10:55 AM, 2nd February 2012, About 12 years ago 16
Existing tenants will start to feel the pinch this month as their benefits are reduced by an average of £83 per week due to the housing benefit cuts introduced last April.
The UK government hopes the alterations to housing benefit payments will both save money and reduce private rents.
However, many opposed to the new restrictions say that placing caps on benefit payments will force many claimants and their families living in prosperous areas to move out of their homes and into poverty.
Others are raising the question of whether it is right that the state should be paying people to live in areas and houses that most taxpayers simply cannot afford.
London Councils estimate that approximately 82,000 households will be forced to leave the more affluent inner-city areas and move to the outskirts of London due to the cuts. This could easily rise to 133,000 or more when the introduction of universal credit eventually comes to fruition in 2013, as the total benefits a family can claim will also be capped.
This substantial migration from London city centre is bound to have a massive impact on services such as schools, social services and health services. Because of this, despite the fact that the forthcoming housing benefits caps will perhaps hit London the hardest; the overall effect is likely to become an increasing national problem.
Until these changes are well underway, it will be difficult to predict how tenants that need to stay in the areas they are currently living in will cope when faced with being unable to pay their rent. Property overcrowding, making up the shortfall alone and living in poverty seem to be unavoidable situations.
The significant numbers of families that will have to move as a result of the changes to housing benefit payments along with the universal credit plans will also inevitably present many boroughs with a number of high-cost problems.
Areas on the outskirts of London that offer lower rents and more affordable housing will now start to attract an influx of families that are struggling to keep up their tenancy payments. This unavoidable and increased capacity will soon start to put a strain on the local services, particularly schools.
As a result of the overcrowding and high birth-rates many of the outer London communities are currently experiencing, councils are already recognising the need to expand existing primary schools and are starting to convert office buildings into school classrooms and searching for other empty properties to use for teaching. Some schools are even considering ‘split shift schooling’, which means that some children would be taught in the mornings and some in the afternoons because of budget restrictions.
Affinity Sutton Housing Association said of the cuts “We welcome reform of the welfare benefits system but cutting housing benefit and pushing people into poverty is not the answer and instead, advocate incentivising and supporting people to move.”
While things like housing sector benefits do need to be addressed, cutting housing benefit and pushing families and their children into such poverty that it pressurises them to move from their homes and schools is not a long term solution. Instead, incentivising and supporting people to move to more affordable, decent housing in safe communities is surely a more positive and sustainable approach.