City ‘too expensive’ for poorest families

Brighotn and Hove: A human-sized city
Brighotn and Hove: A human-sized city

Rising rents in the city and welfare reforms will have an impact on low-income families.

The profound impact of welfare reform on the poorest citizens in Brighton and Hove was discussed by city councillors on Monday.

Rising rents in the city, combined with the incoming £20,000 housing benefit cap, means council staff must have “honest and open conversations” with families affected by the welfare reform “about where they can afford to live”.

Brighton and Hove City Council is set to be one of the most heavily impacted authorities in the country when the benefit cap comes in next autumn, according to a report to the neighbourhoods, communities and equality committee.

The report said private sector rents have increased by around 10%-a-year in the city, and if the trend continues, families on housing benefits will face a funding gap of up to £600 a month by 2019/20.

“This is likely to mean that private sector rents are largely unaffordable to people on benefits and lower incomes,” the report said.

Councillor Leo Littman, Green spokesperson for neighbourhoods, communities and equality, said: “Officers of Brighton and Hove City Council are being asked to speak to residents, many of whom will be descendants of people who have lived in the city for generations, and they are being told ‘you are too poor to live in Brighton and Hove’. I find that desperately upsetting.

“This report shows just how vicious and destructive the Tory austerity agenda is. This is social cleansing on a massive scale.

“Squeezed by welfare reforms, services cuts, and rising living costs, our poorest residents are being told they must leave the city they call home.

“The council has a duty to protect the city’s vulnerable families, and that means we absolutely cannot cut vital support like the council tax reduction scheme.”

The report revealed there are currently 10,900 local housing allowance claims in Brighton and Hove.

Warren Morgan, Labour leader of the city council, said: “It is not the policies of the Labour council that is driving people to move out of the city. It’s rocketing house prices and rents, both are going up by well over 10%, and reducing people’s income means housing becomes more and more unaffordable.

“We’re trying to make it more affordable with our council housing joint venture.

“To say that we’re driving people out of the city as a council, no, we’re just giving people information.”