'Securing a good deal for Northern Ireland post-Brexit will be top of the DUP’s priority list'
As reports suggest that the Conservatives will try to form a government with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party MPs, CIH Northern Ireland director Nicola McCrudden explores the party's priorities - and the potential impact on housing and welfare locally.
Securing a good deal for Northern Ireland post-Brexit will be top of the DUP’s priority list – particularly for farming communities and businesses. The party has pledged to protect family budgets and supports, for example, maintaining the pension triple lock and winter fuel payments.
The DUP has opposed many of the welfare reform changes in recent years and should be aware that the next three years will see more changes that will affect housing affordability in Northern Ireland. Not only will tenants’ pockets be hit, creating higher levels of rent arrears and eviction, but a reduction in rental income streams could adversely affect the social housing development programme.
One of the biggest changes from April 2019 is pegging benefits for social housing tenants to Local Housing Allowance rates used in the private rented sector. This will undoubtedly create affordability problems, particularly for under 35s and pensioners. Initial research undertaken by CIH in Northern Ireland indicates that as a result new social house building will become less viable in certain areas.
Supplementary payments, which fully top-up reductions to benefits in Northern Ireland under the bedroom tax and benefit cap, end in March 2020 increasing the risk of rent arrears, legal action, eviction and homelessness.
Social security policies in Northern Ireland broadly mirror those of the UK Government, however negotiating a better way to counter the harsh impact of welfare reform changes locally is vitally important if we are to sustain the provision of affordable social housing locally.