‘Inside Housing’ reports:
“Low income families are being forced out of the capital, Labour has said, after revealing a 27% drop in housing benefit claimants in central London.
Research by London Labour has revealed the number of private sector tenants claiming housing benefits in five central London boroughs has dropped by 5,972 from March 2011 to August 2014.
Across inner London, the figures revealed an 8% drop – which the party has blamed on benefit caps and the rising cost of living.
The claims were hotly disputed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which said record employment levels in London were behind the drop.
Local housing allowance – claimed by tenants in the private sector – was capped in April 2011 at a maximum of £412 per week for a four bedroom house and £350 for a three bed. An overall benefit cap, which limits total weekly benefit claims at £500 per week for families, was introduced across London last year.
There have been long-standing concerns that these changes would force families reliant on benefits out of high-rent areas.
Labour’s research – taken from DWP statistics – showed Camden, City of London, Islington, Westminster and Kensignton & Chelsea had a total 21,982 benefit claimants in the private sector in March 2011, and 16,010 in August this year.
Fiona Twycross, a Labour London assembly member, said: ‘Families who have lived their whole lives in central London are being forced out.
‘This not only has a devastating effect on those households, it results in the loss of London’s mixed communities and puts additional pressure on the outer London boroughs facing the influx. If the trend continues, central London will become the reserve of the privileged.’
It comes as the DWP claimed the benefit cap was helping people into work, revealing that those impacted by the cap are 41% more likely to go into work than a similar group who fell just below the cap’s level.
A DWP spokesperson said: ‘There is simply no evidence of these claims – the vast majority of claimants who have had their benefits capped move only a few miles away, and are more likely to get a job.
‘Employment in London is at record levels, so it’s not surprising there are fewer claimants – and we’ll stick to our long-term economic plan so more people can break free from welfare dependency.’