Olympic borough tries to send poor residents away
Low-income people who live near London’s Olympic Stadium may
have to move to other parts of the country due to rising rents, the
borough’s mayor said Tuesday.
Newham Mayor Robin Wales said a new U.K. government policy
limiting rental subsidies means that many people can no longer
afford to live in the east London borough that now includes the
sprawling Olympic Park.
Newham has long been one of the country’s poorest boroughs, but
the newly built Olympic Stadium, a large new shopping mall and
public parks have regenerated parts of the borough and caused rents
Wales said he had written to over a thousand housing
associations in other parts of Britain to ask if they can take in
some of the 32,000 low-income families who need somewhere to
”The government has capped the levels of benefits so people are
leaving, or being driven out of west and central London, where
rents are higher, and they are moving to places like Newham,” said
Wales. ”We have hundreds of people wanting to find rental
accommodation and we can’t house them.”
In Britain, people with low incomes can apply to have all or
part of their housing costs subsidized by local authorities, but
the Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative-led government last
year introduced a controversial benefit cap that limits rent
The maximum is now around 400 pounds ($646) a week for a
four-bedroom house. Most people are only eligible for much smaller
properties with lower benefit caps.
Wales said Newham residents will ultimately benefit from the
Olympics because the Athletes Village will be turned into permanent
housing, but he needed to find a more immediate solution because
the government’s housing policy has failed.
”People are being driven out of their homes, their kids are
being ripped out of schools, because they can no longer afford
their rents,” he told The Associated Press. ”These are people’s
lives we are dealing with.”
Officials said the Newham council was exaggerating the
”There is absolutely no reason for people to be moved far away
from their communities – apart from the very expensive areas in
central London, around a third of private rented properties are
still affordable to benefit claimants,” The Department of Work and
Pensions said in a statement.
Anastasia de Waal of the social policy think tank Civitas said
the Newham housing crunch shows that local residents in London’s
Olympic boroughs are not getting the economic boost that had been
”Although the Olympics has obviously created job opportunities
and regenerated the area, the jobs aren’t often going to people who
live in the area,” she said.