Housing Minister Grant Shapps has today launched a new national scheme that, for the first time, will allow social housing tenants wanting to swap their home to see every available property in the country.
‘HomeSwap Direct’ will give tenants who want to move house - to be closer to a new job, their family, or to a property better suited to their needs - greater choice over potential swaps by allowing them to see a much wider selection of properties than ever before.
Until now tenants have been restricted to swapping properties with other tenants in the scheme chosen by their landlord - effectively meaning only a partial swap scheme existed. ‘HomeSwap Direct’ will instead give tenants access to properties nationwide and boost their prospects of moving.
And as the scheme will be online, it will make advertised swaps much more accessible for tenants and the possibility of moving house ‘just a click away’.
Ministers believe that the current system has left tenants facing an uphill battle when they want to swap to a new home further than just down the road, and have often reverted to applying for a transfer to a new or empty property - where they end up pitting themselves against the record numbers of families on social housing waiting lists.
Improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the home swap system is expected to not only bring economic benefit for tenants and their families by putting them in a position to take up more opportunities, but could also help provide overcrowded families with new opportunities to move into a larger home, swapping with other tenants whose children have moved on and now need a smaller property easier to heat and maintain.
So from next April, new requirements will mean that all social housing landlords will have to ensure that they make properties from across the UK available to their tenants looking to swap their home, giving them the opportunity to move anywhere in the UK - including Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
The reforms are part of the measures included in the Localism Bill to give social tenants far greater freedoms and flexibilities and make better use of social housing.
Grant Shapps said:
It’s crazy that some people don’t want council tenants to have the same life opportunities as everyone else. At the moment tenants who live in social homes might be able to move nearby, but there’s almost no chance of a longer-distance move to take up a new job offer or move closer to their family.
I’m not content to restrict opportunities for the eight million social tenants in this country - that’s why we are determined to shake up the lazy consensus that traps people in this system. HomeSwap Direct will give tenants access to a wider range of properties than ever before, and the chance to move anywhere in the country.
Instead of confining people wanting to move to the back of the queue, it will put their future in their hands, giving them the power to arrange their own home swaps and make the most of every opportunity.
Scotland’s Housing and Transport Minister Keith Brown, said:
I welcome the launch of the HomeSwap Direct.
“The scheme will give tenants in Scotland more choice and options by making it easier for them to see details of mutual exchange matches with information on all potential swap partners, throughout the UK.
Two of the providers presently operate in Scotland and have confirmed that any Scottish tenants using their sites will be able to benefit from the national scheme immediately and will have the same experience as tenants in all parts of the UK.
Michelle Reid, CEO of the Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS), and Michael Gelling, Chairperson of the Tenants’ and Residents’ Organisation of England (TAROE) said:
We know many of our tenant members welcome the launch of HomeSwap Direct, as it will make it much easier for them to move to a social home that better suits their needs. For a long time, our tenant members have been asking for it to be made easier for them to move around the country and this scheme will now allow them to do that.
Martha Lane Fox, the UK’s Digital Champion, said:
HomeSwap Direct is a great example of how digital services can benefit tenants and landlords. Inspiring and supporting tenants to go online and access digital services will increase not only the choice and control they can exercise over where they live, but also their opportunities for education, employment and wellbeing.
Wales Housing, Regeneration and Heritage Minister Huw Lewis said:
HomeSwap Direct will offer tenants more choice on where they live, improving their chances of finding homes to meet their needs.
I would encourage all landlords who are not already subscribing to a mutual exchange service that participates in this service to consider doing so to ensure that all Welsh tenants can share in its benefits.
Notes to editors
HomeSwap Direct brings together four internet-based providers of mutual exchange services (HomeSwapper, House Exchange, Abritas and LHS (Locata)) to offer tenants more choice over where they live.
- A membership agreement which has been developed by Government and joined by these providers is at the annex and will be published on their websites. This sets out the framework under which information will be shared by providers, the technical requirements of the scheme and the processes by which new members can apply to join.
- Proposed new regulations on mutual exchange were included in the consultation Implementing social housing reform: directions to the social housing regulator which closed on 29 September.The proposed direction would require social landlords to ensure their tenants have free access to web-based home-swap services and to subscribe to providers who are part of the national scheme. Final directions to the Regulator will be published later in the autumn.
- In addition, up to £1 million will be provided to 12 local authority led Mobility demonstration projects who will be testing innovative and cost-effective ways of supporting mobility. Projects include exploring the savings to landlords of tenants moving through mutual exchange rather than a transfer; exploring whether greater mobility can reduce health and social care costs; and investigating the types of support - such as helplines, or dedicated staff - which can best help tenants through the process of moving.
- The participating landlords are:
Herts Choice Homes
West London Housing Partnership
Worcestershire and Stratford
- As the UK’s Digital Champion, Martha Lane Fox chairs the Race Online 2012 campaign, which aims to create a 100 per cent networked nation where everyone can use and access the web. More information is available at www.raceonline2012.org (external link).
- TPAS England is the leading national tenant participation organisation working to promote tenant empowerment. Its aim is to extend the reach and quality of tenant influence by working with social housing residents and landlords to develop successful partnerships and supporting tenants and community groups to take on a more representative role. More information is available at www.tpas.org.uk (external link).
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