Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Homeswap Direct

Tenant have indicated their concern about the availability of real choice to exchange or transfer both within their own landlords stock and to other landlords both within the sector and the potential to extend transfer options to include support to downsize to other sectors such as the private rented or owner-occupied.
We have raised the issue alongside the general concerns tenants have expressed about their ability to downsize their homes and to receive support or compensation for good maintenance of their tenanted properties. This is a pressing issues as the welfare reforms under-occupation rule has frightened many people.
We are pleased to see the Minister for Housing Regeneration and Heritage Hugh Lewis has written to all social landlords encouraging them to join a new scheme that enables tenants to register to swap their homes through Home Swap Direct.
Steve Clarke, managing director of Welsh Tenants Federation said Home Swap Direct is one internet service where tenants can explore options to move to another location providing tenants with the ability to exchange to a wider choice of homes to find work or move to areas where work may be more achievable.
However, the scheme requires that someone else will want to move into your home. If you are struggling to find work in your area or someone doesn’t put up a property that is suitable for your needs then it’s going to provide you with very limited choices. There are only about a hundred landlords on some of the schemes and most located in England. You would need thousands of small medium and large landlords to offer any real flexibility and fluidity in the market.
The Housing Act 1985 gave social tenants the right to exchange tenancies and this was later included for housing association tenants, thousands of them take place every year across the UK. Moves of this nature were previously facilitated by the HOMES agency, which ran a national mutual exchange register called Homeswap among other projects designed to help tenants move more freely to areas of their choice. In 2007 funding was hacked and it closed leaving the private sector to take up the gap. Following a brief injection of government money it was re-launched as MoveUK. It also failed but re-launched as a ‘for profit’ service. The market now has a plethora of companies offering mutual exchange services homeswapper, housexchange; apply4homes; etc. helping to facilitate mutual exchanges, however the issue of performance for landlords who buy into the schemes is still an issue of concern. Bringing together some of the market leaders into a single scheme may help that.
To encourage more flexibility and fluidity into exchange and transfers, what we need is a radical re-think about how we enable people to explore downsizing options, such as developing cooperative schemes to bring into use empty homes, an exploration of home share in the owner occupied sector to better utilise the estimated 25 million empty rooms. Sometimes the private sector does not provide the right solutions for these approaches. This is however one welcomed piece in a jigsaw but a small and necessary piece. Further information about Homeswap direct can be found here

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