20101122 london 213 flat estate 18
A view of the 'Robin Hood Gardens' housing estate in Poplar, on April 3, 2008 in East London, England. The 213 flat estate, designed and built by famed brutalist architects Peter and Alison Smithson in the late 1960s with the vision of 'streets in the sky', is facing an uncertain future. - 


STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Over in Britain, meanwhile, the government is tackling its own budget issues by cutting services. Including subsidies for public housing.

Christopher Werth filed this report.


CHRISTOPHER WERTH: James Cummings shows me around his cramped one bedroom apartment in a run down part of East London.

CUMMINGS: This is the bathroom, toilet, not very big.

For more than two years, the British government has covered most of the $1,200 a month he pays in rent under its housing benefit scheme. But that's about to change. Over the past decade, the total cost of the scheme has doubled to more than $30 billion. So the new Conservative government is capping the amount people receive at a level that's well below London's market rates, and Cummings is worried he might lose his apartment.

CUMMINGS: I mean what are you going to do? Are you going to eat or pay your rent?

And he isn't alone. Sir Steve Bullock of the think tank London Councils estimates the cuts could put over 250,000 low-income Londoners at risk of losing their homes, pushing them far out of the city in search of cheaper rents.

SIR STEVE BULLOCK: This may well move us away from one of the great things about London, which is that it is a diverse city where rich and poor, black and white live alongside each other in a way that in many cities in the world you do not see.

But Conservative councillor Philippa Roe defends the cuts.

PHILIPPA ROE: It's about a fair system that stops wasting huge sums of money during a time of economic austerity.

City workers load up garbage trucks on the streets of London. Anne Power of the London School of Economics says London's economy could suffer if the cuts begin to push out large numbers of low-wage earners like these.

ANNE POWER: London is heavily, heavily dependent on very low cost workers for everything - for our transport, for our health, for our childcare, for our street cleaning.

And she says without them the city would literally grind to a halt.

In London, I'm Christopher Werth for Marketplace.