Peterborough tenants given help to downsize to tackle city’s housing waiting list

Claire Higgins, chief executive of Cross Keys Homes
Claire Higgins, chief executive of Cross Keys Homes
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Cross Keys Homes (CKH) and Peterborough City Council are working to help tenants who are living in homes which are too big for them to downsize.

The council has given the housing association a grant of £60,000 to enable it to offer incentives to tenants who are under-occupying homes with three bedrooms or more in Peterborough.

The aim of the scheme is to free up homes which will immediately be made available to families on the city’s housing need register. There are nearly 975 households on the council’s housing register with a three, four or five bedroom need.

With a maximum incentive of £5,000 per household, the scheme will offer tenants a transfer to a suitable property in their area of choice, providing a mix of practical and financial help, supporting tenants with the cost of moving, including clearing their old home and purchasing new carpets or flooring for their new home.

Under-occupation is the term used when people are living in homes which are too big for their everyday needs and it often affects people as family members move out.

The Government attempted to address under-occupation in social housing in 2013 when it introduced an under-occupation penalty known as the Bedroom Tax. Benefit claimants can see their payments reduced by up to 25 per cent as a result, but a shortage of appropriate, affordable homes as well as the financial and emotional toll of moving has seen many people unable to move on.

Since 2012 CKH has helped 225 households to downsize. This new scheme will enable CKH to reach out to those who have yet to move, especially those unaffected by the ‘Bedroom Tax’, such as those no longer of working age but for whom the opportunity to move to a smaller home would mean lower utility bills and less space to manage.

CKH chief executive Claire Higgins said: “The funding is great news for us and we are pleased to be working with PCC on this joint initiative.

“Social housing is under immense pressure and we have a responsibility to ensure this scarce resource is utilised and managed as efficiently and effectively as possible. But we also appreciate the emotional and financial cost of downsizing.

“Being able to offer tenants support to move to a suitable home also means that we can move families who are currently homeless or living in homes too small for their families’ needs into the ideal home for them.”

Sarah Ferguson, assistant director: housing, communities and youth for Peterborough City Council, said: “It is no secret that there is a shortage of housing in Peterborough and therefore we are working closely with Cross Keys Homes to increase the number of properties available and make best use of the housing that we have.

“We know that there are lots of people living alone or as part of a couple in properties that are big enough for a family, probably because their own family has grown up and moved out.

“We want to work with people in that situation who would like to consider moving to a smaller property and support them in the process. As part of the scheme you can have a say on the area and property that you move to and we can also take some of the stress out of moving by, for example, supporting tenants with the cost of moving, including clearing their old home and purchasing new carpets or flooring for their new home.

“If the scheme is a success we should be able to provide a home for more families on the housing register in need of a three bed house or larger.”

CKH and the council also have a joint venture housing company, Medesham Homes, which is building new affordable homes in the city and providing more temporary accommodation.

CKH tenants who are looking to downsize should call customer services on 01733 385000 or email customerservices@crosskeyshomes.co.uk.