Mutual exchange: An under-used option for social tenants by Chris Harris
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has recently concluded that not enough tenants are aware of the mutual exchange scheme and, as such, it is encouraging landlords to understand the benefits and be more proactive in promoting the scheme.
A mutual exchange is a home swap with another social housing tenant. Residents can swap homes with any council or housing association tenant in the UK, as long as they have the right to mutual exchange and want to swap homes.
One of the key benefits of the scheme is that it can help people affected by the 'bedroom tax'. For example, someone living in a property with an extra bedroom could swap with a family in an overcrowded property – a win-win situation.
It’s clear that the ‘bedroom tax’ has left a lot of social tenants in a catch-22, however the Chartered Institute of Housing recently applauded the housing industry for taking a more direct approach to using mutual exchange to mitigate the impact of the 'bedroom tax' on residents.
Yet mutual exchange can also help in other areas. For example, DCLG’s recently proposal plans to introduce a right to move for tenants needing to relocate to find work. Mutual exchange is a proven alternative solution that would offer autonomy and a sense of empowerment and choice to anyone wishing to move.
We’ve put a lot of effort into promoting mutual exchange and we saw an increase in the number of applications leading up and after the bedroom tax was introduced.
The Group has always seen mutual exchange as a real opportunity to promote social and economic mobility, ensuring we are putting our homes to the best possible use.
We subscribe to an online system to help tenants search for a property that meets their requirements. We currently have 2,853 residents signed up to the system and over the past 12 months, more than 335 residents have moved through this scheme.
Our next phase of our lettings improvement programme will seek to align our internal transfer process with the mutual exchange scheme to help encourage more swaps and our Housing Options Team regularly deals with mutual exchanges.
We are also looking at how we can allocate resources to help residents downsize and to connect with others who might have a home that meets their needs.
While there will always be new initiatives that are designed to help improve social mobility and make residents’ lives better, the mutual exchange scheme is surely one of those that we should continue to promote. Not only does it benefit those residents living in our homes, there are clear financial benefits for housing associations that make use of this approach.