Big payouts for tenants who downsize

Devon tenants are in line for a payout of up to £5,000 if they downsize to free up their home for a family.

Edward Oldfield www.devonlive.com

The scheme is being promoted by West Devon and South Hams councils, who say it is open for anyone renting a home that is bigger than they need in the area they cover.

It applies to tenants of housing associations or registered providers of social housing and is a response to what one councillor described as a “housing crisis” due to a lack of larger properties.

The councils say there is currently a shortage of three and four bedroom homes for local families, with many struggling in cramped conditions.

A statement said: “The scheme is designed to help tenants to downsize to smaller homes as their household needs change.

“For example, when children grow up and leave home. This, in turn, helps the council to free up some of the larger homes in our area for younger families in need.”

Private sector rents have been rising and properties turned into holiday homes due to a rise in demand for staycations as a result of the pandemic, leaving people struggling to find a property and increasing pressure on the social housing stock.

The district councils covering South Hams and West Devon have now introduced an extra ‘High Demand Area’ payment of £2,500 due to the shortage of larger family homes.

The total payment downsizers will receive depends on how many bedrooms become available due to the move.

It includes a £1,000 fixed payment, the extra £2,500 High Demand Area sum, and £500 per bedroom released, with the total capped at £5,000.

For example, if you move from a four-bedroom property to a two-bedroom property you will receive £4,500.

According to Devon Home Choice, there are 46 families in the two council areas classed as severely overcrowded.

That means they need a home with two or more extra bedrooms, or there are at least two children in the home lacking a bedroom. There are also 300 families waiting for a home with an extra bedroom.

Nearly two million children in England are living in overcrowded, unaffordable or unsuitable homes, research has revealed.

The report from the National Housing Federation shows the biggest single housing issue affecting children in England is overcrowding.

The councils say it found there are 1.1 million children living in overcrowded homes, which is having a detrimental impact on their health and development.

There are also a million children whose families cannot afford their rent or mortgage payments, while 293,000 children live in homes that are unsuitable for their needs or health requirements.

A further 283,000 children living with their families in other people’s homes, the report found.

The National Housing Federation said the research shows 1.3 million children are in need of social housing as this is the only suitable and affordable type of home for their families.

It is calling on the Government to prioritise long term and sustained investment in social housing as part of its ‘levelling up’ agenda.

Cllr Judy Pearce, South Hams District Council’s Executive Member for Housing, said: “We face a housing crisis here in the South Hams with too many families living in cramped conditions and we want to change that.

“By helping people to move out of homes that are now bigger than they need, for example when their family grows up and leaves home, we can make sure the next generation also have a suitable home to enjoy.

“This scheme is all about looking at the homes we have in the South Hams and making sure they are allocated as effectively as possible – that means doing what we can to make sure residents live in homes that are the right size for their needs.

“If people are interested in moving, our team can give you practical support. We’ll help you to find a suitable alternative property in the location that you want and with everything you need close to hand.

“As a downsizer, you will be awarded a high priority band for bidding on properties on Devon Home Choice – including priority for brand new homes on the latest developments. We’re also increasing the amount of money you will receive to make that move easier.

“Maybe you’ll choose new items for your kitchen or a new TV to fit your new home. Maybe you’ll spend the money on new carpets or curtains.

“Or maybe you’ll treat yourself to something completely different. You can spend the money however you want and know that by moving you’re helping a young family to have the best start in life.”

Cllr Barry Ratcliffe, West Devon Borough Council’s Lead Member for Housing, said: “We desperately need to make some of our larger houses in the borough available for the local families who are currently struggling in homes that are too small.

“That’s why we’ve decided to give as much help as possible to anyone who is thinking about moving to a smaller home, for example because their own family has grown up and moved away.

“Our team can give practical support with things like filling in forms for making the move. You’ll be given priority, so you can choose a new home in the location you want – including brand new homes on the most modern developments.”

Who is eligible

The Tenants Incentive Scheme is available to applicants who met the following criteria:

  • are an existing Housing Association tenant on an Assured tenancy, living in the council areas and whose housing association landlord confirms that the nomination rights for the property being vacated will be given to South Hams or West Devon council;
  • are in a family-sized house – two bedrooms or larger;
  • want to move to a property that is at least one bedroom less;
  • are registered on Devon Home Choice;
  • where the move will not result in overcrowding.

How to apply

The councils say the scheme is limited and subject to change. Anyone interested should email devon.homechoice@swdevon.gov.uk or call 01803 861234 (South Hams) or 01822 813600 (West Devon) to find out more and to apply for the available funding.