Cautious welcome for Redbridge’s Freespace housing scheme

A Redbridge scheme to help older people move home which was heralded by the government’s housing minister has been welcomed in the borough.

Redbridge Council’s cabinet agreed to roll out the initiative last week after winning the backing of Grant Shapps.

The Freespace scheme is aimed at older people who want to move to smaller accommodation without selling their home thereby freeing up their property for families looking for housing.

John Coombes, secretary of the Redbridge Pensioners Forum, said: “I think it’s a good thing.

“It will release properties the local authority badly needs and I think quite a few people will have shown an interest.”

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He added: “If people are getting to a certain age, they might be capable but in one or two year’s time they might not be.

“The council must take that into account and move them to properties that are compatible with their needs in the future.”

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Sudarshan Bharje, chair of the Apna Elderly Social & Welfare Group, based at the Redbridge Panjabi Centre, Ley Street, Ilford, said: “The idea is good if people can get some income as well.”

Older homeowners could move to social or private accommodation in Redbridge or housing in another part of the country under the scheme.

The council takes over the letting responsibilities, such as rent collection, which is paid to the homeowner.

Money spent on bringing the property up to a lettable standard is paid for through an equity release loan to be repaid on the sale or transfer of the property.

There was a mixed reaction to the scheme at a Redbridge Pensioners Forum meeting prior to the cabinet’s decision.

Mr Coombes said: “People might think the council are just going to come along and take their property and stick them somewhere they don’t want to be and that’s not the case.”

The council says applicants will undergo a “rigorous financial assessment” by DABD (uk), formerly the Disablement Association of Barking Dagenham.

A spokesman said: “Some of the financial benefits to the owner include reduced general maintenance costs and lower fuel bills at the property they move to.

“If the property they own is in Redbridge there are no management fees when it is let.”

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