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As we await the impact of the imposed upper limits of Housing Benefit, starting in April 2011, it appears that some London Councils have already decided on the likely results, according to this story in the Observer.

Representatives of London boroughs told a meeting of MPs last week that councils have already block-booked bed and breakfasts and other private accommodation outside the capital – from Hastings, on the south coast, to Reading to the west and Luton to the north – to house those who will be priced out of the London market.

Councils in the capital are warning that 82,000 families – more than 200,000 people – face losing their homes because private landlords, enjoying a healthy rental market buoyed by young professionals who cannot afford to buy, will not cut their rents to the level of caps imposed by ministers.

Apparently an unnamed minister compared the effects to the Highland Clearances of the 18th and early 19th centuries. What isn’t related is whether the anonymous minister thought this was a good thing or a bad thing. With the current lot, it is a fair bet that the minister has an aristocratic Scottish landlord in their ancestry. John Cruddas, with an eye to a more contemporary simile, described the likely effects as “an exercise in social and economic cleansing” .

Simon Hughes is voicing Lib Dem dissent – and Simon Hughes does know his social housing. An amendment to the rules for London is proposed to be tabled. Better move quickly, Simon…

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.


  1. jh

    Is moving an inner London family to Hastings classed as ‘suitable?’

    • NL

      For whom?

  2. NL

    But more seriously, I was thinking the same myself. However, for a household with no employment, health or strong support network or family ties to an area, which may be quite a proportion of the newly homeless, there would have to be some other strong argument on suitability to avoid Luton or Hastings. Whether the block booking is for temporary accommodation only or intended to be more permanent isn’t clear.

  3. simply wondered

    do we foresee any challenges based on a right to an education (cf a8 nationals?). sure they won’t be leaving a whole educational system, but they may have established links in a school and be part way through the exam teaching process?

    just thinking of ways there may be more work for us!

  4. jh

    These proposals will lead to huge opportunities for legal challenges and especially in supported housing, where rents reflect the added costs of furnishings and security for example refuges and hostels. Typically rents in refuges and homeless families units nationally are in excess of £250pw and can reach £350 or more pw.

    The HB cuts and caps are part of overall caps of benefits (and reliefs in kind such as CTB) of £500 pw for families and £350 pw for individuals. The only exemptions to these overall caps, aside from War Widows, is receipt of DLA.

    A homeless family with 3 children will be in receipt of £312 in benefits and reliefs (CIH and NHF figures). Yet the overall benefit cap will mean HB can only pay £188pw (£500 – £312)

    Right to a home, suitable temporary provision, councils duties to accommodate under 1996 anyone.

    The manifestations of these proposals are stark and will affect nationally and not just in London and the South East.

    Sorry Mrs X says the homeless officer, you and your three children cant go into our Homeless Families Unit or be placed in a refuge as you cant afford the rent and HB wont pay it (unless you can find a way to claim DLA.)


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