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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Latest MLA bulletin recommends action to deal with housing concerns

As COVID-19 continues to impact people across Northern Ireland, our advice teams are dealing with increasing demand for support and advice from people worried about their housing situation because of financial pressures or illness. Our most recent MLA bulletin outlines our policy recommendations for preventing and alleviating homelessness in the face of Covid-19. The bulletin includes a constituency breakdown allowing MLAs to understand the issues that lead constituents to seek advice most frequently.

Recommendations to assist private tenants

We recommend addressing the affordability issues faced by private renters by:

  • Realigning the Local Housing Allowance rate to cover the cheapest 50% of market rents for 12 months as an emergency measure.
  • Removing the Shared Accommodation Rate.
  • Continuing the COVID-19 13- week rent protection Discretionary Housing Payment (DHPs).
  • Increase DHP budget increased to enable to award of higher, longer term DHPs where needed.

In addition, in order to protect against evictions landlords should be encouraged to work proactively with tenants and use alternative methods including the Housing Mediation Service, to find an alternative resolution which would avoid tenants losing their homes.

Recommendations to assist people who are homeless

People experiencing homelessness have felt the threat of COVID-19 acutely. Our recommendations to protect people who are homeless at this time include:

  • Opposing the proposal to enable the NIHE to meet their duty to homeless applicants by securing private rented accommodation, in our opinion this is not appropriate at this time
  • Increasing the supply of social housing.
  • Introducing a statutory duty to cooperate on all relevant bodies to prevent and alleviate homelessness.
  • Adopting a Housing First approach as a long term solution.
  • Extending the Memorandum of Understanding which supports people with no recourse to public funds until at least March 2021.
  • Removing the no recourse to public funds condition for 12 months.
  • Completing a review of homelessness services in partnership with service providers and people who have experience of homelessness.

Assisting homeowners affected by COVID-19

We are calling for the following steps to assist homeowners who are struggling to meet mortgage payments as a result of COVID-19:

  • Lenders proactively engaging with borrowers at an early stage to work with them to avoid mortgage arrears where possible.
  • Lenders being encouraged to exercise forbearance with regard to COVID-19 related mortgage arrears
  • Reinstating Support for Mortgage Interest as a non-repayable grant that can be accessed after 13 weeks.

Recommendations to assist social tenants affected by COVID-19

In addition, in order to protect social tenants from the threat of eviction we recommend that:

  • Social landlords adopt a zero eviction into homelessness policy for those tenants impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

Tagged In

Coronavirus, Policy

This article was written on 22 September 2020. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.