Housing, Policy, Politics, Social Justice, Social Work, SocialCare, SocialCare Debate, SocialWork, SocialWork Debate, Support

“Can’t afford it… Get out…” is this a “Fair deal” or is it “Social Cleansing”?


The national housing benefit caps which came into effect at the beginning of this year are forcing a number of London boroughs to examine the option of re-housing some of their housing benefit claimants outside of the capital.

The caps are part of the government’s welfare reform and range from £250 per week for a one-bedroom flat to a £400 per week for a four-bedroom property. The actual housing benefit caps for each local authority may be lower than the national cap. Therefore, given the increasing cost of housing rentals in London, several councils are considering the possibility of relocating housing benefit claimant whose rentals exceed the caps, in other cities with lower rental costs.

This has given rise to much discussion regarding the effect of housing benefit caps and whether council should be allowed to relocate their tenants in this manner. Here is the letter from Newham council to Stoke housing association and the following are some of the relevant articles and headlines reported by the Guardian and the Channel 4:

In addition there is this report and analysis by Polly Curtis of The Guardian. In this report Hannah Fearn editor of the Guardian’s Housing Network as well as local government networks states:

The government has also instituted a policy called Affordable Rent, which gives housing associations public grants to develop new homes in return for a flexibility to charge up to 80% of market rent for these properties to stabilise their incomes. In London, 80% of market rent is well above the housing benefit cap for most families – leaving housing associations facing the difficult decision of either renting these properties to households not in the most housing need, or deciding to rent at a lower value and lose a potential revenue stream which could help support other needy households.

The real reason for the growth of the housing benefit bill is the flatlining economy: most new housing benefit claimants are in work but paid at the minimum wage which often does not meet family housing costs.

Hannah Fearn raises a very important and fundamental problem that merits further reflection and careful consideration.

Furthermore, it is important to note that:

  • Housing benefit claimants range from young mothers in their teens, to older people earning minimum wage.
  • Government funding, expenditure, subsidies and so on, come from direct and indirect taxes that are paid by all of us including those earning minimum wage and housing benefit claimants who work and pay taxes.

Therefore, in today’s debate we wish to examine some of the following questions:

  1. Should housing claimants be subject to housing benefit caps?
  2. Should councils be allowed to relocate their tenants in this manner?
  3. People who do not receive government subsidies are forced to find housing that they can afford. Therefore, should council tenants simply be happy to receive the subsidy they receive and try to find housing within the government caps?
  4. London has always been a melting pot of different cultures, does this move by London councils impoverish the capital’s cultural diversity?
  5. Is this a fair treatment of claimant families? or is it tantamount to social cleansing?

Join us in today’s debate to explore and discuss these and other relevant questions.

Join us to share your views and to explore these and other relevant questions @SWSCmedia debate today at 8:00 PM London / 3:00 PM New York.

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