Brent benefit cap victims to be housed out of borough

Brent Council expects to house evicted tenants outside borough after Government rebutts extra help request

FAMILIES hit by housing benefit caps could be forced out of the borough for good if the Government refuses to backtrack on its controversial policy.

Brent Council is lobbying Government in the hope it would take into consideration London’s higher rents following the decision to delay its introduction for nine months.

But questioned by the Times, the Department of Work and Pensions refused to say it would even consider such a re-evaluation.

Brent Council currently has no contingency plans to re-house an expected increase of people presenting themselves as homeless following cuts in their benefits.

While other Councils are rumoured to be block booking Bed and Breakfasts, Cllr Ann John, Brent’s leader, said it was unacceptable to put people in such accommodation.

She said: “It’s going to be a big, big problem. We only have 9,000 units of social housing with 20,000 on the waiting list.”

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Martin Cheeseman, Brent’s director of housing and community care, said: “Our social housing is already overstretched and we do not have access to suitable affordable housing. It is for this reason that we are looking for accommodation that housing benefit can fund. We are almost certain this would be outside of the borough and more than likely outside of London.”

In a recent interview he highlighted the increased risk of homelessness and the creation of ghettos as poorer families move to cheaper areas.

The caps will affect working people as well as the unemployed renting private accommodation.

Although most people are expected to move voluntarily, tenants who are evicted may present themselves to the council as homeless who, after an assessment may be obliged to house them.

Mr Cheeseman said: “Brent and many other London councils feel these changes hit the poorest hardest making the most vulnerable – such as pensioners, carers, vulnerable adults and families – pay a huge price for the countries debt without offering sustainable results.

The DWP hopes landlords will choose to accept less money from benefit claimants despite rental properties being high demand.

It has also allocated funds for Councils to make discretionary payments, negotiate lower rents and offer help and advice.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “is an urgent need to reform Housing Benefit to return fairness to a system that is out of control.”