Wide-ranging cuts to nearly 19,000 housing benefit claims could see a surge in homeless cases in Birmingham.
Due to come into force from October, the £1.8 billion cut to the Local Housing Allowance (LHA), paid to tenants in the private rented sector, will see 18,870 residents in the city have support cut by an average of £10.
The number is the highest under any local authority in the country outside of London.
Charity Crisis said those claiming LHA were already facing an average shortfall of £23-a-week between their rent and benefit claims and the cuts would force them further into debt or onto the streets of Birmingham.
The department of work and pensions (DWP) said the new measures were brought in to make the system fair and prevent those on benefits living in expensive accommodation those in work could not afford.
Katharine Sacks-Jones, Crisis policy manager, said vulnerable low paid workers would be forced to find other accommodation or be made homeless.
“This is forcing people to chose between paying bills and putting food on the table or in the worst cases homelessness,” she said.
“We’re talking about a significant number of people, most of them on this benefit will be working but will be on low incomes.
“If they are forced to move they could lose their work so these cuts could end up costing more. They could also approach the local authority for assistance and so burden the council when they’re already under pressure.”
She added the cuts could also see lower-rent areas deluged with those on benefits causing a strain on already stretched services such as schools and health.
Leslie Morphy, chief executive of the charity, said: “The Government must totally re-think these cuts now. Not only would a surge in homelessness cause damage for generations to come in the West Midlands, it is also counter productive.”
A DWP Spokesperson said: “There is an urgent need to reform Housing Benefit and it’s right we return fairness to a system that is out of control. It’s not right that some families on benefits are able to live in smart areas, which most working families cannot afford, and cannot maintain when they move into work.
“Anyone claiming Housing Benefit in the private-rented sector who needs to look for more appropriate accommodation will still find that nearly a third of properties on the market will be within their price range, and we’ve tripled our Discretionary Housing Payments to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable.”