MORE than 1,500 households in the borough face losing at least £60 a month because of changes to housing benefit that came into effect last week.
The families in social rented accommodation are having their benefit deducted if they have a spare bedroom in a move that Labour has dubbed a ‘bedroom tax’, saying it is a cut that targets poor families.
Hammersmith and Fulham Council said 1,600 households in the borough are affected: half live in council-owned properties and the other rent from a housing association.
The authority said it was helping about 50 households to downsize or swap with families who need bigger homes and advising others to take in a lodger to help meet shortfalls in rent.
But Hammersmith’s Labour MP Andy Slaughter said: "This is not about freeing up accommodation to stop overcrowding, it’s about taxing the poorest people while giving millionaires tax cuts.
"The council has sold 209 properties over three years which could have been used for overcrowding. They’re demolishing estates and reducing accommodation. The crux of the argument is they are penalising, victimising and punishing people on low incomes."
The council has also cut the number on the housing register from 11,000 to about 1,100 as stricter rules on who can apply for social housing in the borough come into force.
Applicants must now have a combined household income of less than £40,200 and at least a five-year connection with the borough. Army personnel, foster carers and those who make ‘a significant contribution to the community’, such as medical staff and police officers, will be prioritised.
Councillor Andrew Johnson, cabinet member for housing, said some had been on the waiting list for as long as 36 years and many lived outside London, as far as Ireland.
The council has said most people on the housing register had registered in multiple boroughs so would never have been housed in Hammersmith and Fulham.
"By reducing our register to 1,100 local people who are in real need of a home here in Hammersmith & Fulham we have created a much fairer and transparent system. We make about 470 new lettings each year so those who are on the register now stand a real chance of getting a council home rather than waiting for years under an illusion and false hope
“We do not think it is right that people from anywhere in the UK and new migrants are able to apply for a council home here and jump ahead of hard-working local people who have lived in the borough for many years. “
He added that the council is promoting the right-to-buy scheme, to allow council tenants to purchase their homes at large discounts, providing low-cost homes through discounted schemes in new private developments and had plans to launch a rent-to-save scheme, where people can pay less rent while saving the rest for a deposit for a mortgage.
Campaigners staged a protest against the benefit cuts outside St Simon’s Church, West Kensington, on Monday, where borough mayor Councillor Belinda Donovan was due to hold her surgery meeting.
Campaigners described the cuts as a ‘vicious local attack’ and fear tenants could be evicted from their council homes if they are unable to pay their rent.