Homelessness could rise in “unaffordable” borough

London rough sleeper Photo: Deadly Sirius

Tower Hamlets is set to become an “unaffordable” place to live because of changes to housing benefits, according to a new report from City Hall.

The report also indicates that around 9,000 London families could be forced out of their homes by 2012 as an effect of the benefit reforms.

The government announced the changes last October, which included capping housing benefit at £400 per week. The review was met with concern from many charities and campaign groups. The campaign Defend Council Housing commented at the time: “Cuts announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review will have a devastating impact.

“Combined with cuts to housing benefit and the attack on secure tenancies, they break the Prime Minister’s pre-election promise. They are not ‘fair’; this is an assault on tenants’ rights that will drive up rent arrears, evictions, poverty and homelessness.”

The latest document contradicts coalition ministers’ claims in the past three months that the benefits cap would not spell upheaval, or even homelessness, for some. On November 3 last year, Lord Freud, Welfare Reform Minister, said he could see no evidence that homelessness would increase as a result of the cuts, saying: “We are expecting a large number of people who receive less housing benefit to be able to negotiate their rents downward.”

However, since the document from the Mayor of London’s office came to light, Lord Freud has said: “People will have to move, but people move a lot in the private sector…that process will continue and people adjust to where they can afford just like anyone else.”

Those opposed to the welfare cuts are worried that with a national shortage of affordable homes, those forced out of increasingly expensive boroughs such as Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Camden and Islington will have nowhere to go.

Eileen Short, a Tower Hamlets resident and spokeswoman for the Tower Hamlets Tenants Federation says: “With homelessness already rising and more people losing jobs and facing repossession and eviction, housing benefit cuts will hit over a million tenants, and force thousands out of their homes.

“This Government is breaking David Cameron’s election promise to respect tenants’ rights and security now and in the future. Instead they are attacking housing benefit and tenants’ security and rights, and forcing up rents. This will not build the new homes we need, nor bring the council housing we’ve got up to a decent standard.

“Council and private tenants with others have called a mass lobby of parliament on February 15 to demand MPs and councillors halt these attacks.”

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