Under-occupying tenants to be offered more incentives to downsize to smaller homes

Friday 5 April 2024

A range of new and improved incentives to help under-occupying tenants downsize to a smaller home that meets their current housing needs were agreed at a Cabinet meeting on 13 March.

Following the decision, council officers will now begin to implement systems to allow the changes to take effect in the next few months and following that they will be subject to a one-year pilot.

Last year, the Council undertook a statutory 12-week public consultation to decide how to allocate council and housing association social rent homes through our Housing Allocations Scheme. Over 1200 responses were received, and of those, 76% of respondents said that the Council should give higher priority to all tenants seeking to downsize, while 60% of respondents said that the Council should allow those of Pension Credit age who under-occupy to downsize to a smaller home but with one additional bedroom more than they are assessed as needing.

As a result of this feedback, the Council agreed to give the highest banding priority to council tenants and in-borough housing association tenants who wish to downsize to a smaller home to free up more larger homes for those families living in temporary accommodation or overcrowded conditions. The Council also agreed to increase the payment made to a tenant for each bedroom given up when downsizing to a smaller home.

Under the new changes, under-occupying tenants will soon be able to receive £1,000 per bedroom released to downsize to a smaller property. This is £650 more than the current payment of £350. An additional £500 will also be offered to those who downsize by mutual exchange. To help ease the pressure of financing removal costs, the Council can also arrange and pay for reasonable removal costs for those who agree to downsize to a smaller home.

Older tenants who want to downsize will be eligible for a room for themselves plus one extra bedroom. This would only apply to those who have reached Pension Credit age and are exempt from the bedroom tax and could mean that some older tenants could benefit from a carer or family support overnight.

Other changes coming soon include the ability for a non-dependent adult living with an under-occupying tenant who wants to downsize, to be offered their own one-bedroom flat, providing the Council can gain back an additional bedroom. For example, a two-person household of a 50-year-old mother living in a 3-bedroom home with her 30-year-old daughter, could each move to their own one-bedroom flat, as the Council would still gain one additional bedroom from the moves.

And for the first time in Greenwich, under-occupying housing association tenants will receive the financial incentives currently only available to council tenants.

A Council spokesperson said: “Like many boroughs, the demand for three, four and five-bedroom council homes far outweighs the supply of larger homes we have available for families that are living in temporary accommodation or overcrowded conditions.

“Some tenants may find these changes helpful if they want to downsize to smaller accommodation if their children have left home and they no longer have the need for extra bedrooms, they want to live in a smaller, easier to manage home with lower utility bills or council tax or simply want to be nearer friends or family.

“In response to resident feedback we hope that by giving a higher priority and an increased range of options to tenants who want to downsize, there can be a greater supply of larger, family-sized homes made available for those in need.”

Other changes approved by Cabinet will award additional priority to widows and widowers of ex-armed forces personnel, increase the supply of adapted and accessible homes from housing associations, ensure better outcomes for vulnerable adults and families working with the Council’s social care services and address a shortage of occupational therapists in the borough.

We will let residents know as these changes take effect. Changes to the current downsizing incentives will be piloted for one year and any further changes to the allocations scheme will be made by Cabinet later on in the year.