Benefit cuts may force 1,400 people to move house in Croydon
AN UNPRECEDENTED effort to get residents to swap homes before benefit cuts bite is gathering pace.
Tenants who will have to move to smaller homes due to reductions in benefits are being urged by the council to swap places with those in crowded conditions.
About 1,400 council and housing association tenants across the borough may have to move when the cuts – ending rent payments for rooms deemed unnecessary – start in April.
Among them is widow Sharon Fisher, who will have to leave the three-bedroom home on King Henry's Drive that she once shared with her family.
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She said: "My husband died and my son died, and the others have grown up and left home.
"I will lose about 25 per cent of my housing benefit, which will amount to about £30 a week.
"It is not nice to have to leave when you do not want to. My husband died there and my son died there, do you know what I mean? But there is no way I can afford that kind of money."
The 57-year-old was among some 50 people who registered for the council's "home swap" event at the Addington Community Centre Monday, billed as "speed-dating" for housing.
Tenants needing both bigger and smaller homes – and there were more of the former – pinned pictures of their houses to billboards, which they scoured for a match.
Gemma Ross, 29, shares a two-bedroom house in Walton Green with her partner and two children; Conner, 10, and Keira, 7.
She said: "There is just not enough space – my son has to go to the bathroom to get changed.
"For the past four years we were told we were on the housing list, but then that our details were lost.
"I wrote down the details of four [properties in the event]. I did not really look at what they were like; just the size of them."
Julia Pitt, principal housing strategy officer with the council, said tenants likely to need smaller homes due to benefit cuts had been slow to come forward.
But she added the "stark reality" was that they may not be able to afford to stay in their homes.
"We are trying to enable people so they do not end up in poverty," she said.
Advisors were also at the event from the Croydon, Merton and Sutton Credit Union, HomeSwapper, and the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Penny McCausland, 44, will have to leave her home in Alwyn Close now that her children have left home.
She said: "The benefit cut will amount to about £32 a week. I am a carer and it is not exactly the highest wages.
"I do not mind giving up my home for a family, but I do not think they are doing enough to help us.
"A big estate like this, and all they have got up there is three-bedroom properties?
"They should build more little one-bedroom estates for the likes of me, then more people like me would give up their houses."
Mum-of-three Rebecca Webb had her "fingers crossed" for finding a three-bedroom property at the event so her eldest child, 10, could have her own room.
"She is at school and preparing for her SATs and she has got nowhere to revise," said the 31-year-old, of Kestrel Way.
"They [her two younger siblings] keep her up in the night and it affects her.
"Her teacher said she has dropped a few grades; it is about getting the time to concentrate."