The entire London Assembly has called on Mayor of London Boris Johnson to meet “urgently” with Government ministers to discuss ways to protect Londoners from the impact of Housing Benefit cuts which could see almost 6,500 households forced to move.
Ministers have proposed limiting the amount of money paid for Housing Benefit, prompting fears that poorer households will be unable to fund any shortfall in their rent and be forced to leave their homes.
The Mayor has set out a number of ways in which Londoners could be helped, including suggestions that landlords reduce rent levels in return for the benefit being paid directly to them and exempting households “who need to remain in their home because of schooling, work or for support reasons.”
The number of households likely to move as a result of changes has been calculated by London Councils, the umbrella organisation which represents all local authorities in the capital.
A motion agreed unanimously by AMs yesterday expressed support for transitional arrangements proposed by the Mayor and called on ministers to adopt “the most feasible options” to protect London households.
The motion was proposed by Green Party AM Jenny Jones who warned the proposed cap “will hit the poorest and most vulnerable households hardest – many will have no choice but to leave homes in central London where they have children in local schools and long-standing ties to the community.”
The motion was seconded by Labour’s Nicky Gavron who dismissed suggestions that the decrease in Housing Benefit levels could lead to landlords lowering rents.
Gavron, a former Deputy Mayor under Ken Livingstone, said some landlords “have already indicated they will evict tenants rather than accept even a small reduction in their rental income” and warned that other landlords had indicated they would not accept tenants who received Housing Benefit.
The Assembly accepted an amendment to the motion from Conservative AM Steve O’Connell who said the government’s proposals “will be entirely appropriate in many other parts of the country but rent levels in the capital do make it a special case.”
Mr O’Connell added: “while housing benefit does need to be looked at to ensure it is going only to those people in greatest need, we need measures to protect central London households from forced migration to the outer London boroughs.”
The full wording of the agreed motion reads:
“This Assembly notes research by London Councils showing that the Government’s proposed changes to housing benefit could cause 82,000 poorer households in the capital to be forced to leave their homes, leading to displacement of families and increased overcrowding and homelessness. This Assembly notes a joint statement from the Mayor and London Councils that estimates that around 6,462 households are likely to move because of the housing benefit changes. The Assembly notes concerns expressed and mitigation measures proposed from across the political spectrum, and notes that Londoners’ fears are being compounded by uncertainty about the changes that will eventually be made.
“This Assembly welcomes the Mayor’s proposed transitional arrangements for housing benefit which would cushion the impact on Londoners, and calls on the Government to implement the arrangements. This Assembly calls on the Mayor to urgently convene a meeting with government ministers to identify the most feasible options to protect Londoners from those impacts, and to announce a resolution with government as soon as possible.”