Andrew Gilligan says the “evidence of a mass exodus” as a result of the welfare reforms “is thin” (The ‘final solution’? Don’t believe the hype about the housing benefit cap).
He is right, but only because he is not factoring in the delayed and phased-in implementation of the measures. As Gilligan acknowledges, 70% of existing claimants are still to have their housing benefit cut. Furthermore, 2013 will see the introduction of the total benefit cap and the pegging of local housing allowance to the Consumer Price Index.
While CPI is currently 3.4%, London rents rose 12% last year. As homes become more expensive to rent, the benefit – which is claimed mostly by people who are in work, disabled or pensioners – will cover less and less.
And where will these homes, at low rents, be found?
The Government believes the caps will bring rents down. But, a lack of social rented homes at one end combined with declining new home ownership at the other will continue to fuel year-on-year rent increases way above inflation in London.
For all these reasons, a report for Shelter showed that only 20% of inner-London neighbourhoods would be affordable by 2016, compared to 70% in 2011, while less than half of outer-London remains affordable. Affordability does not necessarily mean availability.
This is not a matter of party politics, it’s a matter of mathematics. That is why councils of all political colours in inner and outer-London are scrambling to find homes that are affordable for their residents and are increasingly being forced to find homes well beyond the south east.
The term “social cleansing” was introduced into the debate by Boris Johnson. He said it wouldn’t happen ‘on my watch’. But because Johnson “absolutely” supports these reforms, he has only lobbied Government for delay.
Why isn’t he lobbying for a regional variation to the caps? This is widely supported, including in a report published this week by IPPR. In addition, we need a comprehensive impact assessment of the totality of the reforms on levels of social segregation in London and other parts of the country.
Labour Group spokesperson for housing and planning on the London Assembly