The capital’s richest borough says it is limited in what it can do but is recruiting staff to help families facing homelessness to relocate to cheaper areas of London, such as Brent, Walthamstow or Tower Hamlets.
The coalition government unveiled new caps on benefit payments in its emergency budget in June 2010. Critics claimed that this would create “ghettoes of wealth” as poor people were driven from expensive districts. This prediction appears to be materialising in the royal borough.
'Research suggests there are no properties available in the area at these rent levels'
Of 2,771 households currently receiving benefits to help pay private rent, 2,047 will face a shortfall - 89.7 per cent. Of those, more than 900 are either aged over 70, or have young children.
The cap for a one-bedroom flat in the borough is £250 a week, so tenants could afford a well-located but bijou (93sq ft) studio in Prince of Wales Terrace, South Kensington, currently available for £195-a-week. The caps for larger properties stand at £290-a-week (two bedrooms); £340 a week (three bedrooms) or £400 a week (four bedrooms or more). Research by Homes & Property suggests there are no properties available in the area at these rent levels.
Councillor Tim Coleridge, the council’s housing chief, suggested families consider cheaper boroughs like Brent, Walthamstow or Tower Hamlets. “The only role we can really have is to help them move,” he said.
The council is considering introducing a rent deposit scheme, will offer “practical tips” on how to find a home, and “advice and assistance for those faced with homelessness”.
“If they are fairly able people there is no reason why they can’t go and find another place to rent elsewhere in London,” said Coleridge, who pointed out that the borough will support especially vulnerable households and also has 19,000 tenants in social housing who will be able to stay.
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said the current benefits system was “out of control” and pointed out the Government had set aside a £130m national slush fund to provide help to vulnerable tenants, plus £50m to help people with expenses like moving costs.