FAMILIES are being offered thousands of pounds to downsize in a bid to free up under-used council houses.
Fareham Borough Council is offering its tenants a lump sum as an incentive to move from family accommodation – two bedrooms or more – in to a smaller home.
And the council is looking to give priority to help people move who are affected by the introduction of the so-called bedroom tax, which is being introduced in April.
With the introduction of the welfare reform changes, tenants receiving housing benefit and of working age, will see their entitlement cut by 14 per cent if they are under-occupying by one bedroom and 25 per cent if they are under-occupying by two or more bedrooms.
As a result of the changes, the council is expecting increased interest in the scheme.
The incentives start at £1,250, but can be up to £2,250 for moves from a four-bedroom to a one-bedroom property. In some cases there is also up to £500 for moving expenses.
Tory cllr Tim Knight is vice-chairman of the council’s housing policy review panel and said: ‘I fully support anything that enables council housing to properly used.
‘It does seem unfair on those wanting housing that’s currently under-occupied.’
Lib Dem cllr Geoff Fazackarley sat on the panel where it was discussed. He said: ‘There is a shortfall of all types of housing, so I think this is a good idea. It will generate the funds needed to help people to move, and I think this ridiculous bedroom tax is going to make a lot of people’s lives very difficult.
‘But under no circumstances do I want to see people forced out of their homes.’
Independent cllr Nick Gregory, is also on the panel and said: ‘It’s all well and good offering people money to move, but do we have the properties to move them into? Currently there aren’t many two-bedroom places on the lists. I think we’re going to have to wait and see how this turns out.’
The council has set aside around £15,000 to fund the scheme from its housing revenue budget.
According to its figures, 122 households in the borough are likely to face a cut in benefits as a result of the changes.
Earlier this month Gosport Borough Council agreed to give extra points to families deemed to be under-occupying their homes.
The points can be used to bid for other properties.