SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan has expressed serious concerns about the growing numbers of households made homeless due to a loss of private rented accommodation.
An FOI submitted by Mr Durkan to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) revealed that 78 private rented households presented as homeless between April-June 2023.
Derry & Strabane has among the highest numbers of private renters impacted just behind Belfast.
Mr Durkan said this situation coupled by the cuts the Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) paid to low-income private renters to meet shortfalls in their rent, is a recipe for disaster.
Said the Foyle MLA: “On an almost daily basis, we see and hear the devastating impact on people of departments’ cost-cutting measures.
“The continued pressure on the private rented sector is leading to a huge increase in homelessness.
“Thousands of private renters have been made homeless right across Northern Ireland since 2021 yet despite pleas for intervention to protect people, this situation is spiralling out of control.
“The senseless and short-sighted decision to cut DHP support for people already struggling to pay their rent will escalate this crisis beyond.
“NIHE has confirmed that as a consequence of the cost of living crisis they’ve witnessed an increase in the number of households applying for DHPs.
“In areas of high deprivation, like Derry and Strabane, we see a higher reliance on this type of support.
“It is unthinkable that places at greatest risking of poverty are bearing the brunt of budget cuts. To date, 489 households in Derry and Strabane Council area have been stripped of DHP.
“The Department for Communities denied my request to reverse this decision despite its dire consequences, however Permanent Secretary Colum Boyle has confirmed that officials are currently conducting an Equality Screening process in respect of these cuts.
“I would argue that the decision is discriminatory given it will adversely impact vulnerable individuals, namely those unable to work or in receipt of disability payments.
“At present, almost one private rented household is made homeless in Derry per day. That rate is completely unsustainable and likely to worsen in the absence of support.
“Not only is it placing further pressure on an already crippled social housing waiting list, but it’s placing families in distress.
“Social housing build is nowhere near the level it needs to be. More homes need to be built to keep up with current demand and a renewed focus on repurposing vacant properties is crucial.
“It’s shameful that over 20,000 properties lay vacant right across the North at a time when 45,000 households are waiting for a home.”
Mr Durkan added: “Cost-cutting measures now will have long term consequences that will take decades to recover from.
“I hope department officials will make the right decision to sustain tenancies and prevent homelessness.”Tags: