Socialist politicins continually repeat the mantra that those affected by the spare room subsidy cut are unable to downsize due to the lengthy waiting list for smaller properties to become avalaible. Their cheer leaders in the “sector” – – such as David Orr the chief executive of the National Housing Federation – are always happy to tour TV and radio studios to repeat the message. It is seldom challenged by BBC interviewers.
Yet it is entirely false. It ignores the point that one and two bedroom social housing properties do not need to be empty. There are a huge number available despite being (over) occupied. That is because those living in them would be delighted to swap.
24 Housing reports that many more are doing so. Those who have swapped using the Home Swapper website has increased by a quuarter.
Richard Blundell, chief executive of Housing Partners who are responsible for the website says:
“The number of successful swaps has risen significantly from 21,725 for the year ending in April 2013 to 27,152 at the same point this year.
“With many tenants looking at ways to manage with the added rent costs, it is clear that mutual exchange is fast becoming the best solution to find them a more appropriate home.”
“Despite recent reports of a lack of smaller social homes, we have noticed a consistently high number available through HomeSwapper.
“Of the 305,685 properties registered on the site, there are a total of 55,158 one bedroom and 140,182 two bedroom homes, so housing choice is there for people who need to move. It is important that those looking to downsize are aware of the options available through mutual exchange.”
“We believe that registered providers should do everything they can to encourage and support their tenants in using mutual exchange services more. The benefits are clear for both sides. Landlords can make valuable cost savings by limiting void costs and rent arrears, while tenants can avoid paying for bedrooms they don’t use. Ultimately, this supports properties being allocated to those most in need.”
Most of those with spare rooms have not downsized – for the simple reasons that they don’t want to downsize.
It is hard to imagine that the NHF are unaware of this. But it suits their political agenda, and that of the Labour party, to ignore it.
The NHF is funded by housing associations – handing over money in membership subs that would be better spent on providing new homes. £8.6 million is spent on affiliation fees – another £4 million sending housing officers to NHS conferences. The NHF chief executive is paid £158,000 a year – more than the Prime Minister’s salary. Housing associations could fund a couple of hundred new homes each year with the money they hand over to the NHF. Instead it is used to spread falsehoods. The sooner spending transparency rules are applied to housing associations the better.