The latest government wheeze is based on the premise that some of the blame for the high unemployment rate lies at the feet of tenants in social housing not moving to get that job.

So Grant Shapps the housing minister is going to launch a ‘house swap’ programme that will encourage workers to move around the country so helping to address the 17 year high million unemployment problem to which another 114,000 people were recently added.

Schnapps wrote in ‘Inside Housing’ magazine recently that this would "…boost the prospects of tenants wanting to swap their social home to take up new job opportunities, be closer to their family, or move to a property better suited to their needs". adding "Home swap direct will mark the start of a new drive to improve mobility within social housing."

No details are yet forthcoming but it will probably involve a huge database of social housing ‘swaps’, which will presumably also mean employing some people to administer it at a cost to the public purse.

The Tories are pointing to the Poles, Czechs and Romanians prepared to come to the UK saying if they can move a thousand miles then our people should be able to move a few tens of miles.

But there’s always two sides to a swap, even if there is a ‘chain’ of swappers involved. And if one job application falls though, what then? can you imagine all the legal disputes coming out when people resign from jobs on the strength of this then find they can’t move for example?

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This will also place those with jobs from outside areas ahead of those with possibly more pressing needs.

And how long before all unemployed tenants in social housing are forced to be on the swap register? And if you are retired or a single parent and they need to house a worker in your area? We will end up with so many exemptions and categories that it will be unworkable.

One of the most worrying aspects of unemployment is that there are so many young people already assigned to the jobless scrap heap. These people are almost certainly not in social housing given that the average age of new let allocations is now 36 [1]. So how will this help them?

How will it help people desperate to move if they own their house, or if they rent privately?

The truth is that people can’t move because there are too few houses in the places that need them, no-one is prepared to build them because there’s no money in it and house prices can’t be made to fall because home-owners would crucify the government and banks balance sheets would suffer.

This plan is purely aimed at appeasing Tory supporters. It will end up like so many other government schemes costing more money and helping very, very few people.

[1] www.insidehousing.co.uk/Journals/1/Files/2011/7/19/analysis_of_affordable_housing_data-report%5B1%5D.pdf

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