Shock new research by the University of Cambridge which predicts just SIX per cent of Hammersmith and Fulham's neighbourhoods will be affordable to low income families by 2016 has been dismissed as 'scaremongering' by the borough's housing supremo.
The independent report, commissioned by Shelter, the homeless charity, looks into the effects housing benefit reforms will have on the poor, and reveals a large proportion of H&F's struggling tenants will no longer be able to afford to live here once they come into force.
But Councillor Lucy Ivimy, the cabinet member for housing, has accused Shelter of being a 'political lobby group' which has carried out 'flawed analysis'.
She said: "The new housing benefit rules are, I know, a source of significant concern to the opposition, and to various housing groups. I am well aware of the concerns expressed by Shelter about an impending crisis, with extraordinary figures for the numbers of families likely either to be pushed into poverty or made homeless by the changes.
"I believe all these fears are ungrounded. When the Shelter report is analysed, the conclusions are based on false assumptions and deeply flawed analysis. This is a political lobby group that seems to be wishing to create a crisis out of the changes as fodder for a political agenda."
Dividing the borough into 111 neighbourhoods, the report says the number of affordable districts in H&F will fall to 40 per cent when benefits are capped in April this year, down from the current 66 per cent.
And that figure will drop to a staggering six per cent when further reforms, including the introduction of a new formula to calculate benefits through inflation rather than by actual market rents, are introduced in 2013.
This will lead to 'a gradual spatial redistribution of low-income private tenants out of inner London and into clusters of neighbourhoods in certain parts of the outer suburbs', echoing the fears of housing groups.
However, Ms Ivimy says only 2,000 of the borough's 21,500 housing benefit recipients are paying rent above the caps and that, when the reforms come in, landlords will reduce rent.
Only 'some' families will be forced to move, while 'no families will be made homeless or pushed into poverty'.
Shelter rubbished Ms Ivimy's accusations that it was politically motivated. Kay Boycott, director of policy and campaigns, said: "Party politics are simply not a factor. Shelter’s priority is that everyone can find and keep a decent, affordable home. Changes to housing benefit will significantly impact on the ability of thousands of people to do this, which is why Shelter is campaigning on them. Party politics are simply not a factor.
“Shelter commissioned independent research from housing experts at the University of Cambridge to assess the long-term effects of the cuts and fill in gaps from the government’s own impact assessment. These independent findings showed that 54,000 children currently living below the poverty line will be pushed even further into poverty, while an estimated 134,000 households will be unable to stay in their homes. It is worth noting that these figures have been arrived at assuming that many landlords will reduce their rents.
“We look forward to seeing Hammersmith and Fulham’s own independent assessment of the impact these cuts will have on child poverty and homelessness within the borough.”
Labour MP Andy Slaughter said: "Shelter has an international reputation as an authoritative and impartial body – it has been critical of Labour in the past and the Tories love it then.
"We have to respect its findings."