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When everyone has a home

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Four leading housing organisations are calling for urgent assurances that key legislation will be passed in the coming weeks.

The Chartered Institute of Housing NI, Homeless Connect, Housing Rights and the NI Federation of Housing Associations have issued a joint statement expressing concern that the political situation at Stormont will impact on both the Private Tenancies Bill and the welfare mitigations legislation.

 The Private Tenancies Bill includes important reforms to improve affordability, standards and protection against eviction for private renters in NI. Over 105,000 people in Northern Ireland rent privately, with many living in the sector because of the long waiting lists for social housing. The Communities Committee completed their scrutiny of the Bill in January but a date for the Bill to move to the next stage of the legislative process in the Assembly has not yet been scheduled.

A number of pieces of critical Welfare Reform Mitigations legislation are also passing through the Assembly. The legislation will extend the existing welfare mitigations which are due to expire in March, and provide crucial protection from the bedroom tax and benefit cap to over 38,000 households. The legislation will also close loopholes which have left hundreds unprotected from these cuts.

 

CIH Northern Ireland, Policy and engagement manager, Heather Wilson commented:

Speaking on behalf of our members, we are extremely concerned about the impact that this delay in legislative progress will have on housing professionals and the tenants and communities they serve. These delays will halt the progress of long-awaited reforms for those who live in the private rental sector and those households with the lowest incomes. It is imperative that the housing sector has the certainty that is offered by an executive. We should not be hindered from meeting the housing needs of people here.

 

Homeless Connect, Policy and Public Affairs Officer, Mark Baillie commented:

We are in the midst of a cost of living crisis, with rising housing and energy costs putting more and more families at risk of homelessness. As the representative body for the homelessness sector here, we know how devastating homelessness can be for those who experience it. The Private Tenancies Bill would introduce key protections for private renters which could make a real difference in assisting households at risk of homelessness living in the sector. The Welfare Reform Mitigations provide invaluable support to households here who are already under pressure due to rising energy costs. 

One of the most important functions of the devolved institutions is to protect those who are most vulnerable in this society. It is imperative these bills are passed before the end of the Assembly term. If they are not passed, the costs will be borne by some of the poorest households here.

 

Housing Rights, Policy Co-ordinator, Kerry Logan commented:

As an advice charity which helps people with housing problems, we know how important both these areas of legislation are. The Private Tenancies Bill will bring much-needed and long-awaited improvements for people who rent privately. Without the mitigations legislation people will lose vital support which helps them stay in their homes. We urgently call for the NI Assembly to ensure both are passed without delay.

 

NI Federation of Housing Associations, Deputy Chief Executive, Patrick Thompson said:

The legislation to put welfare mitigations on a firmer footing has long been campaigned for and needs to be passed as soon as possible.  This will provide certainty to those who receive the payment and to those at risk of the loopholes in the current legislation. It is people on the lowest incomes that will suffer most if these mitigations come to an end.”

 

ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards. Our goal is simple – to provide housing professionals and their organisations with the advice, support, and knowledge they need to be brilliant. CIH is a registered charity and not-for-profit organisation. This means that the money we make is put back into the organisation and funds the activities we carry out to support the housing sector. We have a diverse membership of people who work in both the public and private sectors, in 20 countries on five continents across the world. Further information is available at: www.cih.org.

Homeless Connect (previously known as Council for the Homeless NI) has been working to prevent and alleviate homelessness in Northern Ireland since 1983. As a membership body, we represent organisations working with people experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless and provide direct support to service users through our projects, including Home Starter Packs.

Housing Rights is the leading specialist provider of independent housing advice in Northern Ireland. Established in 1964 the charity works to improve lives by tackling homelessness and housing problems.

The Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations, formed in 1977, is the representative body for Northern Ireland’s 20 registered housing associations.

Our members are all not-for-profit organisations. Together, supported by the Department for Communities and the Housing Executive, they provide just under 58,000 social and affordable homes.

2. For further information contact Kerry Logan at kerry@housingrights.org.uk

3. Spokespersons will be available for comment.

4. The content of the Private Tenancies Bill can be found here: http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/assembly-business/legislation/2017-2022-mandate/primary-legislation---bills-2017---2022-mandate/private-tenancies-bill2/

5. The content of the primary Welfare Reform mitigations legislation can be found here:

http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/assembly-business/legislation/2017-2022-mandate/primary-legislation---bills-2017---2022-mandate/welfare-supplementary-payments-amendment-bill/