Trading Places event gets people moving
Published by Lewisham Homes for Lewisham Homes in Housing and also in Local Government, Universal Credit
A home-swap event designed to help residents affected by the ‘bedroom tax’ was held jointly by Lewisham Council, Lewisham Homes, Phoenix Community Housing and Regenter B3 on 29 June.
Around 70 Lewisham tenants and their families affected by the recent welfare benefit changes and other tenants who have spare rooms and could save money by downsizing to smaller homes, were specially invited. They were able to view over 300 property adverts, submitted by residents who are currently overcrowded and in need of at least one extra bedroom. The room was set up to look like an estate agent’s window, where residents could browse and make a note of the properties they would be interested in viewing, and ultimately hopefully arrange a swap via mutual exchange.
Each resident also received one-to-one advice on their potential options from specialist housing staff and other services that were available on the day, including:
- Homesearch – the choice-based letting scheme for council and housing association properties in Lewisham.
- Housing Moves - the Mayor of London’s housing mobility scheme that allows tenants of London boroughs or housing associations to move outside their existing borough to a different part of London.
- Fresh Start - a scheme that helps Lewisham Council and Phoenix CH tenants move into the private rented sector anywhere in the UK.
- House Exchange – a database of tenants who are looking for a home swap.
- Eco Computers – a local social enterprise based in Deptford that provides free computer training.
- Lewisham Homes Welfare Benefit Advisors – offering free, impartial advice about benefits, the welfare reforms and personal budgeting.
- Lewisham Homes Community Involvement team – an opportunity for tenants to sign up to employability schemes.
Lewisham Homes Tenancy team – offering specialist help and advice on the mutual exchange process and any other tenancy issues residents wanted to discuss.
Councillor Susan Wise, Cabinet Member for Customer Services at Lewisham Council, said: “Lewisham Council is working with all its residents affected by the current changes to welfare reform, and this welcomed joint event is the first in a programme for those affected by the bedroom tax. The event's advice and information was well received by those who attended, and those who chose to swap will be supported by a moving service tailored to their needs. As the homes they release are swapped with families living in overcrowded conditions, everyone benefits.”
Julia Cotton, Chair of Lewisham Homes Board, said: “As one of the major social housing providers in the borough we are responsible for the homes of thousands of people. Many have been affected by the welfare reforms and it is vital that we support them, so that they can make informed choices about how and where they live. This event has proved a real success and we will continue to support and work with our residents, helping them through the moving process.”
Since the start of the welfare reforms last year, Lewisham Homes has been working hard to make contact with tenants they know will be affected by the changes. Lewisham Homes has a team of specialist welfare benefit advisors, and is also working with local credit unions to help promote their not-for-profit specialist financial services for those who want help managing their finances.
As part of the process of organising the event, more than 292 overcrowded and under occupied residents from the Lewisham area have been signed up to the ‘House Exchange’ property exchange website. This ensures that even after the event, residents will still have a means to find a suitable property to exchange with.
Lewisham Homes is continuing to work with all the residents who attended the event in order to provide help and support finding suitable property matches and assisting with the exchange process where a match has been found.
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