05 Oct 2021

CIH Northern Ireland calls for the reinstatement of the £20-per-week Universal Credit uplift among other measures to protect tenants from financial hardship

The Chartered Institute of Housing Northern Ireland has called for the reinstatement of the £20-per-week Universal Credit uplift after the deeply regrettable decision by the UK Government to go ahead with the cut despite mounting financial pressures facing many households.

Concerns have also been raised around government help with private renters’ housing costs remaining low after a four-year freeze. This is despite notable rent increases and a lack of private rental accommodation in an already overcrowded market, where the threat of homelessness is greatest. This means that many private renters will struggle to make up the shortfall in housing benefit, adding further pressures to household expenditure in homes which have the least to spare.

On top of the cut to Universal Credit and the denial of adequate funding for help with housing costs, the NI Executive delay in closing the benefit loopholes affecting thousands of households is set to create the perfect storm for the communities and tenants that our members serve.

Policy and engagement manager Heather Wilson said:

“The cut to Universal Credit in a time when furlough has come to an end and the future of the job market is uncertain is deeply regrettable. We are increasingly worried about the road ahead for people who rely on additional support.

“Most recent records show that over 22,000 social housing tenants in NI who previously had a clear rent account fell into arrears after the emergence of Covid-19. Although we have no way to measure how many private renters fell into arrears during this period, it is likely to exceed those living in the social sector. Pushing households further into arrears and asking tenants to make a choice between paying rent and financing other basic needs such as heating and food puts many households at risk.

“Families in NI are already falling into poverty due to the NI Executive’s delay in closing the benefit loopholes that have left claimants unprotected by the current welfare mitigations. All of this is stacking up to create the perfect storm that will further hurt the most vulnerable in society.

“It is crucial that we do not punish low-paid workers and families on the brink of poverty as a means of clawing back losses as we emerge from the pandemic. Threatening how people meet their living costs will not help them to maintain a home. It is vital that the UK Government reinstate the uplift, re-evaluate help with private rents in line with the current market constraints and that our local executive move legislation forward to close the benefit loopholes.”