UC rollout to ‘worsen’ NI housing crisis

Recent NIHE report showed almost 20,950 children in families waiting for social housing and at least 13,636 in ‘housing stress’.

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The warning comes amid a Nationwide report addressing latest annual house price index and the measuring of price changes of residential housing.

Recent data from Nationwide revealed that house prices in Northern Ireland were the strongest performing in the UK during 2018 with a 5.8% increase to an average of £139,599.

However, the HomeLet Rental Index showed NI rental rates in are now an average of £632 per month, up by 1.9% on the same time last year.

According to Eileen Patterson, chair of Chartered Institute of Housing Northern Ireland, the full rollout of Universal Credit would ‘only make the situation worse’ for the country.

She said: “Tightening access to mortgage credit means that rates of home ownership are declining, but there is no pick-up from the private rented sector which is becoming more expensive in some areas and short in supply in others.

“While there is an active new build programme for social housing, the undeniable fact is that social housing waiting lists continue to grow across Northern Ireland.”

She added that the introduction of the revamped benefits payments next year could also ‘hamper’ new builds within the housing sector.

“We have maintained healthy investment, but it’s challenging to keep that affordable with welfare reform because people are struggling. Under what used to be housing benefit, if you were means-tested your rental costs would have been met.

“But under Universal Credit, they will only pay what they feel is the local allowance for that market.

“It means lots of people won’t get full rental commitment. What does the future hold for them and us? We as a business need rent and people need housed.

“Social landlords’ income is at risk but what’s the option for tenants? It’s much costlier if we increase homelessness.”

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