Hundreds of families have swapped their council homes with each other in the past year as they look to avoid the so-called “bedroom tax”.
Under government rules, introduced in April last year, families or individuals deemed to be living in council or social houses that are too big for their needs face having their housing benefits cut.
But families in Brighton and Hove have been taking advantage of the Mutual Exchange Scheme, which allows tenants in either council or housing association properties to advertise their homes and swap with other tenants looking to downsize or move into a bigger property.
Those looking to use the scheme can advertise their home as available and search for a more suitably sized home.
If they are able to find another user to swap with they then inform the council and the exchange is approved.
According to the council’s latest figures, 200 swaps have taken place in the last financial year.
One tenant who took advantage of the exchange scheme was Margaret Lindsay who found herself falling into arrears after her daughter moved out of the family home last year.
The 44-year-old said she wasn’t aware she had been paying the bedroom tax until her daughter moved out and she realised she would have to pay an extra £20 to meet the cost of having a spare room.
She said: “I’m quite nervous about paying tax and rent because I like to pay it and make sure it’s up to date. I asked, and they said I was paying the bedroom tax because I had a bigger house and I had to pay another £20.”
In April last year the mother-of-three moved into her new home with her two sons in September.
“I really feel like I’ve helped out someone else,” she added.
Councillor Bill Randall, chairman of the council’s housing committee, said the council scheme aimed to help people who found themselves falling into debt.
He said: “Brighton and Hove is already facing a rising tide of homelessness and a growing demand for affordable housing.
“Now hundreds of council households are dealing with the added dilemma of whether to pay more every week for a spare room, find a lodger, or move.”