UK Politics

Scheme to help social tenants swap homes

Image caption An estimated eight million people currently live in social housing across the UK

The government says it is making it easier for social housing tenants to swap homes nationwide - to move nearer to family or to find work.

Its HomeSwap Direct brings together four existing services so tenants can look at properties across UK.

Under the old system people could only apply for swaps within one service - that chosen by their landlord.

From April, all social landlords across the UK will have to make properties available for swaps.

The scheme, launched by Housing Minister Grant Shapps on Thursday, brings together four existing providers - House Exchange, Abritas, Locata and Homeswapper - which will now share information between themselves.

'Anywhere to anywhere'

By signing up to one, tenants can see housing swaps available across the country.

Previously, each site had different information and none had every swap available across the country, and social tenants could only use the service their current landlord was registered with.

Mr Shapps told the BBC that it meant council and housing association tenants "have never really been able to enjoy the benefits of moving from anywhere to anywhere".

He said only 5% of people in social housing moved each year, compared with 20% of people in the private sector.

"This quite literally gives millions of people the ability to be able to see whether there is somewhere else in the country they can swap with, if they want to move for absolutely any purpose at all. It's good for them in terms of perhaps pursuing employment or being closer to family."

'Drop in ocean'

The government says the scheme might also appeal to families looking for bigger properties, who could swap with those whose children have left home and who are looking for a smaller property which is cheaper to heat and maintain.

From April, under changes brought in under the Localism Bill, social landlords across the UK will be required to make sure they have information about housing swaps available online.

Housing charity Shelter says home swaps are a "drop in the ocean" in the context of the wider housing crisis.

It argues that there are not enough homes in the right places, where there are jobs and opportunities.

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