Increased cash incentive fails to encourage Moray council tenants to downsize

moray downsizingMoray Council has been urged to design new methods to encourage tenants to downsize after it was revealed that increased cash incentives have failed to boost housing stock.

Councillors approved a revised scheme to encourage council tenants to downsize from under-occupied houses earlier this year.

Created in consultation with tenants, the voluntary scheme offered both practical and financial assistance of at least £1,900 to help with moving home.

It was hoped the initiative would help reduce the 3,500 people on the waiting list for homes in the region.

However, the local authority’s communities committee heard this week that the scheme’s £72,000 annual budget has been underspent.

Buckie councillor Gordon Cowie called for more work to be done to raise awareness of the incentives.

He told the Evening Express: “I can’t understand it. I don’t know why people aren’t picking up on it – especially as we increased it this year.

“The waiting list is far too big. We’d never be able to build enough houses to clear it.

“We need to get the message out more or come up with some other way to get people to move.”

Mr Cowie explained that one stumbling block could be that people were reluctant to leave a home they had lived in for many years.

Moray Council previously offered £1,500 for moving plus an extra £400 for every bedroom that was freed up.

In April, that offer was increased to include an extra £400 bonus payment to cover unforeseen moving costs.

It is estimated that there are empty bedrooms in about 400 council homes.

An annual target of 25 households has been set to take advantage of the payments.

At this week’s meeting, it was revealed the £72,000 budget is currently underspent by £13,000 with uptake remaining “similar” to previous years.

Richard Anderson, head of housing and property, explained the authority could not force people to move home.

He said: “We’ve put information in the tenants’ newspaper and there is information available on the internet.

“It’s probably more elderly people we are thinking of, or people where the family has grown up and left.

“We want to encourage people to downsize, but it’s entirely voluntary and not something we can make compulsory – although there is a financial gain for those that do.”

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