Housing crisis looms in Islington

A crisis of epic proportions looms as an expected 300 Islington families with children are set to be made homeless by a housing benefit cap.

The new limit, which starts for existing claimants in January, will hit 900 families and an estimated 1,500 children according to council estimates.

Of those families, 300 will be made homeless, 400 will have to move out of the borough and 200 will be able to get by if their rent is dropped. A further 700 households will be negatively affected by the cap.

Homelessness is already on the rise in the borough, with a 67 per cent increase in the last financial year, and the cuts will add to the problem.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of homeless charity Shelter, said: “Research carried out by Shelter found that households in Islington will be an average of �325 a month worse off as a result of changes to housing benefit. Tragically, with such a significant reduction in support, an increase in homelessness is inevitable.”

The cap, designed to reduce the government’s �21billion housing benefit bill, will limit the amount families can claim for their homes, with a maximum of �400 per week being allowed for a four bedroom property.

In Islington, 173 families receive more than �400 per week, with one household getting �1,000 every week for housing benefit.

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Cllr James Murray, Islington Council’s executive member for housing, said: “The government changes to housing benefit are going to have a disproportionately devastating effect on Islington. We want to see the housing benefit bill reduced, but not by these draconian measures forcing families out of Islington.

“It is going to be hard if not impossible for many people to stay in the borough, and we are fighting against this.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “Our housing benefit reforms are not designed to force people out of their homes. They are about restoring fairness to a system which has spiralled out of control and ensuring that benefit claimants make the same choices about affordability as everyone else.

“We have given existing claimants up to nine months from the anniversary of their claim to adjust to any changes in their benefit. People in the most vulnerable situations will remain exempt, and those not exempt can be considered for extra help from the additional �130million being made available to local authorities to help smooth the transition of the housing benefit changes.”

In total, the borough costs the government �217m a year in housing benefit.