Newham Accused Of Social Cleansing Families On Housing Benefit

Newham Council have been accused of social cleansing by a Stoke housing association contacted by Newham, who asked them to house some of their needier tenants.

Lack of social housing and overcrowding in the borough means the council is forced to house families in the private rental sector – where rents are increasing, particularly in this Olympic borough. (On the Today programme this morning, Housing Minister Grant Shapps said rents aren’t rising; Full Fact dug up that Mr Shapps has been looking at how rent went down in November and December without acknowledging that rents generally fall in winter. Seasonally adjusted, rents nationally are up 4.3% year on year.) Housing benefit caps no longer meet market rents in the borough, says Newham, forcing it to look elsewhere to house up to 500 families. When the council can’t find enough properties cheap enough – many private landlords also don’t accept tenants on housing benefit, cutting the number of homes available – it’s looking at social housing up to 170 miles away.

This shoving of poorer Londoners to outer boroughs – and, evidently, beyond – was foreshadowed by none other than Communities Secretary Eric Pickles’s office last year, and there’s been recent evidence that poverty levels in outer London are rising as families move to find cheaper accommodation. This in turn puts more pressure on councils to find housing and supply school places, social services etc. Shelter recently found that renting a typical two bedroom home is unaffordable unless you earn over £52,000.

The Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, defended his council’s actions on Radio 4, saying they’re only trying to move families to places they have a link with, and that finding people proper homes instead of leaving them in bed and breakfasts is the better option. While trying to send people to Stoke is stupid (anyone with a job, and the majority of people receiving housing benefit are in work, will instantly become unemployed for a start), with a desperate shortage of affordable housing in London, it’s possible to see the strange logical path Newham has taken. We also shouldn’t think this is all Newham’s idea: back in October 2010 some councils were reported to be looking at moving residents as far away as Hastings.

We’ll be looking at the problem of rising rents, affordability and how the Mayor could tackle the problem later in the week.

Newham housing block, part of which is affordable housing, by O.F.E. from the Londonist Flickr pool

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  • PJ Taylor

    Charities involved in helping families affected by the cap on the LHA are predicting that this scenario is going to get much, much worse. Judges at local magistrates court are preparing themselves for a substantial increase in evictions later on in the year when the housing benefit cuts begin to be fully implemented. Ian Duncan-Smith is trying to pull the wool over our eyes with a seemingly social policy that is evidently going to have detrimental effects on families, children, and schools. I refuse to believe his department could not foresee the problems that his legislation is going to cause. The issue is not whether the housing benefit system needs restructing, it does, but how it is changed in a pragmatic fashion. I wonder what percentage of the families are willing to move 170 miles away without feeling as though it would ruin their lives. 

  • Anonymous

    I never figured out why I have to pay 750 a month to live in Tower Hamlet yet the guy next door to me gets his flat for free and doesn’t bother to get out of bed in the morning. 

  • Anonymous

    Olympic Stratford borders Forest Gate where Newham Council has just tried to build c1,000 homes NONE OF THEM AFFORDABLE. The developers met in secret with the Council over several years to then tell local people there was “no demand” for affordable housing in Newham. Perhaps a little puzzling to hear Newham Mayor Robin Wales, a resident of Forest Gate, explaining to the BBC Today programme that poor local people will have to be shipped north?

  • Richard

    Housing in London is so expensive BECAUSE of the amount of social housing.  Sell it off and get it back onto the private market so that working people can afford somewhere decent to live.  Rather than shipping dole bludgers out to Hastings for a sea-side holiday put them in tented camps in the countryside.  Give them exercise, meditation classes, healthy food, and vocational training.  They’ll soon become productive members of society.