Downsize delay: Dartford council house tenant disgusted by five-year wait for scheme (From News Shopper)
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Downsize delay: Dartford council house tenant disgusted by five-year wait for scheme
A COUNCIL house tenant has hit out at cash incentives offered to people moving to smaller homes claiming she was told she faced a five-year wait.
Sarah Relf, who lives alone in a three bedroom house in Broad Road, Swanscombe, has been told she will have to wait to move into a smaller property.
Last week, Gravesham Council announced a pilot scheme offering £500 per room that people no longer need if they downsize, as well as paying for decorating and even reconnecting white goods and phone lines.
Dartford Council, which owns Mrs Relf's home, has run its similar scheme since 2007 in a bid to free up bigger houses which could be used by families.
Mrs Relf said: "I have been trying to move into a smaller house for months, but I have heard zilch from the council.
"Then a couple of weeks ago I had a letter back saying it would take three to five years. I want to downsize. They don’t want me to do that."
The 44-year-old added: "I want to go this winter because I am disabled and I cannot stay in this big house any longer.
"I have seen a couple of bungalows, but they keep refusing me.
"I have got a three bedroom house, you would have thought the council would have leapt at it.
"I cannot afford to live here - it is just too expensive, especially in the winter time.
"It is ridiculous."
A Dartford Council spokeswoman said: "The council’s housing team has spoken to Sarah Relf in relation the Downsize for Cash scheme and she has been advised waiting lists do exist for the specific areas of the borough in which she is interested in moving to.
"To our knowledge she has never completed an application form."
Gravesham Council introduced its scheme this month after its previous one - with a £250 per room incentive - only freed up one four bedroom house in three years.
In Gravesham, there are currently 3,000 on the housing list.
Nationwide, 13 per cent of council house tenants are living in overcrowded conditions.
At the same time, 1,565 of its 2,800 three, four and five bedroom homes are occupied by singles or couples.
Gravesham Council’s lead member for public and private sector housing, councillor Sue Howes said: "I must stress that no one is going to be forced to move. This is entirely voluntary.
"There are lots of reasons why someone might want to change - including no longer being able to cope with keeping a larger home decorated, heated and clean.
"There might be an issue with stairs or other mobility issues or it might be as simple as no longer being able to manage a larger garden.
"There are also reasons why people might wish to stay in a larger property - they might, for instance, want their grown-up children and their families to move in to help care for them in later years and need the space for that.
"The issues are often quite varied - but always individual."
The pilot scheme will run until the end of the financial year in April and is estimated to cost around £40,000, which will the council thinks will fund 20 moves. Before the scheme was adopted, the same budget was £16,000.