Row over council house

Three-bed home in Honiton was not advertised for bidding.

East Devon District Council is not obliged to put every vacant council home up for bidding through the Devon Home Choice scheme.

That is what the local authority has told the Midweek Herald following a row over the letting of a three-bedroom house in Honiton.

The property was let to a family of adults without first being open to bids via the internet.

However, the ‘direct match’ freed up two other council properties and was arranged because of “exceptional circumstances”.

Tenants, who have family members waiting to move into larger council homes, claimed the system is not fair.

One angry tenant said: “My daughter wanted to bid for this house.

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“She is coming up to having her fourth child and she needs three bedrooms. It would have been ideal. There were other young families who were also waiting to bid for it, but it was not advertised.”

The tenant added: “The bidding system is supposed to be fair, so let’s ensure it is fair. This property was on my doorstep - so I knew it had been let without first being open to bids. How many other times has this happened?

“I don’t know why the council doesn’t go back to the old system. You can bid till you are blue in the face but, at the end of the day, it is still the council that decides.”

A spokesman for East Devon District Council said: “The Devon Home Choice scheme is a Devon-wide policy on the allocation of social housing agreed between 10 local housing authorities and many housing associations.

“This sets the framework for letting empty properties when they become available. But, it does allow us to direct match and to step outside the policy in exceptional circumstances.

“This is one of those exceptional circumstances. In this case we needed to organise a number of moves that could not be facilitated through Devon Home Choice – it just would not have been possible.”

To meet the needs of a vulnerable household, the council says it needed to agree a number of transfers for existing tenants so it could get an empty two-bed bungalow in Honiton.

“This we achieved by offering the three-bed property in question to two households who lived in two two-bedroom properties and who wanted to live together,” the spokesman explained.

“By offering a three-bedroom property we got back two two-bed properties in Honiton. We used one of these two-bed properties to help the ‘vulnerable’ household and got back their three-bedroom property, which we can advertise for letting.”

The spokesman added: “We appreciate that there was and still is a demand for three-bedroom homes in Honiton, but, whichever way we did this, it was going to disappoint someone.

“The vulnerable household’s needs were felt to be important enough for us to make this happen.

“If we had not done this now, this kind of opportunity may not have come up again in future.”