West Tyrone Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

New Year homeless crisis looming in Strabane if DSD minister doesn't act now

Published: 8 November, 2011

He said,

"To date, single people over 25 were entitled to Housing benefit for a one-bed-roomed self contained flat while those under 25 could only access help with rent for a single room in shared accommodation. However, as and from January the under 25 HB criteria is to be extended to single in the 25-35 age group with an estimated 6,000 private rental tenants across the north facing a 50% reduction in their Housing benefit entitlement.

"Given that the private rental sector in Strabane is disproportionately made up of single men in the 25-35 age bracket, and given the absence of social housing alternatives, the reduction in Housing Benefit assistance to about £40 per week with rents at least double that is tantamount to a notice to quit come January. Further cuts to peoples housing benefit of 13% for properties where it is deemed there is one extra room and cut by 25% if there are two rooms will place ever greater hardship upon people struggling to pay rents in this area.

"Many of those who will lose their accommodation do not have the kind of family ties that might support them in a crisis. No longer eligible for support as a single person, people are being told to seek shared accommodation. But there isn't enough multiple occupancy housing in areas like Strabane. Our homeless accommodation is already bursting at the seams and so the spectre of a major homeless crisis in the New Year looms large.

"Last month, our Housing Spokesperson Fra Mc Cann MLA, secured the support of the Assembly's DSD Committee to take the matter before the Assembly by triggering what is known as a "Prayer of Annulment," a last ditch attempt to stop Statutory Rule 293 from being endorsed by the House, However, this attempt to directly challenge this British Government Directive was not successful as DSD Minister Nelson Mc Causland, his DUP party, the UUP and the Alliance Party defeated the motion.

"It is not just Sinn Fein who have been flagging up the seriousness of the impending as
Senior officials from the Housing Executive have also spelt out to the DSD Committee that the Social Development Minister is steering his department towards a total crisis in local housing. Is Nelson Mc Causland going to just sit on his hands until the fall-out happens. He must act now. ENDS