City has 500 'under-occupied' council homes
MORE than 500 council homes in Bristol are classed as "under-occupied".
This means that three and four-bed homes are occupied by only a few tenants instead of families, many of whom suffer chronic overcrowding.
Housing officers in Bristol are urging council tenants who no longer need a large home to downsize to help reduce the number of overcrowded households.
In the first five months of this year, a total of 62 households have downsized, the latest council figures show.
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But there were 49 severely overcrowded households on the housing register in July and 524 houses categorised as "under-occupied".
The scheme is part of a wider project to reduce overcrowding among council homes.
There are currently about 15,000 people on the council house waiting list.
Once a house falls empty, it is offered to the Homechoice Bristol waiting list with priority given to tenants who are overcrowded.
Once a family is re-housed, then their vacated property is advertised in the same way, creating a "chain let".
On average, a four-bed property that is freed up via the under-occupation scheme helps a total of three overcrowded families.
Lib Dem Cabinet Councillor Anthony Negus who is in charge of the council's housing department, said tenants were not being forced to move to smaller homes.
He said: "With thousands currently registered with Homechoice, the demand for social housing in Bristol is outstripping demand in a big way.
"We are now building the first council housing that has been directly funded by the local authority in 30 years.
"And we are also seeking to throw off the shackles on our ability to build that are currently imposed by limits to the number of new homes that can be funded through the Housing Revenue Account."
He said that the latest figures showed that under-occupation was a significant issue and in Bristol, as elsewhere, there was a particular demand for larger social housing.
He added: "One of the things we are doing is trying to persuade under-occupying tenants to help us make better use of our housing stock."
Mr Negus added: "This scheme is one of the various ways we are working to tackle the demand for housing in Bristol.
"Another is our hugely-successful No Use Empty, empty private homes project which brought more than 500 private homes back into use over 12 months. About 90 council house tenants have been helped to downsize, thanks to the scheme.