The leader of Wandsworth Council has admitted “a very large number of families” will be forced to move out of the borough when changes to the benefit system are introduced.

Although Councillor Edward Lister did not go so far as to say Wandsworth could become an elite borough populated only by the wealthy, he revealed the council would not be able to help everyone currently relying on housing benefit to stay in their homes in the years ahead.

>From April, 2013, changes to the system will see housing benefit for a four-bedroom home limited to about £400-a-week, raising fears that households will either be evicted or forced to move because they will be unable to negotiate cheaper rents from their landlords.

But Councillor Tony Belton, leader of the borough’s Labour group, said he had seen indicators which suggested “up to one hundred families” in Tooting, Graveney and possibly Furzedown could be affected as soon as April next year.

He described the move as “socially divisive”, adding the changes were part of “the most appalling, destructive policy I have seen in many years”.

Meanwhile, Campbell Robb, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said: “The Government’s own estimates show that the average three bedroom household in Wandsworth will be £117 a month worse off as a result of cuts to local housing allowance.

“Even at current levels, nearly half of claimants already make up a shortfall of almost £100 a month to meet their rent. When these cuts come in, these households are going to find it even more difficult to keep a roof over their heads.

“Shelter is really concerned that these cuts will not only lead to increased levels of homelessness and overcrowding, but will mean children ripped out of their schools and families forced miles away from their jobs and communities in search of an affordable place to live.”

Coun Lister acknowledged there were residents in the borough “living in quite expensive properties who will certainly be claiming benefits”.

He told the Wandsworth Guardian: “A very large number of families will probably not be able to continue to live in this borough.”

However, he said the housing benefit cap was necessary as society could not afford to continue paying out huge sums in benefits.

Coun Lister agreed the changes could result in a less transient population in the borough, which he said would be good for economic stability but bad for issues like pressure on school places.

House prices revealed

New research has revealed the average house price in Wandsworth stands at £459,342 - meaning wannabe owners will need to have a gross income of £118,117 to buy a home.

An annual survey by the National Housing Federation (NHF) also listed the average income in the borough as being £33,077, ruling out the possibility of buyers being able to land a 90 per cent mortgage at 3.5 times income.

In addition, the average lower value home - a property in the bottom 25 per cent of prices - in Wandsworth is £250,000, which still requires a gross income of £64,286.

Belinda Porich, head of the NHF’s London region, said: “The Home Truths report shows that buying a house is not a realistic prospect for the vast majority of Londoners.

“This is especially bad news for London’s ordinary hardworking families. Many of them are already fearful of having to leave their homes next year due to the Government’s planned housing benefit caps and cuts.”

The NHF has warned the Government’s decision to slash the housing budget by 63 per cent, and pay for new low cost homes through massive rent increases, will mean that no real new social homes will be delivered during the next spending period, beyond those already in the pipeline - and lead to thousands more tenants being trapped on benefits.