Changes to housing benefit rules “will usher in a year of housing and homelessness misery for hundreds of people in Brighton and Hove”, according to a leading expert.
The changes mean that many single people aged 25 to 34 who had no dependent children and who rented from a private landlord would be eligible for a lower rate of benefit.
Those affected would be men and women living in a one-bedroom or studio flat.
From New Year’s Day they would be entitled only to the shared accommodation rate of housing benefit which may not cover their rent.
This would put them at risk of being made homeless, Andy Winter, the chief executive of Brighton Housing Trust (BHT), said.
He cited research by the Chartered Institute of Housing which suggested that 5,800 homes in Brighton and Hove would become unaffordable for men and women on housing benefit.
The result would be that 13,000 homes would be available to rent in Brighton and Hove for 13,700 claimants.
Mr Winter’s warning came as Brighton and Hove City Council predicted that about 750 people locally faced having their housing benefit cut by up to £70 a week.
The council said that it was “making every effort to help residents facing a cut in their housing benefit as a result of new rules increasing the threshold age for shared accommodation”.
It said that it had written to all those who could be affected and sent follow-up letters. The letters explained the new rules and offered guidance and advice from a range of agencies working in partnership with the council.
Few would be affected immediately, the council said, as the changes would take effect on the anniversary of the claim for housing benefit.
Mr Winter said: “Many organisations across the country, including BHT, have been warning that the consequences of changes to housing benefit would result in a significant increase in homelessness and rough sleeping.
“The figures published by the Chartered Institute provide the best forecasts to date of the impact.
“In Brighton and Hove the situation will be compounded by the ‘landlords market’ which is seeing rents increasing faster than in most other areas of the country.
“In the last six months, even before these changes, there has been a steep rise in rough sleeping in the city.
“I have consistently warned of a ‘perfect storm’ being created, that 2012 will see a huge rise in homelessness and rough sleeping.
“The decision to proceed with these changes in housing benefit entitlement will usher in a year of housing and homelessness misery for hundreds of people in Brighton and Hove.”
Councillor Jason Kitcat, the council’s cabinet member for finance and central services, said: “We are fully aware that this national change to housing benefit rules will put some people in a very difficult situation so we are working with our partners in the city to make sure the worst effects of these changes are prevented from happening.”
He said that anyone affected should contact the council on 01273 292000 in case the need to move could be avoided.