Headlines: August 6th, 2010

Communities and Local Government has launched a scheme that will give eight million tenants the chance to see details of every council and housing association tenant looking to exchange homes across the country.

Tenants wanting to move can face an uphill battle, pitting themselves against the record numbers of families on social housing waiting lists. They see swapping homes as their only means of escaping properties that no longer meet their needs. Sometimes it can simply be in the wrong place for their job or prospective work or tenants might just need to move to support an elderly relative for example.

The new system will help to address the contradictory current situation where over a quarter-of-a-million households live in overcrowded accommodation while a further 430,000 households are unable to easily downsize from larger properties they no longer need. This means that the nation’s stock of affordable homes is inefficiently used and means a loss of opportunity for tenants.

The Scheme is based on a report published by the National Housing Federation. Among its many recommendations on improving social housing mobility, the report concludes that many existing tenants do not apply for a transfer because they believe they will not be re-housed due to a lack of priority in the allocation scheme. The report finds that tenants see mutual exchange as the only realistic option for those wanting to move who do not meet a priority category for social housing – and that a national home swap scheme would help tenants in this situation.

Currently it is difficult for tenants to arrange a home swap outside their own area. In 2008 less than a quarter of new lettings were given to existing tenants – leaving others trapped in accommodation and unable to take up opportunities to improve their lives.

The think tank ippr north has expressed concern about the “Right-to-move” policy and have questioned how feasible the scheme will be. It is unclear what will happen to neighbourhoods which are left behind. The think tank says that while labour market mobility is vital, encouraging those with most prospects to move out of disadvantaged areas risks reducing opportunities for those who are left behind, concentrating the most vulnerable people with the fewest choices in the least desirable areas.