Kensington & Chelsea

The government’s benefit reforms are emptying central London of low-income families, new data from the Department for Work and Pensions shows.

The number of people claiming housing benefit for privately rented properties has dropped dramatically in central London boroughs since the government introduced a cap for tenants of private landlords in April 2011. Claims in the City of London have fallen by a third and those in Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster have dropped by around a fifth. Camden’s claims have decreased 11 per cent.

By contrast, numbers have increased in many cheaper outer London boroughs, suggesting that claimants are being pushed to the margins of the city. Barnet and Enfield saw the biggest increases, at more than 16 per cent, while Bexley, Barking and Dagenham, Sutton and Hillingdon also saw substantial increases.

Overall the number of claims for private rented homes in inner London boroughs fell 1.8 per cent and the number in outer London boroughs rose 8.6 per cent.

Further benefit reforms to be implemented in coming months will speed up this process, local authorities fear.

The government’s aim in introducing the cap was to drive down its spending on welfare benefits, as well as to help slow down the rapid rise in housing costs. This may begin to undermine the capital’s thriving rental market, which has helped to sustain its rising house prices in recent years.

Darren Johnson, a Green Party member of the London Assembly, said: “This is the first evidence that the housing benefit cuts and high rents may be changing the shape of London, exporting low-paid households to outer London and beyond.

“The Mayor of London [needs to] start lobbying the government to ensure people on low wages and seeking work can still afford to live in all parts of London, otherwise we will become a segregated city like Paris.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “Our reforms are restoring fairness to a system that was allowed to spiral out of control. It’s not right that some families living on benefits should be able to live in areas of London that hard-working families could simply never afford to stay in.”

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