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

to rise.

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

live.

”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

subsidies.

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

situation.

”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

anticipated.

”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.