Ulster Unionist East Belfast MLA and Communities spokesperson Andy Allen MBE has raised concern at the announcement of a 7% increase in rent charges for NIHE tenants and challenged the Northern Ireland Housing Executive to ensure they deliver value for money.
Speaking as the increase was announced, Mr. Allen said:
“This will come as another body blow to many low-income households who are already facing intolerable pressures on their finances.
“While I accept that NIHE are themselves facing budgetary challenges, this increase is almost 3 times the last increase in 2020. The question must be asked; how much of this is due to the failure to effectively plan over the last decade or more? Coming at a time when household budgets are already stretched beyond breaking point and with over 18,000 NIHE tenants receiving no support through Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, this potential extra £20 per month could see many more NIHE tenants slipping into debt.
“I have campaigned for many years that the NIHE must address key failures, particularly around ensuring properties are provided with insulation and other energy efficiency measures that will lower energy costs. This increase has the potential to generate over £20 million in additional rental income. The Northern Ireland Housing Executive must ensure that providing energy efficiency measures such as effective cavity wall and loft insulation alongside timely maintenance of their housing stock is a priority.
“It is lamentable that, due to the failure to establish an Executive at Stormont, there is no Communities Committee to provide the opportunity to question the Department and NIHE on their decision and ultimately the strategic direction to ensure tenants who are already hard pressed receive value for money.
“I would encourage anyone who is facing increased hardship due to this increase to contact the NIHE Financial Inclusion Team via their housing advisor to identify what support may be available.”