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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Response to NIHE plans to support customers and sustain tenancies

Housing Rights has responded to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive’s (NIHE) Draft Customer Support and Tenancy Sustainment Strategy for 2019 to 2022

The draft Strategy builds on the 2016-2019 strategy. It includes two additional pillars of tenancy sustainment, Proactive and Responsive Support for At Risk Customers and Neighbourhood/ Community Support, in addition to the three pre-existing pillars of Housing Support, Money Support and Employment Support. The Strategy aims to support people in Northern Ireland to sustain their tenancies.

Housing Rights’ Key Responses

Housing Rights welcomes the draft Strategy’s focus on prevention of tenancy breakdown and homelessness. Housing Rights carries out prevention work through our services such as our Landlord Helpline and Mediation Service. We recommend the Action Plan builds on services delivered by Housing Rights and other partner agencies to improve efficiency and reduce duplicity.

To clarify which partners the NIHE intend to work with, Housing Rights recommends including an additional column to the Action Plan entitled ‘Key Partners’, in which the NIHE discloses which partner agencies they will collaborate with to achieve each proposed action.

We believe a further column in the Action Plan entitled ‘Tenure’ would help ensure balance across tenures types.

Private Rented Sector (PRS)

Housing Rights welcomes the Strategy’s expansion in the definition of Customer Support and Tenancy Sustainment to include ‘all tenures’.

The Strategy’s observations on the issues affecting the PRS are significant; especially in light of the Department for Communities’ (DfC) proposed tenure neutral allocation policy which could see homeless households allocated PRS accommodation.

Housing Rights are concerned, however, with the lack of content pertaining to PRS tenancies. We therefore recommend the NIHE strengthens its commitment to a cross-tenure approach.

In addition, affordability issues in PRS, driven by welfare reform, should be included in the strategic context of the Strategy.

The Pillars- Recommendations from Housing Rights

  1. Housing Solutions -Housing Rights recommends the NIHE incorporate findings from ongoing PRS research by Housing Rights and convey the particular difficulties of sustaining PRS tenancies to the DfC.
  2. Money Support and Budgeting Advice- Housing Rights recommends promotion of Discretionary Housing Payments to maximise income.  
  3. Employment Support- the NIHE is advised to help customers obtain work placements in order to advance their employability.
  4. Proactive & Responsive Support for At Risk Customers - we recommend unique approaches are implemented for the numerous ‘at risk’ client groups identified in the Strategy. In addition, Housing Rights recommends that the NIHE aim towards a ‘no evictions into homelessness’ policy.
  5.  Neighbourhood and Community Support- from experiences through our Housing Champions and prison peer support projects, we believe a peer support service to assist people with tenancy sustainment would be highly beneficial.
  6. Other / Administrative- as we recommend a comprehensive cross-tenure approach to tenancy sustainment, Housing Rights urges a broad variety of stakeholders to be represented on the steering committee.

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