Council: we’ll pay you to downsize

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ABERDEENSHIRE councillors have announced a new scheme aimed at tackling the shire’s shortage of council housing - by paying tenants to move into smaller homes.

The £190,000 scheme, announced on Friday, would involve tenants being offered between £3000 and £5000, and help moving, to take a smaller home, in an attempt to free up larger council houses for those with young families.

Chair of Social Work and Housing Committee, Cllr Karen Clark said: “The grant will create movement in council housing and has the potential to free up around 200 three and four bedroom homes each year. I encourage tenants to take advantage of the downsizing grant which offers a winning solution for everyone. In addition, with future changes to Benefits that will affect people living in homes that are too big for their needs, it could create solutions here too.

“The grant provides people with an opportunity to move now, and get assistance to do so, rather than later, when the benefit changes take effect and impact those under-occupying homes.”

Vice chair Alisan Norrie added: “This scheme makes the best use of the homes the council has available and encourages people to live in housing that matches their needs. It is the next best solution to creating new homes and has the potential to provide opportunities for people on waiting lists for larger homes.”

A spokeswoman added that the money would come from the rental generated by council house lets in the shire.

She clarified: “Alternative options include incentives through the councils transfer scheme, where additional points are given for under occupancy to encourage people to downsize and thus benefit from reduced rent and heating costs. The attraction of reduced rents is less of an incentive to tenants in receipt of housing benefit.

“Also, the proposed reform of welfare benefits means that from April 2013 tenants under the age of 62 will not receive benefits for any additional capacity in their homes. For every bedroom which is not required £13 will be required to be paid for by the tenant. This will also be an incentive to downsize (or a penalty for under-occupation) and will affect approximately 1,000 council tenancies.”