Home swap scheme 'provided a new start'

By Alexis Akwagyiram
BBC News

Image caption,
Rosalyn said she would recommend housing swaps

A council home exchange scheme has been unveiled by the government which, it claims, will enable council tenants to exchange homes with other people across the country. One resident explains how a similar housing association scheme gave her a chance to make a fresh start in her life.

Rosalyn McCrohon lives in a small Norfolk village with her two youngest children.

The trials and tribulations of last year seem far away.

The full-time mother-of-four had been made redundant from her job as a school administrator. And the change contributed to a bout of acute stress and agoraphobia, making it harder for her to find a new job.

Her anxiety was exacerbated by the fact that her two youngest sons spent a total of three hours on the bus everyday travelling to and from school.

Something had to change.

Determined to make that change happen, Rosalyn registered her home on a housing exchange website run by affordable housing provider Circle Anglia in November 2009. It served housing association tenants.

In December a family who wanted to swap Rosalyn's home in Cromer, Norfolk, for their house in Brundall got in touch.

Rosalyn liked the three-bedroom house offered in a swap, which was smaller than the one she lived in, and was able to move in April.

"We contacted our housing associations and did the rest ourselves," explained Rosalyn.

"Sometimes you need a new start and this gave me a chance to do that. It was an opportunity to make a change.

"I wanted to downsize because my two eldest children, who are 25 and 27, had left home. The house was too big for us, so I was happy to move to a smaller property."

Rosalyn and her two youngest sons - who are 12 and 14 - did not move too far. They stayed within the county.

But the change was symbolic.

It meant the 47-year-old was finally moving from Cromer, the town she had lived in since she was 10.

"It was nice to blow away the cobwebs and do something new.

"Once in social housing you feel like you are going to be stuck where you are forever. What I didn't realise was there is an opportunity to make a change.

Opportunity for change

"Once we had moved I just couldn't believe we had done it. I really feel like we belong here."

The move also drastically reduced the journey to school for her boys and it meant the family were now closer to Norwich and local amenities.

And it seems the swap was convenient for the family she exchanged homes with.

In their case a single mother with two children was able to move closer to relatives.

Rosalyn welcomed news of the new government scheme and said she hoped it would help others to enjoy fast, hassle-free moves.

"I'd recommend what I did to other people.

"I really liked the way you could do it all yourself, more or less right up to the last minute with the housing association not really getting involved. You have real personal control over the process."

And, as she explained, the move has had an effect that reaches far beyond a mere change of scenery.

"Since we've moved my health has improved immeasurably and I'm actively looking for a job."

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