Labour Fear Surge In Homelessness Over Christmas

Over 1000 households could be affected as Tory reforms start to bite

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According to figures compiled by the council for a recent Housing Committee meeting, government reforms have so far affected 2976 households in Wandsworth, due to the capping of Local Housing Allowance which took effect January this year*.

Already, the number of newly homeless households in Wandsworth has risen since last year, and more than ever are coming from the private sector: 42% of the 619 households accepted by the council as homeless since April are there as a result of eviction from the private sector.

Labour councillors fear the pressure of housing benefit reforms will lead the figures to soar even higher, particularly over the financially strained Christmas period. But at the same time, Wandsworth Council is cutting the number of units available to shelter rough sleepers.

And from April next year, pressure on the council’s homelessness services is expected to increase still further, as the government’s broader package of welfare reforms start to take effect. This includes the move to a Universal Credit, the cap on the amount of overall welfare benefits an individual or couple can receive per week, the penalty for under-occupancy of social housing and more. For full details, read the following briefing

The Council’s housing department has itself commented that (Paper No. 12-689):
“…These changes will impact on the ability of Council tenants to pay their rent, which could result in higher levels of rent arrears and potential evictions… There may, as a result, be added pressure on the Council’s homelessness and homelessness prevention services”.

Cllr Rex Osborn, Leader of the Labour Group says:
“In fact, the Council sees this as a significant risk, and is putting aside £7.4m a year just to cope with the number of people who are expected not to be able to pay their rent, but the full impact is not yet known and could be much worse.

He continued:
“The way the coalition is rushing through their proposals before any consideration of their consequences risks chaos for councils like Wandsworth – and, in the end, putting already strained services under pressure, and making people homeless, costs more than it saves.”

Statistics supplied by Wandsworth Labour Group:
In Graveney, one of the wards most affected by the capping of Local Housing Allowance in January, 326 households are receiving an average of £40 a week less, but up to 36 households are down as much as £422 per week.

On present calculations, 875 households in Wandsworth are set to be hit by the government’s cap on overall benefits. The majority, 66% (578) are living in the private rented sector and only 24% (209) are Council tenants. Most households will lose up to £200 per week.

For those living in Council owned housing, 1,448 Wandsworth tenants are expected to be penalised for having spare rooms.

*Local housing allowance (LHA) is the housing benefit paid to most tenants who rent from private landlords. Last year the government capped the rates payable, and set a cap on the maximum number of bedrooms eligible under the scheme.

November 29, 2012