Households in Enfield, Haringey, Croydon and Bromley from today will now face losing their homes should they become unemployed or too ill to work. This social cleansing is to be extended to all London Boroughs and elsewhere in the UK from July.
It is true that the cap, set at £500 a week , is a lot of money. It is not true however that it meant equivalent families receive more on benefit then they would in work. A family earning £26,000 a year and living in the private sector in London would receive significant housing benefits. Those who objected to people living in high rent areas whilst on benefits were perfectly free to do the same, and would have had some help with housing costs even if they were in full time work.
It is not the fault of claimants that rents have soared out of control in London, making often the most modest of properties unaffordable without some benefits. Even in the very cheapest outskirts of the capital rents are soaring. Most of the families struggling with rocketing private sector housing costs were born in London or have lived here for years. Some have seen neighbourhoods previously regarded as poor like Notting Hill, Dalston or Brixton turn into playgrounds for the latte slurping middle classes around them, sometimes in the space of just a few years. Others live in areas which were always poor, like Tottenham and Catford. With the benefit cap pegged at £500 a week and housing benefit now frozen far below the rate of rent increases, very soon even these areas will be unaffordable for medium sized families on benefits.
The DWP went on the offensive yesterday in support of the cap, which is set to cost 40,000 people their homes over the next few months. Skiving Employment Minister Mark Hoban was even dragged off his silk cushions to lie that 8000 people had found jobs due to the cap. The Government has revised down the number of people they think will be affected, but this is not down to people finding work as ministers claim.
The fall is almost certain to be due to the disregard from the cap announced late last year for the housing costs of people in Supported Exempt Accommodation. This means that people living in supported housing such as homelessness hostels and women’s refuges – where rents can be eye-watering – will still have those rents met by benefits, for now. Far from London claimants living the high life in Chelsea mansions, the reality is that some of the poorest people, in the most difficult circumstances, are those paying the highest rents.
Anyone working enough hours to qualify for Working Tax Credits will be exempt from the cap, leading to a perverse situation where someone in work may now be eligible for more in benefit payments then someone unable to work due to sickness or unemployment. To qualify for the exemption, a single parent must be working at least 16 hours a week. Therefore a single mum working ten hours a week in term time may now be forced to give up her job and move hundreds of miles away, often to an area of high unemployment where rents are lower.
But even those who meet the threshold for Tax Credits will now face the threat of imminent homelessness should they become unemployed. The same applies to anyone who has managed to find a job to escape the cap. With increasingly only casualised or temporary jobs available for low waged workers, almost all those at the bottom of the labour market may face the prospect of losing their homes at some point in the future. Only those who have been in continuous work for 12 months when they lose their jobs will have a short term exemption of 39 weeks from the cap
Shelter recently released a report which showed that one in three people could not pay their rent for more than a month if they lost their job. For those families living in London, the welfare state will no longer provide a safety net to help them keep their homes. Some will be unable to pay the rent immediately leading to eviction in a matter of weeks. Others will face a desperate scramble to find work within the exemption period – or get better in the case of sickness – or they too will no longer be able to stay in their homes.
Whilst 40,000 people could be made homeless overnight due to yesterday’s changes, possibly hundreds of thousands more Londoners will now live in fear of the streets should they fall ill or are made redundant.
Above pic from: http://hackneyrenters.org/
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