Coalition to launch national home swap scheme
Housing minister Grant Shapps has pledged £1 million for a new initiative to improve the mobility of social housing tenants.
Writing exclusively in Inside Housing today (Friday), Mr Shapps announced the launch of the ‘home swap direct’ scheme, allowing tenants the chance to swap their homes for ones in other parts of the country with the introduction of a system whereby tenants can review all available swaps nationwide.
Mr Shapps said the scheme will ‘mark the start of a new drive to improve mobility within social housing’. He added that councils will receive £1 million to ‘to try out innovative ways to make the most of their housing.’
The Communities and Local Government department were unable to confirm any details of the plan in advance of the release of the government’s housing strategy document next year.
However, the announcement has been greeted with scepticism by social landlords and housing campaigners.
‘It sounds like an interesting idea that will appeal to a very limited number of people,’ said Tony Burton, a director at campaign group Civic Voice. ‘It will not address social mobility or access to employment.’
Tom Murtha, chief executive of 31,000-home Midland Heart, added: ‘If you look at all the initiatives announced recently – the right to buy and this – it is just papering over the cracks of the bigger issue.
‘The problem is there’s a mismatch between where there are jobs and where there are houses. But if you invest in social housing, you also create jobs.’
But Vivien Knibbs, managing director of Orbit East and South, welcomed the idea.
‘In broad terms anything that offers increased choice to tenants must be a good thing, but it need to be seen to work in practice,’ she said.
The initiative has echoes of the ‘freedom pass’ scheme proposed by Mr Shapps last year that would have seen a single national database of tenants established. The plans were shelved in November.