Jan 10 2013 by Hannah Bewley, Harrow Observer
THE poor are facing the ‘perfect storm’ of cuts and housing issues that is leading to a crisis in the borough, a councillor has warned.
A combination of benefits cuts, the universal credit – which will cap tenants’ housing allowance – a shortage of housing stock and rising rents are all contributing to tough times for people in Brent who are either unemployed or on a low income, a public meeting was told.
Tenants, representatives from housing associations and councillors gathered at Kensal Rise Primary School, in Harvist Road, on Tuesday for the Brent Connects Kilburn and Kensal forum to discuss the topic Housing: Are we pricing the poor out of Brent?
Labour councillor James Denselow, who chaired the panel, said: “The mix of council tax benefit changes, different definitions of affordability, and the universal credit is causing real problems in Brent.
“It is far more nefarious than closing a building, it is affecting a lot of families and it is a perfect storm – it is going to be really tough.”
Isabel Counihan-Sanchez spoke about her family’s campaign to be rehomed in the borough.
They had moved temporarily from their Kilburn home to Ireland and on their return were rehomed in Ealing.
Campaigner Robin Sivapalan read out a list of demands to Brent Council which he said would ensure the poorest people were able to stay in their homes.
The list included refusing to evict anyone in arrears as a result of benefits changes, capping rents, building affordable homes and taking properties that had been empty for a year into public ownership.
Mr Sivapalan told the meeting: “I was born in Brent and lived here most of my life. I came back recently and what struck me was the housing crisis.
“The Counihans are the first family to fight back publicly.
“Although it is government policy, we think the council could help people in this area and fight back on their behalf.”
The coalition government’s introduction of a benefits cap will give families nationwide a limit of £500 a week to cover their rent, affecting 2,600 households in Brent – the largest number affected by this particular strand of welfare reform of any authority, the council said.
Perry Singh, the council’s assistant director of housing, was on the panel and said: “More people will be affected in Brent than anywhere else by the benefit cap, due to a large population and low incomes. More people are affected here than in Manchester and Birmingham.
“There are 20,000 people on our housing list at the moment and normally in a year we would house 800. The supply is very limited and the list is very long.
““Rents are also rising, which adds to the problem.”
Councillor Janice Long, lead member for housing, also on the panel, said the council does not have adequate housing stock but Brent does not have a ready supply of suitable land for development.
She said: “We are already pricing people out of this area.
“We are having to relocate people outside the borough, some are in temporary accommodation in Luton and others are going to the Midlands.”