In an interview today with BBC NI Good Morning Ulster, Department for Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland emphasised that the retention of a tenants’ right to have their housing support costs paid directly to their social landlord was one of the key flexibilities in the new system he is committed to securing.
Currently 133,000 households – 86% of families in social housing in Northern Ireland - have chosen to set up direct payments set up with their landlords. This greatly helps already hard-pressed families to budget, reducing rent arrears and preventing homelessness.
In response to Minister McCausland’s commitment Cameron Watt, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA) said:
“We very much welcome Minister McCausland’s commitment to retain the direct payment of housing support to social landlords under the new welfare system.
“If consumer choice on direct payments can be protected, it will greatly help social tenants on low incomes to budget and ensure their home is secure. Landlords’ income will be more certain, enabling them to continue to provide high quality maintenance and other services to tenants. Also, it will reassure the lending institutions from whom we need to secure hundreds of millions of pounds of private finance to build the 8,000 social and affordable homes the NI Executive is committed to deliver by 2015.
“We believe that many of the proposed welfare changes such as the bedroom tax are unjust and will hurt vulnerable people. However the constraints of parity and the need to protect our health and education budgets may prevent us from having a more generous welfare system in Northern Ireland than the rest of the UK. Nonetheless, if Minister McCausland can secure the retention of direct payments it will certainly help limit the impact of these changes on vulnerable people.”
Established in 1977, NIFHA is independent of the government, political parties and private interests. It promotes all 31 registered housing associations in Northern Ireland and acts on behalf of their interests.
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