REFORMS to the housing benefit system could worsen the problem of overcrowded housing, a minister has warned.
Thousands of homes in the borough have been carved up into individual flats, or adapted to enable many people to share the space, as landlords try to optimise profits.
The proposed changes will mean under 35s will no longer be able to claim for a self-contained property, forcing them into homes with shared facilities.
Responding to a parliamentary question from Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy, junior minister for pensions Steve Webb admitted the changes are likely to lead to the further loss of larger homes.
The Liberal Democrat MP said: “One consequence of the reforms to housing benefit will be that the local housing market will change.
“We anticipate, for example, that some of the larger properties might find themselves converted into houses in multiple occupation, although we do not know exactly what will happen.
“One problem is that over many years we have seen inadequate house building taking place under the hon. Lady's Government.”
Ms Creasy said: "I asked the minister about the impact of housing benefit reforms because I don't think the Government has thought through the consequences of this policy and his answer shows I was right to be concerned.
“There are 1,500 people in Waltham Forest who could be affected by changes to the shared room rate, and so will have to move house if these changes go through.
“As we're already desperately short of family sized housing, the minister’s answer to my question demonstrates a worrying lack of understanding about their situation or the needs of our community."
As Waltham Forest Council’s cabinet member for housing, Cllr Marie Pye is responsible for finding a solution to the borough’s housing crisis.
She said: "Unfortunately we have found that when you have houses overcrowded with single people often sharing inadequate facilities this causes all kinds of problems.
“Having even more multi-occupancy homes can only bring more problems to Waltham Forest.
“The Government should be thinking again about their housing benefit changes if they're going to have these kinds of consequences."