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Cross Keys Homes (CKH) and Peterborough City Council (PCC) are working in partnership to support tenants who are living in homes which are too big for them to downsize and free up valuable family homes.

PCC 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 PCC’s housing register with a 4 or 5 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% 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.

CKH has worked tirelessly to support those affected by the Bedroom Tax to move to the right size home, and since 2012 it 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 3-bed house or larger."

As Peterborough’s largest housing association, CKH is working closely with PCC on a number of initiatives to address the housing crisis in the city, including a joint venture to maximise building opportunities to deliver new affordable homes, Medesham Homes as well as the provision of more temporary accommodation to reduce the numbers living in hotels and other unsuitable accommodation.

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