Minister announces Covid-19 housing support
Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey MLA has outlined measures she is putting in place to ensure people continue to have secure accommodation in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Steps include support and assurance for social and private renters as well as crucial support to those experiencing homelessness.
Minister Deirdre Hargey MLA said:
This is a worrying time for everyone and I am very aware that there is an increased level of anxiety in our community. The last thing anyone needs right now is to add the security of their home to those worries. I want to assure renters, homeowners and those in a homeless situation, that I am putting measures in place to provide crucial support.
I can announce that my Department has an agreement in place with all social housing landlords (Housing Executive and Housing Associations) that any social housing tenant facing difficulties paying rent during Covid-19 will not be evicted. My Department will work with Housing Associations and the Housing Executive to help them keep tenants in their homes and to ensure that the welfare system can provide help to their tenants as quickly as possible. You can be assured your home is secure.
Anyone experiencing difficulties paying their rent through loss of employment for example can get help with their housing costs by applying for Universal Credit online. Help with housing costs in Universal Credit is paid directly to landlords. For social tenants this, along with mitigations for social sector size criteria will cover their rent.
Minister Hargey continued:
Covid-19 presents a challenge for us all but it brings very particular challenges to those are homeless and those who support them in shelters, hostels and emergency accommodation. These are amongst the most vulnerable in society and need our support and compassion.
The Housing Executive, which leads on the response to homelessness, has a central Covid-19 team in place and will continue to fulfil its statutory homeless obligations during this period. The Housing Executive has sourced additional accommodation and is working with my Department, the Public Health Agency and Trusts (which have set up a nurse lead team) and the Department of Health to implement its surge plan, to ensure the safety of those in homeless accommodation settings and to respond to staffing and capacity pressures presented by Covid-19.
I am working with the Department of Finance to secure additional PPE for this sector.
The Minister concluded:
I want to extend my sincere thanks to all those across housing, those in government, the statutory, community or voluntary sectors for all the vital support they are providing to our citizens at this time.