.
With the government’s housing benefit reforms due to come into play in April, the chance to downsize is likely to be an attractive one for some tenants.
Under the new rules, anyone of working age living in a Crawley Homes rented property and receiving housing benefit would have that benefit reduced by up to 25 per cent if they had unused bedrooms in their home.
The report warned that the change to housing benefit rules was likely to lead to a significant increase in tenants falling into rent arrears – a situation which would be further exacerbated as benefits would be paid directly to the tenants rather than to the landlord.
Cllr Richard Burrett (Con, Pound Hill North) reported that 955 tenants were currently under-occupying a home and receiving housing benefit and had been contacted about the option to move.
But he stressed that no tenants would be forced to move if they did not wish to do so.
He added: “We have a high level of housing need in the town and have quite a few properties that are under-occupied. In order to make the best use of our housing stock it is good to encourage people to downsize if that’s what they want to do.”
Cllr Michael Jones (Lab, Bewbush) was critical of the proposal and said: “I daresay the council has had a lot of contact from tenants. If I’d just received a letter telling me that very soon I wasn’t going to receive enough money to be able to cover my rent in a few months, I’d be in touch pretty quickly as well.
“Will there be 900 alternative council homes for these households to move into? Of course not. The Cabinet member says that all tenants will have a choice. What choice?
“To either take steps to pay the difference, or get into rent arrears and be evicted? That’s no choice at all.”
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