More than 750,000 people are at risk of losing their homes in London and the south east because of caps being introduced on housing benefit from April next year, the National Housing Federation (NHF) warned yesterday.
The NHF represents 1,200 not-for-profit housing associations in England, and campaigns for better housing and neighbourhoods. It warned that the benefit cuts could effectively force low-income families out of large parts of London and the south east.
The NHF added that its research shows that 425,000 people in London are at risk of losing their home, while 326,250 people in the south east are at risk of losing theirs. It warned that the impact of the housing benefit cuts was likely to lead to the highest number of people ending up homeless in Britain for more than thirty years.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of homeless charity Shelter, said, as well as London, ‘these cuts will directly impact on over a million households nationwide’. He continued: ‘Vulnerable people up and down the country, including pensioners, those with disabilities or hardworking people on low incomes, will be pushed over the edge into a spiral of debt, eviction and homelessness.’
A TUC spokesman told News Line: ‘This proves that we are not “all in this together” and that the Budget has punitively punished the poorest people while the super rich have got off scot free.’ The Budget imposed caps on housing benefit of £400 a week on any property with four or more bedrooms, and £250 a week for a two bedroom home.
Chancellor Osborne also decided that instead of people on benefit being able to claim rent of up to half of the local market average rent, they will instead be only able to claim up to one third of the local market average rent. And unemployed people who claim Job Seeker’s Allowance for 12 months will also see their housing benefit fall by ten per cent under the controversial plans.
The NHF stressed: ‘The result of the introduction of caps on housing benefit and the ruling that people will only be able to claim up to one third of the local market average is that thousands of lower income families will not be able to afford to live in many parts of London – such as Islington, Camden and Southwark – and the south east.
‘While many people will look to move to cheaper accommodation, there will not be enough housing in parts of London and the south east within the cap levels to go around. Many others will quickly fall into arrears and be evicted. In some cases, local authorities may be legally obliged to house those evicted – with some ending up in expensive bed and breakfast properties. In other cases, councils may not have to re-house them and they could end up on the streets.’
There are currently around 140,000 people homeless in Britain, which is down from a peak of 174,503 people in 2003 – the highest figure since modern records on homelessness began in 1980.
The NHF believes that the combined effect of the government’s raft of proposed changes to housing benefit will lead to at least 200,000 people being at risk of becoming homeless.