Nobody to be made homeless by benefit changes - Cameron

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Nobody should be made homeless by controversial cuts to housing benefit, David Cameron has said.

The PM refused to comment on London Mayor Boris Johnson's claim it will mean "Kosovo-style social cleansing".

But he said the housing benefit budget had to be controlled and the government would still be "prepared to pay up to £20,000 a year" to families.

"I don't think it will be necessary for anybody to go without a home," he added at a press conference in Brussels.

The planned reforms will see housing benefit payments capped at a maximum of £400 a week - and the average amount paid through the Local Housing Allowance reduced by an average of £9 a week.

These measures, taken together with the removal of caps on the amount of rent housing associations can charge, has led critics to claim thousands of people will be made homeless across the UK.

'Scaremongering'

Labour has warned the moves - which represent the biggest shake-up in housing policy in decades - are unfair and could lead to an increase in support for far-right groups.

Ministers have conceded that some families will have to move to less expensive areas - but have angrily rejected suggestions by London Mayor Boris that it could lead to "social cleansing" of poor families with long-established roots in the capital to the suburbs or the south coast of England.

Downing Street issued a rare public rebuke for Mr Johnson on Thursday - indicating Mr Cameron's anger with his Conservative colleague.

Lib Dem Housing Minister Ed Davey, speaking on BBC One's Question Time, accused Mr Johnson of "scaremongering" and said he should apologise for the comments, which the mayor says have been taken out of context.

Challenged about Mr Johnson's remarks in Brussels, where he is attending an EU summit, Mr Cameron said: "I do not want to add to what was said yesterday."

Sticking to his previously stated position on the issue, Mr Cameron said housing benefit payments were "too high" and had to scaled back to deal with the budget deficit.

He told reporters: "This is an important change. I recognise that.

But the reason why I think it's right and why I think we can manage any transition is this: We are basically saying that we will pay up to £20,000 a year for someone's housing benefit. We just won't pay beyond that."

He said most people would see this as fair, adding that "even in London you are seeing quite a debate opening up about how many homes are available so I don't think it will be necessary to go without a home if we are prepared to pay up to £20,000 a year, which we are.

"But we have got to deal with our budget deficit and part of this is dealing with housing benefit."

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